28 September 2006

The Little Miss Sunshine Online Pageant

Dale’s comparing me to Little Miss Sunshine’s Olive and my subsequent posting of my fourth-grade photo caused quite the buzz among our circle of bloggers. Therefore, we’ve decided to host the first annual Little Miss Sunshine Online Pageant.

The Rules

• Scan a photo from your grammar-school days.

• Post it on your blog Sunday morning, October 1.

• If you plan to participate, leave a comment to this post.

• I’ll post a link to your blog on Little Miss Sunshine Sunday.

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UPDATE: I'll post the links very early Sunday morning. I have links for everyone who left a comment. If you want to play, leave a comment or send me an e-mail (address on the navigation bar).


27 September 2006

But He Says He's a Writer

We bloggers love sharing those weird Googles that lead new readers to our blog. I get the ones for stripper songs and stripper shoes. My hits this week include “my brother-in-law sniffed my panties” and “bed banging.” As I mentioned to Land-o-Lulu, I’m afraid I’m becoming the whore of the blogosphere.

But this evening I got the best one. Ever.

And I’m #13 on that Google list ... of 1,380,000 matches. Does this mean I’m now official?


A Relative Adventure

I had dinner with my cousin, Jamey, the other night. I know what you’re thinking: “Whoop-dee-do. Dinner with a cousin. Exciting life that girl must lead.” But I haven’t seen her in fifteen years.

Here’s the embarrassing part: She’s lived in the Atlanta area for ten years.

Ah, you’re thinking, there must be some Southern gothic drama that kept us apart, a family feud worthy of Tennessee Williams’ pen. Nope, just simple laziness.

Jamey grew up in south Georgia, so we didn’t see much of each other when we were kids. I remember when she was born. Her parents were living on a farm, and we drove down to meet her. I was nearly seven, and I was fascinated with this adorable little baby. Jamey’s family would visit, of course, and she’d come up some summer months. I always remember her cute giggles. And her freckles.

Sister, Cousin, and Brother, in our 1967 Mustang convertible (1977)

Why did we wait so long to see each other? The excuse: We have different lifestyles. Jamey’s the mother of two beautiful girls (her oldest was born the day after my beloved niece), and I’m … well, I’m the mother of two cats. She’s spent the last ten years dashing between cheerleading practice and soccer games, while I’ve been dashing between happy hours and Saturday brunches.

This blog helped us reconnect. Before that, we’d send the occasional joke e-mail, maybe a Christmas or birthday card, but that was it. Jamey learned more about me through the blog, which led to deeper e-mail conversations. And the promise that we’d get together soon for dinner.

As the eldest cousin, I should have known better than to lose touch. And my social laziness resulted in a huge, painful gap in my younger cousin’s life. Jamey — and, God, it hurts to write this — is *gasp* not very familiar with R.E.M. That poor, lost child; what a sad, empty life she must have led. So I stepped up to my responsibilities and gave her a copy of And I Feel Fine: The Best of the IRS Years, 1982–1987. It’s never too late to fall in love.

So, how was dinner? Great fun. We sat down and chatted as if we’d seen each other just last week. We do, of course, share DNA and can chat up a chair, so that’s not surprising. Jamey still has great giggles and fabulous freckles. I’m having a ball getting to know her all over again. And we swore we’d meet up again before 2015.

P.S. The blog is also turning her mama into a bit of an R.E.M. fan. Life is beautiful when you know why you were put here on this earth.

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26 September 2006

David Bowie: Hunky Dory

I’ve wanted to feature a 1970s-era Bowie album for weeks, but it was hard picking one. How do you single out a Bowie album from that decade? It’s his best period; nearly every album is brilliant. So let’s talk about my personal favorite (after all, isn’t that what I’m doing on Tuesdays anyway?): Hunky Dory, released in December 1971.

Don’t you just feel cool when you listen to a Bowie song? Somehow he elevates us, makes us feel as groovy as he is. Or so that’s how I feel. I’m writing about early Bowie today, but I think he’s been relevant in every decade. Don’t agree? Listen to Heathen, released in 2002; it’s a great album, and he even covers The Pixies. And, yes, I like Tin Machine.

So, how many times have you seen Bowie live? Just four for me — and never during the 1970s, dammit; I wasn’t that cool in high school. I saw him twice in the 1980s, once in the 1990s, and two years ago. The most recent show was at our outdoor amphitheater, with opening act Stereophonics. We were on the ninth row, so close we could barely stand it, so close we had a discussion about his fabulous belt. Bowie still has the sexy charm and androgynous swagger that makes him Bowie. Love him.

Now, you youngsters out there put this album in chronological perspective. T. Rex’s Electric Warrior was released in September, three months before Hunky Dory — but both were recorded that spring. Think how fresh and new that glam pop sounded. The album came out before Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Young Americans. The Man Who Sold the World came out earlier in 1971, but it’s more of a rock album.

I love every track on Hunky Dory, but I’m too tired to chat about each one. Let’s hit a few highlights (and I apologize for skipping “Oh! You Pretty Things,” but I’m trying to go with less familiar tunes).

You have to love an album that kicks off with “Changes.” Thirty-five years, and it’s still as fresh as it was the month it was released. I cannot switch the station when it’s playing, and I must sit in the car, singing and baying along at the top of my lungs, until it ends. I make others “break down and cry” when they hear me sing along. (And, yes, I know I’m referencing a non-Hunky Dory song.)

“Kooks” is a fun, loving family song, fitting for Bowie and Angela to sing to then-named Zowie: I bought you a pair of shoes / A trumpet you can blow / And a book of rules / On what to say to people when they pick on you / Cause if you stay with us / You’re gonna be pretty kookie too. If I’d had a child, this would have been one of her lullabies, with “Green Grows the Rushes” and “Pink Moon.”

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“Queen Bitch,” on the other hand, has that Velvet Underground sound. And you can dance to it! This may be my favorite track on the album.

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Who knew when he recorded “Andy Warhol” that he’d play his friend 25 years later in Basquiat? And he nailed that portrayal.

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Hunky Dory is great fun. If you love Bowie's music and don't have this disc, hit your local CD shop this week.

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25 September 2006

The Book Meme

This meme has intrigued me as it’s traveled among the blogs I read. And I’m honored to be tapped by The Unending Journey of the Wandering Author. The hard part is picking one book for each category … so I cheated and occasionally listed two or three.

1. One book that changed your life
So many books have affected me, changed me, made me think differently … so selecting just one is a near impossibility. But I got it down to three.

Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. This was the first “grown-up” novel I read, when I was twelve. I’d exhausted the young adult section of our library — the Twain novels, Robert Louis Stevenson, the first few Little House on the Prairie books, and the rest that should be read before the teen years — so I moved rooms that summer. When OM saw me reading it, he suggested it might be too advanced for my age since the sex was more graphic than in Little Women; I replied it wasn’t, and he let me finish the book. Reading it in 1971, during the height of the Vietnam War, made an impact on my liberal-minded and antiwar development.

And the Band Played on, by Randy Shilts. This is one of the best, most comprehensive books written about the AIDS epidemic, and I think it was the one of the first. The book chronicles the first several years — individuals, medical research, politics. It’s frustrating to read about the politics of the medical profession and our government’s lack of interest in AIDS; makes you wonder where we’d be today if Reagan had acknowledged it. I saw the movie last week on Logo; I try to watch it at least once a year to remind me that AIDS is still an important, frightening issue in the world today.

Mr. Pine’s Purple House, by Leonard Kessler. How can a children’s book change you? Because it’s the first book I remember reading on my own, when I was five. I was a bookworm from that moment … and it reinforced my love of color everywhere. I still keep a copy on my bookshelf.

2. One book you've read more than once
I don’t reread many books; the stack of to-be-reads is just too tall.

I gave Dan a copy of The World According to Garp soon after we began dating. He had such a great time reading it, I grabbed my copy and read it with him. It was fun rediscovering why I loved the book and watching someone experience John Irving for the first time.

I sent a friend a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley this summer, and I read it again to be ready for his post-read chat. I don’t think he’s yet cracked the spine; silly man. If you’ve never read the Ripley series, I recommend hitting your local independent bookstore today; few writers have Highsmith’s touch to make you cheer on a completely despicable, amoral person.

3. One book you'd want on a deserted island
The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Variety would be a necessity on a deserted island, so I think I’d be happiest with a short story collection. My copy of this collection has remained on my bedside table since I purchased it in 2000, and I have yet to grow tired of it.

4. One book that made you cry
One book? I bet one book every month makes me cry. But I read a book this summer that just looking at the cover brings back the pain and tears and, yes, deep love for the words and tales: Elissa Schappell’s Use Me, a collection of short stories about two friends, from their teens to their late thirties. One of the recurring plots is Evie dealing with her beloved father’s battle with and death from cancer. I read words that described exactly how I felt during my father’s illness and after his death; nothing has come closer to that pain. I read the stories with a washcloth clutched in my hand to soak up the tears. And I’m glad I read it. If I ever met Ms. Schappell, I may have to crawl in her lap and bawl.

5. One book that made you laugh

The Witty: East Is East, by T. Coraghessan Boyle, about a Japanese-American stowaway who jumps ship and ends up at a writer’s colony in coastal Georgia. This was my first introduction to Mr. Boyle, one of my favorite modern authors.

The Oh-so-close-to-home: Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding. I thought I was reading my own memoir — similar silliness, drama, klutziness, day-to-day life. I love the book. And the movie.

The Silly: Daddy’s Boy: A Son's Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father, by Chris and Bob Elliott. An absurd, silly sendup of celeb-kid memoirs. My sister and I read the book at the same time, and we had many phone conversations reading our favorite passages, laughing so hard our mouths couldn’t form words. What can I say? I love Letterman, and thus I love Chris Elliott.

6. One book you wish had been written
A novel about the fortysomething single woman. The chicklit shelves have covered the thirtysomethings, so it’s time to move up and examine the next decade. Guess I should be writing it, shouldn’t I?

7. One book you wish you had written
The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields. The story is wonderful and the structure is brilliant. Each chapter is written in a different style — first person, third person, as a letter, and so on. I wish I’d come up with that idea.

8. One book you wish had never been written
I know I should pick something harmful to society, such as anything written by Adolph Hitler or Bill O’Reilly … but I have to go with The DaVinci Code. Why? Because so many people read it and took the damn thing seriously. It’s a novel, people, not a well-researched book of nonfiction. I read another Dan Brown novel, and the grammatical errors drove me nuts; doesn’t he have a decent editor? And, yes, I’m a bookseller snob and thus am rarely interested in reading books that top of the bestseller lists.

9. One book you are currently reading
Talk Talk, by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I’m enjoying it so far. Oh, and did I mentioned that he signed my copy of the book?

10. One book you’ve been meaning to read
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. DJ Cayenne, one of my blog heroes, can’t stop writing about it (or her), so I need to pick up a copy and crack that spine soon.

11. Now tag five people
And my Bookstar boys:

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24 September 2006

A Beautiful, Blessed, Fine Day

My girl’s getting married today. I’m not going to the wedding — but for a good reason. The wedding's being held here:

Karen and Clark are in Bhutan, where at this moment* monks are performing their wedding ceremony at Tiger’s Nest. They’re wearing traditional wedding robes made by the monks, and I’m sure they’re both beautiful and radiant. I wish I could be with them.

Karen and Clark, I wish you love and happiness, growth and adventure and fun as you continue your lives together. I look forward to sharing part of that life with you both. And I look forward to sharing a margarita swirl with you when you return.

Clark and Karen (March 2006)

*Time approximate; Karen wasn’t sure exactly what time the ceremony would be performed.

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22 September 2006

Relive That Hall of Fame Moment

Still regretting that you missed the Georgia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony for R.E.M., Gregg Allman, Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, Felice Bryant, and Kristin Hall? Fear not ... if you're spending this evening in our great state. Georgia Public Television is rebroadcasting Saturday night's event — tonight at 9 p.m.

Don't miss Peter, Mike, and Bill — along with guitar great Scott McCaughey — backing up Gregg Allman on "Midnight Rider"!

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21 September 2006

Yes, Brat, I Have a Type

One of my favorite bloggers asked me today if I have a type when it comes to men. Boy, do I: tall, cute, lanky, funny, intelligent, a bit flirty, a smart-ass. The kind of guy you may have overlooked in high school (although I didn’t), only to realize post-graduation that he was adorable.

High-school best buddy Janice just sent me a YouTube of Cup’s kind of guy (we think we would have fought over him in the CHS halls):

Yes, I have a crush on Jim Halpert. A television character. But a tall, cute, funny, smart-ass character. And I’m skipping Drinking Liberally tonight to see if Pam and Jim hook up.

So, if you happen to resemble Jim … drop me an e-mail.

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Internet Addiction #107: The Classics

DJ Cayenne, my favorite contributor and literary guide at Baby Got Books, just got me hooked on another online addiction: DailyLit.

It’s a simple, why-didn’t-I-think-of-it concept. DailyLit has compiled a collection of books in the public domain, those with expired copyrights (read: the classics). You sign up for your free subscription, select the time and frequency for receiving each installment, pick a book … and DailyLit e-mails your book in small chunks, something you can read in a few minutes. The selection is pretty darn good. Want more info? Most of your questions will be answered in DailyLit’s FAQs.

I’m starting off with George Eliot’s Silas Marner, which has been on my reading list for decades. It’s coming to me in 84 parts, delivered to my inbox every morning at 5 a.m. I read the third installment this morning right after I woke up, as my French press brewed my coffee.

It was at this point in their history that Silas's cataleptic fit occurred during the prayer-meeting; and amidst the various queries and expressions of interest addressed to him by his fellow-members, William's suggestion alone jarred with the general sympathy towards a brother thus singled out for special dealings. He observed that, to him, this trance looked more like a visitation of Satan than a proof of divine favour, and exhorted his friend to see that he hid no accursed thing within his soul.

Sure, at this pace it will take me nearly three months to read Silas Marner, but I have the luxury of reading it more slowly, savoring each installment, instead of devouring page after page, possibly missing some of the beauty of her language. I’ve been too distracted the last few months to sit down and enjoy reading a novel — short stories and flash fiction have been my literary bread and butter since July — so the daily deliveries are in line with my attention span. If you simply cannot wait, you can request that the next part be sent immediately … but I’m going for slow and intimate this round.

And it will keep my brain busy until Tim Sandlin’s new book,Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty, comes out in January.

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19 September 2006

A Pickled Olive

Had a few minutes to kill this afternoon, so I slipped away to the wildly entertaining Coaster Punchman’s World, a virtual place where I can relax and giggle and vicariously live the hip Manhattan lifestyle. Mr. Punchman had earlier posted a nice piece about Little Miss Sunshine, and I was eager to read his response to my witty retort. Imagine my surprise when I found that Dale had (no doubt lovingly) suggested that the photo of the adorable Olive character was instead a shot of moi. Well, I’m here to prove Dale … um, damn near right.

Here’s a movie still of the Olive character:

And here’s my fourth-grade photo:

Good Lord. The nine-year-old Cup is the real-life embodiment of this year’s celluloid nerd. I’m off to drown my sorrows in Kool-Aid and Absolut.

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“We’re R.E.M., and this is what we do”

Saturday’s Georgia Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was everything I wanted it to be: a celebration of music, a special night with my beloveds (real and imagined), a good excuse to get dolled up. My date for the evening was my niece Lauren — a true Coffey, as big a music freak as I am. She grew up listening to R.E.M., thanks to her obsessed aunt, so she was nearly as excited about the event as I was. This year’s induction class included, in addition to R.E.M., Gregg Allman (Lauren’s favorite on the bill, actually), Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, Felice Bryant, and Kristen Hall. I’ll write about my boys today and the rest of the induction ceremony later this week (or else it will take you hours to read this post).

I was surprised that R.E.M. had yet to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, that groups such as The B-52’s and Indigo Girls made it in before then. I found out through a source that the reason for this long-overdue honor was simply a scheduling problem: R.E.M. had been on tour or unavailable in previous years, and they wanted to be in attendance for The Big Event. As did I.

You’re saying to yourself, “Damn, she has a ‘source’; she’s cool.” I’m telling myself that, too, but it’s not all that exclusive; it’s all in the phrasing.

The organizers were strict about us staying in our general areas, telling us there were police and security throughout the hall so that we wouldn’t pester the inductees and their famous friends. Damn them. Actually, although I probably would have rushed the stage during the performance, I wouldn’t have bothered the luminaries in attendance. I’m finding that I prefer keeping R.E.M. at arm’s length, on their pedestals, and having my own connection with the songs. Who cares about their what and why when it means something else to me?

R.E.M. was the next-to-last induction, as Group of the Year, just before Gregg Allman. The two thousand of us seated in the World Congress Center ballroom had three hours of cocktails and bad food and lesser-knowns before The Beloved Four hit the stage. But it was worth the wait.

If you missed the many news stories, this was an especially poignant night, as the original four came together to perform — Bill Berry left the hay farm for this event. Since Bill retired from the band in 1997, he’s performed with R.E.M. maybe three or four times, and usually just on one or two songs. It was wonderful to see those four together again, a glorious step back in time.

R.E.M. performed three songs, the max allowed. I hate to be one of those fans — I don’t think I’ve ever complained about an R.E.M. performance, and I’ve seen them nearly thirty times — but I found the set a bit predictable. My fingers were crossed for “Radio Free Europe” or “Gardening at Night,” maybe “Perfect Circle” or “Nightswimming,” even “Sitting Still” or “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” Now, I enjoyed what they played, but I was holding out for a fan special.

Michael Stipe introduced the first song with “This is going to be loud.” And “Begin the Begin” (a thrilling semi-surprise) filled the room. We were up and dancing and singing and feeling young.

The ceremony was broadcast live on the state’s public broadcasting stations, and there were JumboTrons throughout the room playing the simulcast. Lauren and I were among the first to yelp louder the first time the camera zoomed on Bill Berry (who looks good, by the way; farming seems to agree with him); soon everyone in the room threw in an extra roar when the camera caught him.

There was a college-age kid from Japan at our table. He came to Atlanta just for this R.E.M. performance, and is beside himself with excitement about the upcoming Robyn Hitchcock/Minus 5 show in Tokyo next month. When R.E.M. played, he sat a little taller in his chair, very still. Even when he stood, he remained stiff and respectful. I was hoping to see him break loose and dance. He was thrilled with the show, stiffness be damned.

As Michael Stipe said “We’re R.E.M., and this is what we do,” Peter Buck grabbed the mandolin, Scott McCaughey hit the stage for some guitar work, and the band played “Losing My Religion.” While I was hoping for something else, it was wonderful to hear it live for the first time in a couple of years.

Those who watched the show on PBS complained that R.E.M. and Gregg Allman sounded off-key, and the clips included here back up that claim. But it must have been a room/broadcast conflict, as everyone sounded great. Or maybe we were too in the moment to notice.

To introduce the final number, Michael explained it’s “a song about life and about passage and about what each of us make of our short time here on Earth,” dedicating “Man on the Moon” to former Texas governor Ann Richards. “Man on the Moon” is always fun to hear live — and I love the way Michael sings “cooo-wulll!”

Former Senator Max Cleland — one of our state’s great heroes — then inducted the band, and Michael spoke for the group. I giggled every time Peter Buck bent down to put his glass of red wine on the floor to applaud Sen. Cleland and Blind Willie McTell. You gotta love a man with priorities.

But that wasn’t the end of the night for us R.E.M. fans. Gregg Allman needed a backup band for his final numbers, so Peter, Mike, Bill, and Scott joined him for the evening closer: “Midnight Rider.”

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That performance was perhaps the highlight of the show.

I’ll write about it later this week, but I will tell you that Gregg Allman performed an acoustic version of “Melissa,” which was beautiful.

So, it was a brilliant, wonderful, baubled evening. Lived up to my internal hype, although I was hoping for a stretch on the playlist. I felt proud to be a part of this momentous occasion with my boys (and, yes, I will go to Cleveland when they're inducted into The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame). And, just as important, my outfit was fabulous.

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16 September 2006

Cheer on My Hero

My cousin Marni — who writes the (very entertaining) blog It’s a Pug’s Life — is participating this weekend in the Atlanta Two-day Walk for Breast Cancer. She’s walking thirty miles this weekend — twenty miles on Saturday and ten miles on Sunday. And she’s raised more than $1,000 to battle breast cancer. Clap for her!

Marni is walking in memory of her grandmother, who passed away from breast cancer, and in honor of her mother and a friend, both survivors.

I’m impressed with anyone who gives up an entire weekend to walk for a cause, especially a beautiful weekend in mid-September. But Marni’s feat even more impressive. Two years ago she weighed 110 pounds more than she does today. Two years ago she could not have considered it. Yet this morning she’s taking her first steps as I write this and drink coffee on the porch (about to start the primp-and-preen routine for tonight’s date with R.E.M.).

Marni’s my hero. Head on over to her blog and congratulate her.

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15 September 2006

100 for 200

The tease went out earlier this week: My 200th post was coming up, which I planned to celebrate with a blogging tradition. The wait is over: Here’s my 100 Things About Me post. My cousin Marni recently published hers, and she’s been bugging me to write mine, so this is as much to please her as it is to entertain y’all with my nerdy trivialities.

So, without further ado:

1. My favorite band is R.E.M.

2. I love R.E.M. more than I have most of my beaux.

3. I get teary-eyed every time R.E.M. walks on stage. I’ll probably cry at tomorrow’s induction ceremony.

4. I’m the oldest of three kids.

5. But in most ways, I’m the youngest.

6. I’ve never been married.

7. But Dan and I lived together for nearly eight years.

8. I’ve never had children, and I’m too old to start.

9. But I have the best niece and nephew in the world.

10. I have three cats. Maggie (thirteen years old) and Otto (six years old) live with me; Dan got custody of Max (three years old) when we split up.

11. I say the first things I notice about a man are his eyes and smile.

12. But it’s really his ass and legs.

13. And his ring finger.

14. Number five on my top-five list fell off because I know someone who knows him, so he’s no longer a mystery and therefore cannot be a fantasy.

15. I don’t have anyone to fill his slot.

16. Bruce Campbell and David Duchovny are on my top five (now the top four, I guess).

17. I have Mulder and Ash action figures, and they stand on either side of my home monitor.

18. The other two on the list are George Clooney and David Letterman.

19. If Jon Stewart was taller, he could be my number five. Possibly Colin Firth (yeah, Colin Firth). Or Clive Owen. Maybe Hugh Grant. Ben Affleck before he jumped the shark with J.Lo.

20. My eyebrows are graying faster than the hair on my head.

21. Our family was once featured in a Japanese commercial. I have no idea what we were hawking.

22. I have a Southern accent. But I talk very fast, so it can be hard to catch the drawls … except when I’m tired and the tongue slows down.

23. I’m the only Southerner I know who can’t stand ham. Or potato salad. Or sweet tea. Or football.

24. I wish I were an NPR person, but their calming voices put me to sleep while I’m driving. I have to crank music so that I can dance and sing myself awake. I’m ashamed.

25. I’m ridiculously afraid of rats.

26. I hate the rest of the rodent clan, too.

27. I have a crush on Oliver Platt’s hair. And Emmylou Harris’ gray hair.

28. In college I was the public relations/public affairs director for our campus radio station. I had a free pass to every music club in the city (these were the early days of R.E.M. and The B-52's and Talking Heads) and opening night tickets to every play and ballet that year. It was a great year.

29. I’m a sociable hermit.

30. I really like people, but I’d rather live way out in the woods and just e-mail those I know.

31. I distrust anyone who claims to be a people person.

32. Or says they like animals more than people.

33. I spend an average of two hours a day in my fantasy world. I’m 5’10” with legs up to here in Cupland. And Peter Buck is my best friend.

34. I fantasize more about playing guitar on stage with Peter Buck and Keith Richards than I fantasize about … okay, that’s a lie. But it is a regularly screened fantasy in my head.

35. I can’t play guitar, but I want to.

36. I couldn’t even play that plastic flute in the sixth grade.

37. I’m a bit tone-deaf, actually … but that doesn’t stop me from singing at the top of my lungs.

38. My singing sometimes scares my coworkers.

39. The first album I ever bought was The Beatles Help!. Sister bought Revolver at the same time.

40. I have a walk-in closet filled with CDs. I don’t buy many CDs these days; I'm more of an MP3 girl.

41. One wall is filled with R.E.M.-related CDs, including bootlegs and every side project or sit-in the boys have participated on. Yes, every damn one. I conduct quarterly Googles to make sure I'm current.

42. I aspire to have a collection that rivals Ben’s Treasure Trove.

43. I have nearly 30,000 MP3s. And I still haven’t finished ripping my CDs.

44. I’ve been to Strawberry Fields and the Cavern Club, Graceland, Al Green’s church, the R.E.M. church, the Texas Chili Parlor Bar — all spiritual, meaningful pilgrimages.

45. I dress in all black every December 18 to celebrate Keith Richard’s birthday.

46. I once kissed Warren Zevon.

47. I cry every September 7, the anniversary of Warren Zevon’s death.

48. I’ve been madly in love five times since college.

49. I’d like to fall madly in love one more time.

50. My favorite job, other than the college radio station, was working at a bookstore.

51. I love grammar — talking about it, reading about it, teaching others about it, pulling out my red pen and editing what others have written.

52. I plan to launch my Grammar Grrrl blog in October.

53. I never graduated from college, but I’d like to go back to major in literature and minor in art history.

54. I once got kicked out of a strip club. For dancing with a patron. And, yes, I’m still proud of that.

55. I failed my driver’s test three times before I (finally!) got my license.

56. I had four car accidents the year I turned thirty. Three were my fault.

57. My car insurance was rather high for a couple of years after that.

58. My favorite baseball players are Hank Aaron and Tom Glavine.

59. I got to ride in the 1991 World Series parade with David Justice and Mark Lemke.

60. I don’t like to admit it, but I was in a sorority for a year.

61. I have 11 e-mail addresses: seven Yahoos, one Gmail, one Hotmail, one with my home ISP, one office address. And I use them all.

62. I bite my nails.

63. I have insomnia. Or maybe it’s just that I love being up between midnight and 4 a.m.

64. I think I suffer from ADHD. Or, rather, others suffer because I probably have it.

65. My mother and sister agree. With the diagnosis and their suffering.

66. I love making lists.

67. I was twenty the first time I flew on a plane.

68. I’ve been to Europe nine times.

69. I’ve never read The DaVinci Code. I doubt I ever will.

70. My favorite cocktails are extra-dirty martinis and cosmopolitans.

71. My favorite beers are Guinness Stout, Fuller’s, and a good British cider. I like Thai and Japanese beers, too.

72. And I adore the frozen margarita swirl at Casa Grande (the swirl is sangria, folks). Who wants to join me for one (or four)?

73. I got paddled in front of my third-grade class for talking.

74. I couldn’t admit that to anyone until I was a junior in high school. Now I consider it a badge of honor.

75. I was a painfully shy nerd until junior high.

76. Then I was a semi-shy, boy-crazy nerd.

77. I’m no longer shy, but I’m still a boy-crazy nerd.

78. I have the best group of best friends ever.

79. I could get arrested in seven states (covering the four U.S. corners and the Midwest, I might add) and the U.K., and someone would be there to bail me out.

80. That’s my goal for 2008: to be arrested in the towns of and bailed out by my farflung friends.

81. I was the first sophomore to make the high school newspaper staff — the best newspaper in the state.

82. Nearly everything I know about writing was learned during those three years. And I support myself today with those skills.

83. I was in flag corps my sophomore year and pep club my senior year.

84. I was a WSB Great Young American in high school. That means nothing to you readers outside Atlanta. And yet I still feel the need to brag about it. Sad, isn’t it?

85. Fall is my favorite season. Especially October in Atlanta.

86. But spring in Atlanta is glorious. You should see our azaleas and dogwoods.

87. I love Christmas.

88. I have five coffin-like storage bins filled with decorations and wrapping paper.

89. And a box filled with the greatest Christmas CDs ever.

90. My mother and my best friend’s mother went to high school together.

91. And my mother’s father went to school with her mother’s mother.

92. I still have my tonsils and my appendix.

93. I’ve never had surgery.

94. I broke my wrist slipping on the brick floor of a Mexican restaurant.

95. Yes, I had been happy houring for three hours. But the restaurant gave me $1,000 so that I wouldn’t sue them.

96. I asked Dan what to put on the list, and he said to tell y’all I’m gregarious, fun, freckled, laughing, and girlie.

97. Until a few years ago, I thought Isaac Hayes was singing “He’s a carpet-laying man” in “Theme from Shaft.”

98. The correct line is “He’s a complicated man.” I prefer my lyrics.

99. I loved playing with Barbie when I was a kid. Through the sixth grade, actually.

100. If I still had a Barbie, I’d probably be playing with her instead of trying to come up with 100 things to tell you about me. But I love making lists.

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Excitement Builds

And the countdown begins. In 36 hours, I'll be reunited with these guys:

For just the third or fourth time since he retired in 1997, Bill Berry — that's him on the drums, in front of the 40 Watt bulb — is leaving the farm tomorrow night to play with Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and Peter Buck (oh, and Scott McCaughey, who's playing guitar on the far right). Why? Because R.E.M. is being inducted in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, along with Gregg Allman, Jermaine Dupri, and Dallas Austin. And I'm giddily clutching my tickets for the big event.

How the heck the Indigo Girls were inducted years before R.E.M. still mystifies me ...
My beloveds will be playing three songs (and I sit up late at night wondering which ones — surely "Radio Free Europe" ... maybe "It's the End of the World as We Know It" ... can I hope for "Turn You Inside-out"?), and it's rumored they'll also back up Gregg Allman.

This is a black-tie affair, kiddies. My three-inch-heeled and well-baubled self will be rubbing shoulders and chewing rubber chicken with the great loves of my life. And — dare I dream? — maybe have a cocktail with them.

Be thinking of me Saturday night, beginning at 6:15 p.m. EST.

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14 September 2006

Dinner Partner Revealed!

I was vague about which blogger I met in the post below because I didn’t think to tell him I wanted to write about the evening when I got home. But he doesn’t mind, so …

I had dinner last night with Scrivener! I met Lawmom and Ella (who wore her lovely first-day dress) and Chloe!!! Yes, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but it was a rather exciting evening for me. I've long been fascinated with the Scrivener family, thanks to the wonderful tales he spins and photos he uploads on the blog. Scrivener has blogged about their drop-in dinners — they open the doors for friends looking for nourishment and conversation — and I always thought it was a cool idea. So I felt rather cool myself when I was invited.

Conversation was fascinating — politics and books and concerts, even the proper usage of that vs. which (that’s stimulating conversation in my book) — and the food was grand.

I’m going back next month.


13 September 2006

Blogging Milestone: Six Months of the Cup

Today marks the six-month anniversary of A Cup of Coffey, so I’m taking a few minutes to reflect and brag.

I have to admit, when I started this blog — after being pushed for two years by Paul and having Dan beat me to the Blogger Dashboard — I wondered if I’d have much to write about. It still surprises me that I have something to say nearly every day; in fact, there are several columns in the hopper, just waiting for a slow news day.

And, damn, I love a forum where I can upload and obsess about songs. And write lists.

A Cupful of Blog Stats

• This is post #197. I’m planning a blog tradition for post #200, so come back in a few days.

• As of five minutes ago, there have been 21,615 visits to A Cup of Coffey. Seriously? That many of you want to know which R.E.M. album I listened to last night? I’m flattered.

• There have been 1,669 peeks at my profile. I hope one or two folks have explored Tim Sandlin or Parting Glances or Warren Zevon after reading my lists o’ faves.

• I’m still surprised that every third post is not about R.E.M.

• I’ve cut down on how often I use fabulous and excellent and the rest of my overused words. They’re still here, peppering each column … just a little less each month.

• It took five months, but I was finally tagged. Twice.

• Not really a stat, but I’ve been introduced to several new bands and authors through this blogging experience. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

• I’m also thrilled about the people I’ve met through this blog.

Cup’s Googliest Posts

Review: The BODIES Exhibition (March 14; my second post): I get at least one hit a day for this review. That post is even linked on some site for the traveling exhibit. It’s quite a fascinating, educational exhibit, by the way; go see it if it’s in your town.

Who Knew That I Love Puppets? (June 16): I’ve been able to trace Beck’s tour based on where the hits come from, thanks to Stereogum including a link to this post in its Bonnaroo review. Beck’s puppets really were cool, possibly the coolest stage thing I’ve ever seen.

Tonight’s Top 10: Beth's Sexiest Songs (April 2): If someone’s looking for a sexy song, they’ve hit this post. I get about 10 hits a week for sexiest songs (might explain last week’s stripper hits); I hope these folks are taking my list and your suggestions, and enjoying their extracurricular activities.

The Wall Came Down

Coincidentally, I had a blog first tonight: I met a blogger, the author of one of the first blogs I started reading regularly.

One of the interesting things about the blog universe is you have some level of intimacy with your blog circle — you know their secrets and heartaches, their triumphs and quirks, their brilliant and deep love for R.E.M. — and yet you’ve never heard their voices, nor seen them in the real world, nor know their real names. It’s a forum that allows you to be freer, more honest in what you write about since chances are you won’t run into them at your neighborhood coffee shop.

There are a few regular readers with whom I’ve become close — long e-mail conversations, non-blog discussions. I talk regularly on the phone to a couple of these folks and consider them true friends. But this was the first press-the-flesh moment.

As I came up the driveway I realized I was about to walk into a dinner party where I’d never met anyone sitting around the table, not even the host. The shy, nerdy kid inside me — the one who always had to look off to the side in the class picture because her glasses would cause a glare, and so she felt even nerdier — wanted to run back to the car. I didn’t, though. This was like being invited to sit at the cool kids’ table, and I was going to enjoy every moment.

The dinner party was a lot of fun. The Blogger Family is quite interesting and wonderful, very much as described on the blog, and I liked their friends. Added bonus: Since we read each other’s blogs regularly, we didn’t have to fall back on standard dinner party getting-to-know-you questions that can drag down the table conversation. They already knew I was a little too obsessed with R.E.M.

So, which of you bloggers is next?

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The Power of the Cat

Last night was just about as perfect as September gets. The weather has cooled to perfect temps this week, and it started raining late in the afternoon — that soft, steady, soothing drizzle.

Dan and I began the night at Avra, a Greek restaurant in Midtown. The restaurant is in a converted house; our table was on the wraparound porch, facing Juniper Street. You know how I am about porches and rain. The light breeze occasionally brushed sprinkles of rain on our arms, and the sound of the shower brought peace and relaxation to the table. And, of course, the company was as much fun as he always is. I have the best ex-beau ever.

A glass of red wine, pork tenderloin with goat cheese cakes, deliriously delicious Greek pastries, coffee with Ouzo. The dinner was so scrumptious and the seating so perfect, we briefly considered staying there all evening and skipping the main event.

Still swooning over those goat cheese cakes. Don’t they serve those in Heaven? They should, dammit.

But we went … because the main event was Cat Power, performing at Variety Playhouse (my favorite music venue in town). The Connecticut beloveds and the Northwest doppelganger warned me that I might be sorely disappointed since Chan Marshall’s performances had been pretty rough the last few years. I’d heard that she was on the wagon, though, so I was confident that I was going to see a great show. So confident, in fact, I skipped the sure bet of seeing R.E.M. perform in Athens last night. (Don’t feel sorry for me, lovelies; I’ll see the original Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe lineup perform on Saturday.)

Thank you, Chan, for kicking our aural asses last night and proving the naysayers wrong. She was amazing — sultry, ethereal, fun. She’s a shy one and her dance moves were cute yet stilted in the beginning, and it was fun watching her warm up and let go.

I judge musicians on the covers they perform. It’s a great way to discover their influences and get a feel for their love of music. Cat Power hit high marks all night long. One of the sultriest versions of “House of the Rising Sun” ever and a damn good “Satisfaction.” Nina Simone (I’m too sleepy to remember which one!) and “Tracks of My Tears.” And she stole the show with her cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

Cat Power was backed up by the Memphis Rhythm Band. Oh. My. God. What a great twelve-piece — yes, twelve — band. Listening to them, I felt as if I were in the Stax recording studios.

Too wound up after the show, I went home and danced around my living room until about 2 a.m. — windows open, raindrops backing up Cat Power on the stereo. Finally wound down enough to head upstairs, and the rain lulled me to sleep.

The AJC ran a good profile of Cat Power this weekend; click here to read the article.

Next up: Nellie McKay tomorrow at Variety Playhouse. Anyone else going? I’m single for this show.


12 September 2006

Johnny Cash: American Recordings

I’m a Southern girl, with roots that go way back. My paternal grandmother’s family can be traced back to James Oglethorpe and the founding of Georgia — not quite the prestige of the Plymouth Rock gang, though, as our fledgling state was populated by Brits from debtor’s prison (and I’m keeping that family tradition alive to this day). Being an umpteenth-generation Southerner means I love grits and fried chicken and Co-Cola and fried okra and watermelon and fried peach pies. And country music.

Not this current crop of country music, though. For the most part, I find most country pop bland and lifeless, adult contemporary with a twang. Nah, I’m a purist, a traditionalist. George and Tammy. Waylon and Willie. Loretta and Conway. Merle and Dolly. Dwight Yoakum and Randy Travis.

And Johnny Cash. I grew up listening to and loving his songs: “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line,” “I Still Miss Someone” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny and Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.” And, of course, his duets with June Carter Cash, especially “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “Jackson,” and “If I Were a Carpenter.”

My sister once spotted June Carter Cash in an airport restroom. June, of course, was talkingtalkingtalking to everyone milling around the sinks. Sister hurriedly washed her hands, hoping for a glance at the Man in Black. There he was, Johnny Cash, standing right outside the ladies’ room door … holding June’s purse.

Johnny’s career in the late 1960s and 1970s suffered the same indignities as Elvis’: over-produced schlock. And so he disappeared off my music radar for many years. I saw Johnny and June in concert during the early 1990s, and they were wonderful. June would grab the mic and talktalktalk, and then they’d sing one great song after another. I regret that I saw Johnny Cash just once in concert.

And then 1994 rolled around.

One of the bennies of working in a bookstore is the advance reader — a copy of upcoming book that publishers send out, in the hopes that booksellers will read the book, fall in love with it, recommend it to customers. Although our bookstore did not sell CDs, we received a few advance albums one day. Being the only true Southerner in our bunch, the store manager tossed me American Recordings. I had a lifelong history Johnny Cash, the cover photograph was cool, I was curious what Rick Rubin would do with him, so I played the CD right then. And halfway through the first song I was hooked. Thrilled. Dancing and twirling and squealing with excitement (I do that when an album knocks off my nonexistent socks). That began a weeklong listening obsession and a lifelong love affair wih the album.

Rick Rubin was best known for his Def Jam and Def American labels, his work with Run-DMC and Public Enemy, Ret Hot Chili Peppers and thrasher metal bands — and he producing an album for a country music legend. The two set up shop in Johnny’s living room and recorded tons of songs — stripped-down, just Johnny and his guitar. This album now defines the Americana genre.

Rubin encouraged Cash to sing anything he wanted, and the covers in the series are remarkable. American Recordings includes Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord” and Loudon Wainwright’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.” Tom Waits wrote “Down There by the Train” and Glenn Danzig wrote “Thirteen” for Johnny to record on this album. And here they’re all classic Cash.

Upload music at Bolt.

The album begins with a new version of “Delia’s Gone” (Johnny originally recorded it in the early sixties). How can you not be hooked by a song with lyrics such as If I hadn't have shot poor Delia I'd have had her for my wife and She was low down and trifling / And she was cold and mean / Kind of evil make me want to / Grab my sub machine

Why did Johnny record it again? As he said after the album came out: “The other is the new lyrics to 'Delia's Gone,' which is a really old traditional song. I cut it before, but this is a newer version. I couldn't remember enough verses of the old one to sing it, so I wrote some new ones. I sing that one a lot in concert, as fans are always asking for it, so I thought I'd cut a new version and try to get it before a new audience.”

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Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” is a near-perfect song, one that seeps down to my marrow every time I hear it. Johnny Cash (Nick's one-time stepfather-in-law) makes it his own. Lowe’s version is melancholic and questioning, while the Cash cover has a resigned, world-weary, beaten-down quality. As I grow older, I find myself preferring Johnny’s version … and I never thought I’d say that. Old age is a bitch, isn’t it?

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As mentioned above, Tom Waits wrote “Down There by the Train” for Cash to record for American Recordings. He has performed the tune in concert, but had not included a version on recent releases … until now. His version will be included on his upcoming three-record set, Orphans, to be released November 21.

American Recordings kicked off a new, much-needed movement among the greats. Since Johnny and Rick recorded these now-Americana classics, we’ve heard back-to-roots brilliance among the legends, such as Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose (produced by Jack White), and two 2006 releases I love: Kris Kristofferson’s This Old Road and Jessi Colter’s Out of the Ashes, both produced by Don Was. I hope the trend continues; can’t wait to hear what may be coming from George Jones and Merle Haggard.

Johnny Cash Must-haves
  • Johnny Cash’s entire American Recordings series is amazing. I can’t pick a favorite among the five discs. If you like the selections I’ve included here, you’ll probably enjoy any of the discs. Will & Ben's Record Room has an excellent review of American V: A Hundred Highways on that must-read blog.
  • If you want a greatest hits disc, the best is The Essential Johnny Cash. It’s a comprehensive two-disc set, and includes his best duets with June.
  • If you’re a member of eMusic, I highly recommend The Complete Sun SinglesVolume 1 and Volume 2.
  • And don’t forget June Carter Cash — after all, she co-wrote “Ring of Fire.” I love Wildwood Flower, her final album, which she recorded at Mother Maybelle’s home.

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11 September 2006

Dinah Webster: A Tribute

Nobody needs to remind you that today is the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, the crash of Flight 93, the attack on the Pentagon. Each one of us can still describe, to the tiniest detail, where we were when we first heard about it and how we spent that day in fear, afraid to step away from the news coverage, heartbroken over the losses. But let’s not focus on fear and anger today. Let’s instead remember and honor and love those 2,996 men and women lost — whether we knew them or not.

Today I honor Dinah Webster, a beautiful woman beginning a new phase of her life. I never met Dinah, but I feel a kinship with her. I’m close to her age, and my life is experiencing similar change, new beginnings. From what I’ve learned, she’s the type of woman I would have enjoyed sharing laughs and memories and dreams over a glass of wine. I’m sad that I know her only after the fact.

Dinah spent her last hours at Windows of the World, on the top floor of the North Tower. She and several of her Risk Waters Group coworkers — including her fiancé, Neil Cudmore — were attending the Waters Financial Technology Congress, hosted by her company. The meeting began minutes before American Airline Flight 11 crashed into the floors below them. The president of Risk Waters shared his memories of that day one year later.

I watched a Discovery channel special on the World Trade Center attacks last weekend. One of the vignettes was on Windows of the World, with reenactments depicting what the conference attendees went through — fear, confusion, sadness. It was that vignette that most affected me. Dinah Webster was assigned to me the next day. I’m glad I saw the program so that I could understand her final hours.

The recently engaged Dinah and Neil (weren't they a lovely couple?) had transferred to New York City after working together in Hong Kong. Dinah was with Risk Waters longer than anyone, joining their London office in 1989, transferring to Hong Kong in 1995, and moving to New York in 2000. She was the advertising manager at the time of her death.

According to a tribute to her on the Risk Waters site:
The one virtue almost every client mentioned was her professionalism. She was successful in what she did because she made clients feel at ease. They enjoyed meeting her and many of them became her friends. Dinah was always willing to take on anything asked of her and go anywhere on business she was asked to go. She took everything in her stride and never got flustered, even during organisational or travel crises that would have taxed the resources of the United Nations. Dinah could be stubborn but you could never get upset with her, said a former colleague, who also recalled that Dinah brought a touch of glamour and class to the office.

But her life wasn’t just about her work. Over and again friends mentioned her zest for life, her elegance, her thoughtfulness, her meringue-topped mincemeat pies she served with champagne.

According to friend Peter Skipp:
Dinah was a wonderful, lively, breezy, feisty lady. Never a bore, never even a suggestion of fatigue! Very British and upright. I remember her once coming to the office after her flight from America had been delayed. Short of change, she had borrowed a 50 pence piece from someone at the airport to ring-in and apologised for being late (this was before mobiles, of course)! Her first job in the office? To tape a 50p coin to a piece of card, write a nice 'thank you' note and mail it back to whoever had lent it to her! I also remember once furiously beating egg whites with her so she could make us all a strawberry Pavlova on impulse. Dinah had served as a stewardess with Monarch Airlines way back, and I remember being slightly awed by her because of that.

After a year in Manhattan, Dinah and Neil purchased a home on Long Island, and they were planning to adopt a child. As friend William Rhode wrote in an online tribute, they were putting down roots and finally settling down. “Neil was applying what he wanted for his life to his life. He and Dinah really knew how to live passionately, especially in their love for each other.”

Dinah and Neil’s new home was in Port Washington, on the north shore of Long Island, supposedly the real-life version of East Egg Village in The Great Gatsby. How fitting that Dinah lived happily amid the elegance we imagined for Daisy Buchanan. At that home she loved gardening and being with Neil.

Another friend, identified only as J, posted her photo I’ve used here, and wrote:
I took the photo of Dinah that sits above these tributes. It was taken in Hong Kong on one of our many nights out. We worked there together in 2000, a time I remember fondly for her and Neil Cudmore's hospitality. They were truly together wherever they travelled. They lived for each other. That they died together, horrific as it is, was fitting. Dinah was a beautiful, vibrant lady — a real touch of old-fashioned class that so many people these days could have learned from.

There’s a bench dedicated to Dinah and Neil in the graveyard of the Dorset, England, village where Neil owned a home. Dinah’s parents held a memorial and thanksgiving service for the couple in the U.K. one month after they died.

Dinah and Neil are remembered and loved daily by the friends and family they left behind.

Dinah Webster was memorialized on The United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt:

To you, Dinah, my respect and remembrance. To your family and friends, my thoughts and prayers.

If you knew Dinah or Neil and have a story to share or a fact to correct, please e-mail me at cup_coffey@yahoo.com.


The 2,996 Project

This is just one of 2,996 tributes posted today. Click here for the 2,996 Project links to those nearly 3,000 tributes, or read the tributes written by my blog crowd:

Coaster Punchman: Geoff Campbell
Eclectic Tales: Mark E. Schurmeier
Half the Words I Say Are Meaningless: Elena Ledesma
Heatherstuff: Steven Hagis
It’s a Pug’s Life: Leah E. Oliver
The Reluctant Prophet: Louis S. Inghilterra
Simply Left Behind: Billy McGinn
The Wandering Author: Francis Esposito, FDNY
Will & Ben’s Record Room: Katie McGarry Noack


10 September 2006

A Room with a View

The Final Lake Burton Rumination

I had the downstairs to myself last weekend. My bedroom opened up to the screened porch, so I kept the door open all weekend. I woke up in the middle of each night to sit on that darkened porch … enjoy the alive solitude of 3 a.m. … stare at the still lake, the black sky baubled with millions stars … hum along with the cricket serenade … leave my worries and thoughts and stresses farther behind with every rock of the chair.

From the porch, at dusk

When (and notice I didn't write “if”) that house becomes mine, I plan to knock down walls and make the lake-facing side all windows. Without window treatments. Just the sky and lake and trees for curtains.

Captain brother-in-law, with sister’s beloved beagle

Brother at the helm

I love living life by boat — getting up in the early morn and zipping to the marina for the morning paper (and a fabulous boho skirt), taking two or three rides every day, cruising in the evening with a glass of wine and gentle breeze.

Georgia trivia: There are no natural lakes in the state; they’re all man-made (man-dug?). ‘Tis true; my mama told me so. Lake Burton is owned by Georgia Power.

A bank of kudzu

One downside about the most beautiful spot in Georgia is it’s where the very moneyed have their weekend homes, pricing paupers such as I out of the market. Folks are building McMansions up there — seven bed/ten bath behemoths (or, as I call these houses, behomeths) that are priced around six million. Yes, I mean dollars.

Here are some houses snapped from the boat.

I could be very happy here

Not quite what I’d call a lake house

This could be yours — for $6 million (and your soul)

Lake Burton is glorious. It needs me as much as I need it. I’m gonna suck up bigtime to the brother-in-law so that he’ll invite me up every three weeks. And introduce me to his widowed dad.

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09 September 2006

Hey, Kids, Shake a Leg

The Drive to Lake Burton

In the beach vs. mountain question, I’ve always picked mountains. I love the north Georgia mountains — the peace in the green, the silence in chirping crickets and singing birds. It’s the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so everything is green and blue and leafy. My soul relaxes as soon as I spot the first mountain.

The drive to Lake Burton is just under two hours from my place. Last Saturday’s drive was wonderful. The sunroof and windows were down … our local station was in the middle of a Smells Like the ‘90s weekend, so the music was great … the weather was glorious, a bit overcast, but humidity-free. I zoomed and sang and danced in the driver’s seat all the way to the driveway.

The Sautee-Nacoochee Indian Mound has always been a favorite spot on my mountain tours. Legend has it that it’s the resting place of two tragic young lovers from warring Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes. Sometimes called the Romeo and Juliet Indian Mound, it was built by mound builders in 10,000 B.C.

There are many Indian mounds around the state. If you ever make it to Georgia, I recommend an afternoon trip to the Etowah Indian Mounds, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. Very cool place.

And here’s the Lake Burton house. Beautiful, isn’t it? On the outside, anyway. Inside, it’s a museum for 1974 décor.

Can’t you see me writing great stories and novels here? Dancing to and singing along with R.E.M. from one end of the porch to the other? Just look at that porch, that view. You know how I love porches (I'm on my porch as I'm writing this, in fact).

And the level below has a screened porch running the length of the house. The home is owned by my brother-in-law’s father. Widowed father. I’m seriously considering roping him into marrying me so that I can get that house. Do you blame me?

Tomorrow: Photos from around the lake.

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08 September 2006

My un-Labored Weekend

I spent last weekend in the loveliest spot of the state: Lake Burton, in the North Georgia mountains. I meant to write about the weekend earlier, but I took way too many photos and just finished sorting them.

My brother-in-law’s father owns a house on the lake. He rarely goes up, so my sister, brother-in-law, and I took over the house for the holiday weekend. After months of stress and heavy workloads and worries and traveling, it was wonderful to just be for a few days — no makeup, R.E.M. and Zevon T-shirts and cutoffs, hair curling wildly. We took boat rides, read, hung out, enjoyed the view.

And the house has a porch. A big porch. With railing. Overlooking the lake and mountains. My kind of hangout spot.

So, let’s start with the most important part of the weekend: the cocktailing.

My sister and I decided to cocktail for twelve hours straight on Sunday, and we pulled it off. We also imbibed much of Saturday and Monday, too. The nice thing about marathon cocktailing is, if you're a pro, you can maintain a level of buzz that's not too far over the edge. With no hangovers or embarrassing drunk dialing.

You know the pose; now meet my weekend pals.

Sister's award-winning frozen margarita

A margarita on the rocks (we tired of blending)

Chik-Fil-A lemonade with Absolut Citron

A glass of red from Garretson Winery*

A chilled glass of Naia

*Paso Robles' Garretson Winery is owned by a Georgia boy, Mat Garretson. (His older brother was one of my college radio station buddies.) The winery is known for its viognier, and I recommend it. The red we're drinking is a Georgia Bulldogs label that my brother-in-law picked up; not bad at all. Mat must know what he's doing with those grapes.

More Lake Burton stories to come this weekend.

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Aural Ammunition

Is there a better way to kick off Friday than dancing to this song in the shower? I'm still dancing ...

The Clash: "This Is Radio Clash"

Dance with me! C'mon; you know you want to.

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07 September 2006

Pinch Me!

I’m going to hear Margaret Atwood tonight night at Emory University. In case you’re unfamiliar with her [and please don't tell me if you've never heard of her], she wrote Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, Surfacing, Cat’s Eye, Lady Oracle, Life Before Man, The Robber Bride, and many more. I’ve loved her books for more than twenty-five years. Tonight she’s going to talk about her latest novel, The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus.

From Publishers Weekly:
Drawing on a range of sources, in addition to The Odyssey, Atwood scripts the narrative of Penelope, the faithful and devoted wife of Odysseus and her 12 maids, who were killed upon the master's return. Atwood proposes striking interpretations of her characters that challenge the patriarchal nature of Greek mythology. The chapters transition between the firsthand account of Penelope and the chorus of maids as listeners are taken from Penelope's early life to her afterlife. Laural Merlington charmingly delivers the witty and perceptive Penelope with realistic inflection and emphasis. Some of her vocal caricatures seem over the top, but most voices maintain a resemblance to our perceptions of these mythic people. The maids are presented as a saddened chorus by a cloning of Merlington's voice. These dark figures speak straightforwardly in their accusations of Penelope and Odysseus, while, at other times, they make use of rhyming. This format works well, though sometimes the cadence and rhyming scheme are off beat. This benefits the production by creating an eerie resonance and haunting demeanor that enhances this engaging tale.

I can’t wait to be in the same room with Margaret Atwood. I need to bask in her brilliance right now. I’ve been working on several short stories this summer, and last week I came down with a nasty case of the I’m-a-talentless-hackitis. I hope that hearing Ms. Atwood talk will inoculate me from my inner demons. I need inspiration and some ass-kicking; too much is riding on these stories.

Margaret Atwood. Isn’t she lovely?

Another night in the presence of literary greatness. T. Coraghessan Boyle in July, Richard Ford this fall. See, folks, we ain’t illiterate and culture-free down here in the South, even during college football season.

The purchase link used for The Penelopiad is for a local bookstore chain. Support the independents and buy a copy — or seven — from Chapter 11 Books. Powell's Books isn't the only independent selling online, kids.

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06 September 2006

Guess I Need Stripper Shoes

In the last 24 hours, four people have hit this blog after Googling "top 10 striptease songs" or "sexiest stripper songs." When did my blog turn the porn corner? And will you slip me a five after a particularly entertaining post?

UPDATE: Now I'm getting Google hits for "stripper shoes."

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05 September 2006

R.E.M.: Reveal

Yesterday marked the unofficial end of summer, and summer songs and beach books are fading away until Memorial Day. Maybe I’m a day late, but I’m squeezing in my favorite beach album while it’s still sunny and warm: R.E.M.’s (grossly overlooked) Reveal.

Is Reveal my favorite R.E.M. album? No, it’s probably fifth or sixth from the top of that list. But it’s a brilliant album — one that didn’t receive the attention it deserved, at least here in the U.S. — and its feel is perfect for this moment onthe calendar.

Released in 2001, Reveal is an album of bewitching, atmospheric pop songs and introspective, wistful ballads. It’s the album I want to listen to when the windows are open and a breeze floats through the room. When I’m on the porch, late at night, just me and a bottle of wine. When I’m driving late at night, the sunroof open, the windows down, the road empty. It takes me other places, across the world and deep inside myself.

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I love pomegranate afternoons. And "She Just Wants to Be." When I listen to the song, I wonder when Michael Stipe picked my brain for the lyrics. Backed by Peter’s lonely, sad guitar, it’s heartbreakingly close to my internal self. (In fact, Dan uses it as my ringtone on his cell phone.) And Peter’s opening and closing strums resonate to my core. (A bit of purple prose, yes, but that's how it feels.)

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Lovely laziness permeates “Beat a Drum.” Every time I listen I feel an ocean breeze on my arm. And what a divine rhyme in A bluejay hectors from the felled Catalpa tree / Doctorate in science and a theologians dream / The dragonflies are trying to lecture me / The seahorses as if we were in the sea. I love the cadence of “from the felled Catalpa tree.”

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Peter Buck and Mike Mills have long raved about The Beach Boys, and the Wilsons’ influence can be heard all over Reveal. So don’t tell me you listened to “Summer Turns to High” and didn’t think of “In My Room.” A wonderful homage to one of my favorite Beach Boys tunes.

Was there a more fun pop song released in 2001 than “Imitation of Life”? I just checked the Billboard charts — Train? Jennifer Lopez? I don’t think so. Alicia Keys is good, but not as much fun as this. And you gotta love Mr. Buck and his monkey. Captivating video, catchy tune.

I haven't been fair to Mike Mills in these R.E.M. posts. Music critics (and Warren Zevon) have called him R.E.M.'s secret weapon. He can play nearly every instrument, and his harmonies take Stipe's vocals to a different place. I promise to give him more raves in the next column.

Really, it’s hard not to rave about each tune on this album. Song for song, Reveal is a dazzling album, summer or winter.

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04 September 2006

It's so High Fidelity

And I get to play the John Cusack role, thanks to the well-coifed Scrivener’s tag.

Three people who make me laugh
1. Paige
2. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (they count as one, dammit)
3. David Letterman

Three things I can do
1. Make you laugh
2. Tell you way too much more than you want to know about R.E.M., any great album, any musician I adore (as Dale will attest)
3. [edited for family content]

Three things I can’t do
1. Sing (but that doesn’t stop me)
2. Whistle
3. Say “no”

Three things I’m doing right now
1. E-mailing back and forth with the Northwest doppelganger
2. Eating a spiked watermelon
3. Enjoying R.E.M.’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi

Three things I want to do before I die
1. Fall madly in love one more time
2. Have a short story published
3. Live in the mountains

Three things I hate the most
1. People so close-minded in their extreme beliefs — Republican or Democrat, Christian or agnostic — that they won’t stop and listen to your views
2. Dubya’s (attempt at a) presidency
3. When someone doesn't e-mail back after you’ve asked a question or are in the middle of an e-conversation

Three things that scare me
1. Rats
2. Neo-cons
3. Michael Bolton

Three things I don’t understand
1. Econ 101
2. Neo-cons
3. Michael Bolton

Three skills I’d like to learn
1. Playing the guitar
2. Water skiing
3. Writing a short story

Three ways to describe my personality
1. Flirty
2. Funny
3. Fiercely loyal

Three things I think you should listen to
1. R.E.M.
2. Nina Simone
3. Gram Parsons

Three things you should never listen to
1. Someone who tells you your beliefs are wrong or naïve or utopian
2. Fox News
3. Michael Bolton

Three favorite foods
1. Very rare ahi tuna
2. Sushi
3. Salmon with béarnaise sauce (but only in Paris)

Three beverages I drink regularly
1. Dasani bottled water
2. Triple grande nonfat latte
3. Margarita swirls (the swirl is sangria!) from Casa Grande

Three shows I watched as a kid
1. “That Girl”
2. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
(Believe it or not, both of these shows influenced who I am today; look for a column about that in the near future)
3. “The Partridge Family”
(I loved David Cassidy; I had the most photos of him in the sixth grade, and I'm still proud of that accomplishment.)

Three blogs I’m tagging
1. Eclectic Tales, because she always has a great story to tell and she tells them well
2. The Road Goes on Forever, because he understands what’s important in life and has so much joy in his
3. KulturFluff, because I like how her mind works

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