Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dioramas from my parents' basement

My parents have lived in their current house for twelve years. This is the longest either of them have lived in a house since they got married. We moved a lot when my dad was in the Army; there is no childhood bedroom awaiting my visits. Twelve years is a long time to live in one place and 43 years is a long time to be married. A person can amass a lot of stuff in that span of time. Two people can amass even more. And four people? It's scary to consider and then to witness the sheer amount of stuff that four people have. From the graveyard of televisions and old computer equipment to the wall of Christmas, our basement is the kind of place where time ceases to exist and you become overwhelmed by memories of the same wood salad bowl at dinner every night and a time when owning a set of encyclopedias was a big deal. If you wanted to remember what entertainment looked like in the 1980s or 1990s (or even the late 1970s), we've got you covered. I have ventured into my parents' basement and it is a box filled place of mystery and memory.

The basement has been a topic of discussion for years. We talk about cleaning out the basement like some families plan vacations. I'm sure that if it was a logical and safe option, one of my parents would take a torch to the basement and be done with it (I'll let you guess which one). Of course, this is neither logical nor safe so we're back to figuring out how to tackle the basement. Earlier this week my mom emailed me about my weekend plans and suggested that we spend some time working on the basement. I got unnecessarily excited about this and was all ready to start organizing and discarding years worth of I don't even know what. I was grossly under-prepared for the task at hand. This type of organization demands a plan and all I came with was a plucky can-do attitude. My attitude was no match for the sheer force of the basement.

I got distracted by all of things.

Do you remember the Care Bear Cousins? The Care Bear Cousins were introduced as the other animals (and a penguin) that were friends to the Care Bears. They appeared in the original Care Bear movie and the 1980s cartoon series (and I believe they've been brought back in more recent cartoons). I forgot all about the Care Bear Cousins until I stumbled upon Cozy Heart Penguin just hanging out over by some bed linens and old pillows. Not to be outdone, my yellow and white blanket (crocheted by my grandma) was just lying there waiting for me to wrap myself in it like I used to when I was younger. I may have wrapped it around my shoulders like a cape (no photo, no proof). Did I mention the hat my dad brought me from Puerto Rico? All of this occurred in the first five minutes of exploration. If I continued at this rate of discovery, I would probably have to spend every day in the basement from now until the end of the summer just to make a small dent.

And I hadn't even made it to a galaxy far, far away.

To say that my brother likes Star Wars would be understatement. He has toys, comic books, books, games, clothing, and multiple copies of the movies. He's also a really big John Williams fan. He was young enough when the original films came out that he has many toys from when they were first released. He also has a box full of the re-released figures from the mid-1990s (none of these are open). You can tell my brother really loved his Star Wars toys; they're worn down by love and adventures. One box included the Millennium Falcon, an Ewok village playset, the Cantina (this is the saddest looking of all the toys), and a land speeder. This was just what I could see without moving too much. It was like being back in our paneled basement in Wisconsin. I had Barbie and She-Ra; he had Star Wars and He-Man. We played in equal yet divided universes. One day we'd discover Legos and occasionally join forces. Such is childhood.

My experience proved two things to me:
  1. This basement project needs a project manager.
  2. I am way more sentimental and sappy than I thought I was.
I can address the first point. After discovering my Woodstock tackle box wedged between two ancient lawn chairs, I announced to my parents that we would need a plan to tame the basement. Everyone will have a role to play and responsibilities in this project plan. Now that I know that a can-do attitude will be broken by memories in the first five minutes, I can figure out how to best attack each section of the basement. We'll have to rent a truck to haul the electronics and other larger items to the dump. We'll have to make hard choices about furniture that we've had since forever. That wooden salad bowl has got to go. My brother will have to make some decisions about the Rebel Alliance and the Empire (and the box of comics I didn't even bother to open). There will be spreadsheets and calendar events and a need to invest in better allergy medication. If my family thinks I'm bossy now, they will know the full range of my bossiness by the end of this project. But they will have a clean and organized basement to enjoy. The two balance each other out if you ask me.

I don't think that I can really prepare for the second point. No matter how organized or prepared I am, memories are memories and they come with emotions and stuff and things (that is a technical term). No amount of spreadsheets and calendars and task assignments can erase sentimentality. I will balance my organizing with cleaning my Woodstock tackle box (it's going to make a storage container - probably for some of my sewing stuff) and wrapping myself in my yellow and white blanket. That should help in the short term.

Somewhere in the basement is a box of Cabbage Patch Kids wearing my baby clothes. I will be ready for them.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

We are going to be friends

When I started this blog way back in 2011 (wow) I was in the process of adjusting to my move to California and the weird stage of adult life where making friends is challenging. The move was for my job and I knew no one in the area but jumped at the chance to try something new. It's hard to move somewhere and not have a support network. It took a long time for me to make friends, even at work, and I typically excel at making friends at work. When my beloved Ford Escape died, I had to deal with it on my own. When I got locked into my bathroom, I was afraid no one would come looking for me. I've always been very independent and have no problem doing things on my own but sometimes you just need people because being around other people is just funner (debate whether funner is a word on your own time).

I believe it looked something like this.
Adult friendships are difficult. When you're young you have no fear (or maybe just less fear) so friendship comes a bit easier. The structures of youth like school, clubs, and mom arranged play dates made friends easier to come by. Little things were much more important; I remember becoming friends with a girl in second grade just because we had the same Pound Puppies lunchbox. My family moved a lot when I was younger so making friends was something I got very good at because I did it so frequently.

In her book MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bertsche chronicles her yearlong quest to find a new best friend after moving to Chicago to be with her husband. She goes on 52 friend-dates and calls her year "the year of friending." I read the book not too long after moving to California and immediately started taking notes in the margins and plotting how I would make more of an effort to make friends. I had a plan and I began exploring Meet-Up groups and plotting to join book clubs despite horrible book selections.

Then something happened without me even trying: I made a friend at work.

I've always been the type of person who enjoyed getting to know my co-workers. People spend more time at work than they do at home these days so it makes sense that friendships would occur. This is in direct contrast to the traditional world of work where work and personal lives remained separate. I don't believe you have to like everyone you work with nor do you have to best friends with the people you do like but work is much more enjoyable when you have people to go to lunch with, commiserate with when you've had a bad day, and celebrate with whether it's something major or you know, Tuesday.

In the DC office and at my previous job, I made friends very quickly and it was mostly because of the same strategy that worked when I was younger: commonalities. Finding things in common with my co-workers was the way to go. Whether it was Project Runway, liking ranch dressing on french fries, or bowling, finding these small things helped my work friends and I move to actually being friends. It wasn't until one of my California co-workers (who shares my first name) and I started discussing baking that we started hanging out. She introduced me to some of her friends and I started to feel like I belonged. By the time I moved back to the East Coast I felt better about my friendships and not as alone way out west.

I've spent most of this week thinking and writing about workplace friendships. I volunteered to write a blog post for our wellness month at work and decided to focus on the benefits of workplace friendships. There's a lot of research now that suggests workplace friendships are good for employees and organizations. I'm sort of obsessed with this infographic right now. In an informal Facebook poll, I discovered most of my friends feel like they have a best or close friend and work. More importantly, most felt their employers supported friendships. What's most interesting to me is much of the research points to three elements that need to be present in order for workplace friendship to take hold: physical proximity, familiarity, and similarity. So really workplace friendships aren't all that different from making friends on the playground. We're a little bit more sophisticated (maybe) but we need the same things we did in the second grade.

As I sat with two friends from work (one I've knows for awhile now and enjoy hanging out with and one that is new; this was our first non-work social event) watching Pitch Perfect 2, I realized I've come a long way in the years since I started this blog. My friends, workplace and otherwise, have been a big part of that. I could wait until Friendship Day to say thank you but August seems so far away.

So enjoy one of my favorite White Stripes songs instead.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mary Kay Minions

I've only been in three weddings: I was the flower girl in my aunt's wedding and a bridesmaid and maid of honor in the weddings of my college roommates. I admit that I lucked out in the bride/bridesmaid department; neither Heather nor Kelly were out of control brides and given that none of us lived in the same state at the time of either wedding, there weren't all the events and fittings and everything else that goes into weddings. I still have the skirt I wore in Heather's wedding and would have the one I wore in Kelly's but I donated it last year because it was too big. I love both of my friends dearly but the fact that neither became a wedding monster makes me adore them too. My only responsibilities in my aunt's wedding were to walk down the aisle and look adorable. I'm fairly certain I accomplished both.

My point in all of this is that I've basically been a fake bridesmaid my entire life. I've never really had to suffer for a bride and the glory of posing in wedding photos. I've never had to wear sea foam green dress that made me resemble a mermaid. I've never helped a bride go to the bathroom in her dress or played interference with a mother-in-law or annoying cousin. I can only hope that if I get married I will offer my bridesmaids the same courtesy and thoughtfulness.

Since I'm already a fake bridesmaid, it made sense for me to join two of my friends on a little adventure today that involved Mary Kay, Legos, a lot of pink, the perfect technique for taking a selfie, and the kind of enthusiasm that only a true performer can create. Let me set the stage for you:

The Cast
Lindsey - Bride to be, new to the area and one of the nicest people I know. Her wedding is in June and she won a Bridal Bash day of pampering for her and her bridesmaids from Mary Kay. Since her bridesmaids live elsewhere, she asked Jordana and I to fill in. Lindsey deserves a day of pampering and to have an amazing wedding.

Jordana - Regular Island readers will remember Jordana from our adventure at Jungle Jim's earlier this year. She is one of the funniest people I know and inspires everyone to follow the "Yes, And..." mentality of improv. Her enthusiasm knows no bounds.

Several Mary Kay consultants and other Bridal Bash attendees - None of these ladies will be named since I don't have permission to use their personal information. The age range for the attendees was about 8 to mid-50s. The consultants were all in their mid-40s and incredibly perky.

And of course, me.

The Scene
A Mary Kay studio somewhere in Crofton, MD. Since I'm not up on the world of Mary Kay I had no idea places like this exist. You know that part in Steel Magnolias where M'Lynn describes the church as looking like it's been hosed down in Pepto? That's what this place looked like except with pictures of Mary Kay (the founder) and incentives for Mary Kay consultants (pink Cadillacs and jewelry primarily).

Before I go any further I want to say one thing: None of the following is in any way about disrespecting female entrepreneurs. The founder of Mary Kay, Mary Kay Ash, founded the company because she was passed over for a promotion for a male co-worker she trained. You have to respect that and any woman who gets out there to support herself or her family whether it be through Mary Kay, Avon, Tupperware, jewelry, cooking items, or whatever else. 

Moving on.

None of us knew what we were walking into. We didn't know if this was the lady's basement or if we would be the only ones (thank goodness we were not). We toyed with the idea of creating an elaborate back story just in case it was just us and we had to provide details about our friendship and our role as "bridesmaids." No back story was needed since we were at our own table and didn't have that much time with the consultants where a back story was necessary.

The agenda for the Bridal Bash was to experience the anti-aging skincare line and to add a little easy glamour into our lives. I love skincare products (this is why I subscribe to Birchbox) but I'm not much of a makeup person and neither are Jordana and Lindsey. I wear a little pressed powder, Rose Salve lip balm, and a little lip gloss if I'm feeling adventurous. Eye makeup has always been problematic for me as I don't see well without my glasses. I have come very close to jabbing myself in the eye with an eyeliner pencil. Thankfully, we stuck to easy eye makeup today and there were no injuries.

Our bride was given a proper bride greeting with a sash and a little tiara. Our stations were set up with the skincare regime in order and there was even a little exfoliating hand treatment to get us started. It smelled like a Bellini, all peachy and sweet. It might have made us all want a drink badly. We all received door prize tickets (because it wouldn't be a room full of women doing something very feminine without door prizes). There was a lot of Taylor Swift (I admit she's growing on me) and a lot of woohoo-ing and enthusiasm (mostly genuine, some a little over the top from our table). The most disturbing part of this portion of the afternoon was when the Mary Kay consultant doing the skincare demo called the primer "Spanx for your face." Not an image I need. Ever.

The makeup portion of the program went better than expected. We all finally learned what a CC cream is (a color correcting cream - who knew?) and how to properly apply bronzer (start in the center of your cheek and then go to your temple and then all the way down your chin; like a 3 or an E on either side of your face). I can apply mascara without injuring myself. Lindsey and Jordana found excellent shades of lip gloss and we all learned to take a compliment. This was an interesting exercise; after our makeover was complete the lead consultant asked us each to turn to the woman on our right and pay them a compliment and we each had to simply say "thank you." Her lead-in was that women have a hard time taking compliments; I wholly agree and I'm glad she asked us to do this.

The lead lady also taught us probably the only thing we ever need to know: how to take the perfect selfie. The technique: hold your camera high at an angle but specifically at 10 o'clock and 4 o'clock. Lindsey has perfected this technique; I'm sure she'd be happy to give lessons. We ended our Bridal Bash with the sales pitch (of course). None of us are sure if it was a sales pitch for the products or to become a consultant. No purchases were made but we did leave with some of the Bellini scented lotion and some photos from a slightly over-hyped photo booth (which was really just an area to take a photo with silly props).

The weird office park where the studio was located also included an odd little store just across the parking lot that specialized in Legos. Jordana described it as an oasis in an office park. We spent a lot of time digging through mini-figures and acting like little kids seeing all of our Lego dreams come true. Jordana and I got Lindsey some figures to decorate her cube (like we have). If you think about it, Legos and makeovers are really just two different types of play.

More importantly, our bride felt exactly as she should; pampered and special. We had fun being her fake bridesmaids and enjoying an afternoon doing something out of the ordinary for us. While none of us have been using eye cream since we were 18 (apparently we should have been), we all left a little more glamourous on the outside to match our inner awesomeness.

This painting was in the bathroom - it's of Mary Kay Ash. In my humble opinion this needs to be moved out to where everyone can bask in her glamour and awesomeness. We probably all need to have this sort of portrait painted at some point in our lives.
Lindsey executives the perfect selfie.

Can you tell it's a pink Cadillac?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lazy Movie Weekend: Welcome to Cleveland

"No duck is an island. And if fate sent me here to save Earth, then Howard the Duck is ready to fight."

There is a story around the fantastic bomb of a film, Howard the Duck, that hints at the birth of a very popular and profitable animation studio we all know and love. It seems that George Lucas, executive producer and supporter of the film, was in debt and was banking on the success of Howard the Duck to help bail him out. This did not happen. He had just completed construction on Skywalker Ranch and began selling off assets. One of the assets he sold was part of the computer graphics division of Lucasfilms known as Graphics Group. Steve Jobs was one of the majority investors in this deal and the division would go on to become Pixar Animation Studios. Think of all the Pixar movies you love; now thank Howard the Duck.

I love this story. I've read it a couple of times over the years in articles about Pixar, George Lucas, and Marvel Studio films. It wasn't until I sat down to re-watch Howard the Duck for this LMW post that the story came back to mind (thanks IMDB). The 1986 film is considered one of the worst movies in history and was a huge financial bomb for Universal and for Lucas. Like so many of films I write about on LMW, Howard the Duck has gone on to become a cult classic and is adored by fans of the original comic book (published by Marvel starting in 1973) and people like me who found the movie about a space duck who saves the Earth oddly endearing and funny. I have never understood why Howard gets so much hate. Is it a great film? No, but it's not the worst film either. You can decide for yourself. Grab a Bud (that's what Howard drinks when he lands on Earth) and get comfy in your favorite chair. It's time for Howard the Duck.
  1. Howard the Duck was the first attempt at a live-action adaptation of a Marvel comic book character since a 1944 serial featuring Captain America. 
  2. So many duck sight gags, so little time. From movie posters (Mae Nest! Splashdance!) to  Marshington, DC on his license everything in Duckworld is a little bit like it is on Earth. Duckworld is like Earth except with ducks.
  3. Note that Howard was in a band. This will be important later.
  4. Like all heroes, Howard is just hanging out in his apartment minding his own business when something out of the ordinary happens to him. He is teleported to Earth and lands in Cleveland. 
  5. Of course not only does he land in Cleveland but he also lands in the midst of a gang of punks who take him to a punk club where we meet the band Cherry Bomb and catch our first glimpse of Beverly.
  6. Fun fact: Tori Amos, Belinda Carlisle, Paula Abdul, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Lori Singer all auditioned for the role of Beverly. I think Lea Thompson was the right choice.
  7. Thompson did all of her own singing for the film and kept the Les Paul guitar that she plays. Sweet.
  8. Howard, unlike superheroes, possesses no superpowers but he is a master of Quack Fu. This is nothing to laugh at.
  9. Beverly's crimped hair - if any trend from the 80s returns I hope it's this one. Actually, Beverly's style is my favorite thing right now. How can I make this work in 2015?
  10. Howard: What is this place? Beverly: Cleveland. Howard: Cleve-Land? Uh-huh. That is a perfectly weird name for this planet.
  11. Not to hate on Cleveland again but another perfect quote: "Hey if I had someplace to go I certainly wouldn't be in Cleveland."
  12. OMG - Beverly's apartment. Yes, it is in a craptastic neighborhood but seriously it's amazing. Do I have to move to Cleveland for this apartment? I bet even today that apartment wouldn't be that expensive. She has a window seat, y'all. What do I have to do for a space like this?
  13. Tim Robbins! Robbins was a virtual unknown at this time (small roles in a few films) but is absolutely hilarious as Phil, the wannabe scientist who ultimately does figure out how Howard  came to Earth.
  14. One of Phil's best quotes, "It's just a temporary job until I finish school and get my own museum." I think I might start saying this to people. I should have my own museum.
  15. Howard parts ways with Beverly (for now) and goes to the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services. He gets a job a hot tub club (so gross) where we discover that he can't swim. A duck who can't swim? This will be important later.
  16. "Space rabies!!!!" This is how Howard gets the band their money, becomes their manager, and terrifies an entire punk club. 
  17. Fun fact: Six actors played Howard. Ed Gale is considered the primary actor and did most of the stunt work. Gale is also known for his work as Chucky in the Child's Play movies.
  18. When I was younger, I was a huge Jem & the Holograms fan. Upon re-watching this movie, I've decided that Cherry Bomb is Jem & the Holograms if they were a band that played in dirty Cleveland punk clubs and hung around with space ducks. Also, "Cherry Bomb" was a song by an all female hard rock band, The Runaways (used on the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy). I'm not sure if this is a reference to the band but I'm going to pretend it is.
  19. Howard is as uncomfortable as everyone else is about the Beverly seduction scene. 
  20. Enter Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Walter Jenning. Ferris Bueller's Day Off was released in the same year as Howard the Duck and Jones' principal, Ed Rooney, is one of the great teen movie villains. He is fantastic as Dr. Jenning, a scientist who eventually becomes a Dark Overlord and destroys a lot of stuff. 
  21. It's science gone wrong that brings Howard to Earth. Totally plausible story. 
  22. "There's no guard." No movie ever went well after this type of statement. 
  23. Are you a CSI fan? Paul Guilfoyle, who played Capt. Brass on the show, is here as Lt. Welker.
  24. The action picks up pretty quickly after the explosion at the lab. Jenning is on his way to becoming a Dark Overlord, Beverly and Howard hit the road with Jenning to escape, and Phil is arrested. We also see an odd Japanese diner destroyed, a fight with truckers, and the seasoning of Howard (they were going to eat him).
  25. No one ever believes that your friend is a Dark Overlord.
  26. Howard reunites with Phil and they fly (and I use this term loosely) back to the lab to save Beverly from becoming the mother of more Dark Overlords.
  27. The action and special effects in this movie are so 1986 but were considered groundbreaking for the time. We are so spoiled today.
  28. Suspension of disbelief time: Why is it so easy to get in and out of the lab? Wouldn't there be more police presence given all of the recent events and the fact that Howard was a fugitive? Why are he and Phil able to easily get to dangerous weapons to defeat the Dark Overlord? 
  29. The Dark Overlord comes to life and looks like a crab, a scorpion, and an alien had a baby. It's not really scary and looks super fake but it gets the job done as far as creepy creatures from another dimension go.
  30. Beverly and Phil are stunned by the Dark Overlord and it looks sort of like glitter. All I can think about is craft time gone wrong.
  31. Howard has to do what any hero has to do: decide if he will sacrifice himself (in this case his ability to get back to Duckworld) or save Earth. With five seconds left.
  32. Of course, the movie ends with a very 1986 musical performance. Beverly's costume is reminiscent of Tina Turner's in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and Howard's guitar playing reminds me of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future.  Fun fact: the title song "Howard the Duck" was written by Thomas Dolby (who wrote all the film's songs) and George Clinton (yes the George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic)
So there you have Howard the Duck. I feel the same way about this movie that I do about the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; it was made before we were all ready for it. We live in a world now where movies like Ted exist and do very well and spawn sequels. Howard the Duck had the misfortune of being made too soon. George Lucas liked him too much to wait. That has to mean something. Howard recently made an appearance in the post-credit sequence in the Marvel blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn, the director of that film, has hinted the Howard might make another appearance in the future. Maybe Howard won't get a reboot but maybe he'll be returned to his rightful place in the weird and wonderful Marvel Universe. If we have room for a foul-mouthed talking raccoon and an endearing tree creature, why not for a sassy, kickass duck from space?

Marvel Universe Wiki
Wikipedia: the movie; the comic

Howard and Phil

Saturday, April 18, 2015

RSD 2015: Toaster Strudel Day

I love Baltimore. It's one of my favorite cities in the US. I once described it as what would happen if New Jersey and Savannah had a baby. I mean this with all the love in my heart. To me, Baltimore is an interesting and odd mix of Southern charm and Northeastern industry that is both grimy and endearing. If the commute were better I'd probably live in Baltimore. Since I moved back to the DMV I've celebrated Record Store Day in DC and Virginia so it's time to take a little trip and visit Charm City and one of my favorite record stores, The Sound Garden.

Joining me on this year's adventure are RSD champion Anita and RSD newbie Matt. Our planning was relatively easy: there was an email circulating yesterday that involved snack planning (we're counting this as a road trip), coffee orders, and an inexplicable picture of a kangaroo. I also made mix CDs (yes I burned them on actual CDs). This was a major conversation topic on the way home - Matt is convinced that I need to sign up for Spotify immediately. Anita complimented my extensive liner notes. I'm a person who buys records so I don't see mix CD making stopping anytime soon.

I digress.

If I had to pinpoint what I enjoy most about RSD it would come down to two things: the record hunt and the feeling of community that you feel in a record store. I get that digital music is easier in many ways (accessibility, storage, sharing) but I have never felt the same downloading a song as I do listening to it on a record or a CD. Or physically giving someone music or finding that one album that completes a collection. It's satisfying in a way that downloading music is not. Nick Hornby said it best, "Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one." I like to believe that the majority of people who come out for RSD feel the same way or at least love a band or a musician enough to enjoy the spirit of the day rather than buying up special releases and selling them on eBay. I can dream.

Today was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day; more summer than spring. I dare say it was the perfect day for waiting in line outside a record store and for a privateer festival. That was our first surprise of the day: a privateer festival was going on just up the street from The Sound Garden. I had no idea this was going on but was wondering why a guy was getting into a costume in the parking garage where we parked. As we joined our newest friends in line at The Sound Garden, a stream of pirates (ladies too) and privateers and fans of pirates and privateers paraded by on their way to the festival. (Fun fact: a privateer is basically an authorized pirate; a government wants to use the ships and crews so they authorize them to attack vessels on their behalf.) I give them all credit for excellent costumes and enthusiasm that can only be matched by an RSD fan in line in the hot spring sun. Pro tip: always bring sunscreen to RSD - I am paying for forgetting this as I type.

I've had to wait in line before but not like this. The Sound Garden just expanded their vinyl room and set up a great flow for the day. The entrance was actually the back entrance of the store and then you exited through the front where the used CDs and DVDs are. That way, people who didn't want to come to RSD could still shop. However, they could only let so many people in at a time so we waited about two hours just to get in. Hats off to The Sound Garden staff though; the line moved as fast as it could, they were super helpful and friendly (as they always are), and the new vinyl room is wonderful. It was easy to find the RSD special releases and browse the regular new and used vinyl. 

What was most fun this year was waiting in line. I know that seems silly but it was. We made friends with the people in front of us and chatted with them throughout the wait. Matt and Anita had not met prior to today but got along famously so our conversations were fun and interesting (and didn't involve work talk or mega awkward lulls). There were Wayne's World jokes ("Car", "Game on") and a discussion with the couple in front of us about what the new vinyl room would smell like (Matt's answer: Dave Grohl's hair; true answer: new paint, fresh wood, and plastic). Anita and I also did a mildly dramatic reenactment of past RSDs that was both funny and a little sad. The best part of our line friends had to be the guy who told a young woman who asked him why we were waiting in line that it was Toaster Strudel Day and we were waiting for free toaster strudel. She believed him. I'm not sure what this says about him or her. Of course this led to a discussion of how else we could answer this question and my absolute failure when a guy asked me the same question. I told him the truth and Matt called me on it. The guy was on the indie/punk rock boy spectrum of my "type" so I wasn't going to lie. Full sleeve tattoos are distracting.

So what did we end up with for two hours in line, a parade of privateers (which honestly was a gift in itself), and a sunburn? For the first time in four years I actually bought almost exclusively RSD releases with only three non-RSD albums in the mix (Big Star and Johnny Cash). I was pleasantly surprised when I found the Alex Chilton 7" special release (the only special release I really wanted); I may have squealed when I found it. Matt had initial RSD newbie panic when he first started looking around but recovered quickly and found several items on his list. Anita was really just browsing but did find an odd Heart record where they sing with Sarah McLachlan. Who knew?

All in all a successful RSD. We all got some new additions to our collections (special releases and stuff we just like), we made some new friends, my plan to dress like an extra in a John Waters movie worked (apparently), and we ended our day with the Matt College Tour through Baltimore. This culminated with a very late lunch at Ryan's Daughter (excellent food by the way) where we ran into one of Matt's friends, Derek with whom we discussed how Baltimore and Detroit are similar (this may explain my Baltimore love a bit more - you know how I love Detroit). This is my fifth RSD and I believe it's my favorite so far. It was exactly the day that I wanted it to be without doing anything but enjoying myself and my friends. It wasn't overly planned, there were privateers, and I spent time hanging out with a bunch of people who love music the way I love music. And who don't mind a plastic dinosaur coming along for no apparent reason (his name is T-Rex Manning). Until next year...

RSD 2015: The Playlists

If you're not making your way out today for Record Store Day, you can still listen to the mix CDs I created for our trip up to Baltimore. Check back later tonight for a full rundown of RSD 2015!

RSD 2015: On to Baltimore
  1. Good Morning Baltimore - Nikki Blonsky
  2. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
  3. Be Impressive - The Griswalds
  4. Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters
  5. Who Loves the Sun - The Velvet Underground
  6. Take to the Sky - Tori Amos
  7. In The Street - Big Star
  8. Liar - The Cranberries
  9. Portland Oregon - Loretta Lynn & Jack White
  10. Alex Chilton - The Replacements
  11. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
  12. There Is So Much More - Brett Dennen
  13. Thunderstruck - AC/DC
  14. Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
  15. Rock The Casbah - The Clash
  16. Wild Child - Lou Reed
  17. New York Groove - Ace Frehley
  18. She's A Rebel - Green Day
  19. I Love Rock N Roll - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  20. Gimme Danger - The Stooges

RSD 2015: The Return
  1. Congregation - Foo Fighters
  2. Lord Send Me An Angel - The White Stripes
  3. No Anthems - Sleater-Kinney
  4. The Ballad of El Goodo - Big Star
  5. Snakeface - Throwing Muses
  6. Satellite of Love - Lou Reed
  7. Jolene - Dolly Parton
  8. The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie
  9. Life Is A Highway - Tom Cochrane
  10. Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon - Urge Overkill
  11. Home - Daughtry
  12. This Time Tomorrow - The Kinks
  13. Heavy Metal Drummer - Wilco
  14. Apple Blossom - The White Stripes
  15. In The Garage - Weezer
  16. Saddam a Go-Go - GWAR
  17. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - Bob Dylan
  18. Home - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  19. This Is The Day - The The
Enjoy! Off to Baltimore...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Prelude to Record Store Day

My sniffling means two things: spring is finally here and Record Store Day is right around the corner! I always seem to get a cold/major allergy attack right before RSD. It would make more sense if it happened afterward since I spend the better part of a day in record stores, digging through bins of dusty records. Maybe it's my body's way of building up a tolerance for dust before the big day. I'm not a doctor so I really can't say.

One of the things I enjoy most about RSD is that I get to add "new" music to my collection of both CDs and records. By "new" I mean things that are probably older than me and are by bands that either don't exist anymore or haven't put out new music lately (with some notable exceptions). I've never been the kind of RSD participant that gets up at the crack of dawn to get in line to get the special releases; I tend to go a little later in the day and enjoy the live music (if I'm at a place with live music) and search the stacks for items that will fit into my musical library. I have a running list in my head that I look for anytime I go to a record store:
  • Bowie
  • Lou Reed and/or The Velvet Underground
  • The Replacements
  • Classic musicals
  • Random 70s hard rock bands
  • Big Star
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • Sleater Kinney
  • Johnny Cash
  • Dolly Parton
  • Any 80s movie soundtrack
  • New York punk bands from the 70s
I also like to find unusual album art just for fun. I also keep a second running list of things that my friends or brother might enjoy. You never know what you're going to find and it might be the thing that makes your friend happy. Win win as far as I'm concerned.

I like to collect things, not in a hoarder kind of way, but in a these are the things I enjoy and that make me an interesting person to talk to way. I always have enjoyed collecting things - books, stuffed animals, Legos, Barbies, Rainbow Brite toys, Russian nesting dolls, owls, music, shoes. Collecting is comforting; that's actually one of the psychological aspects of collecting. It provides the collector with a connection to a memory or a place or a person. Some collectors do it for money but most of us just like our things and stuff (to be technical). I don't consider my collecting of anything a hobby per se; with the exception of RSD, I don't really go out of my way to get any of the things I like and I have a limit on what I will spend on most items. I was reading an article this week about a man who basically bankrupt his family to collect coins. The story ends happily with them getting something like $30 million when the collection was sold but why would you want to put people through that type of stress for stuff you like? That I don't understand.

Collecting is actually a characteristic of one of my top five strengths according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.  The strength is input and this is what the assessment has to say about input and the need to collect:

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information -- words, facts, books, and quotations -- or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don't feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It's interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

This description makes me feel good about lots of aspects of my life. Why do I feel the need to memorize quotes from my favorite movies or random facts or the names of presidential assassins? Why do I read constantly? Why do I collect records? It also helps to prove that I would make an exceptional addition to any trivia team and would probably kill it on Jeopardy. If I combine my third strength, learner, with input I can actually combine several aspects of learning into my person: loving learning for the sake of knowledge collection and its use AND loving the actual process of learning. Not only does this help explain my collecting but it also makes my career trajectory make sense when I step back and consider the jobs I've had and even the things I do in my free time (tour guide, docent). To some extent everything has been learning centered in either the input or learner way. Finally something makes sense.

I'm in the middle of one of my new hire training classes right now and I caught myself saying the exact same thing to this group that I have said to at least the last four or five groups: we are very good at teaching students what their weaknesses are and what they're not good at but we don't spend enough time teaching them what their strengths are and how to use those strengths to be the best them they can be. We do this as adults too; it's easier to focus on the negative than to really have a vocabulary of positive when it comes to who we are and what we enjoy. I don't mean to say that we should never think about improvement or anything. We just need to do it in a way that doesn't make us feel bad all the time.

If none of this makes any sense, blame the cold/sinus/allergy medicine I'm taking. I feel like my brain might be a jumble of things right now and I'm surprised that this isn't one long string of words like "bicycle, unicycle, unitard, hockey puck, rattle snake, monkey monkey underpants."*

Next weekend: I'll take you on my annual RSD adventure all the way up to Baltimore at the Sound Garden. Check it out!

*From Lorelai's famous rant in the Gilmore Girls episode "Santa's Secret Stuff" (season 7, episode 11).