the light of the darkness

there are some things in this world that just make you inexplicably happy.

last night, my brother and i went to see one of my all-time favorite bands, the darkness, at the last show of their first US tour in 8 years. actually, this tour and this show should never have happened – the band split up 5 years ago and seemed unlikely to ever reunite. but they did, against all odds, and will be releasing their third album early this summer.

i remember the first time i ever heard of the darkness. it was 2003, and i saw their video for “i believe in a thing called love.” my first thought was “are they fucking kidding?” with justin hawkins’ over-the-top falsetto, the flamboyant costumes and serious 80s throwback sound, the only justification seemed to be that they must be a parody. it became clear very quickly that they were entirely serious, and that they seriously rocked.

“permission to land” was their first album, and i remember discovering each new track with an almost childlike delight.

here’s the thing about the darkness: they make me ridiculously happy. always have. i’d wake up in the morning, throw on the album as i was getting ready for work, and it never failed to put a smile on my face. i’d rock around the room to the amusement of my roomie, and i swear this album was singlehandedly responsible for making me much less of a morning crank and much more of a morning person.

there’s a lot to be said for something that makes a huge amount of joy well up inside you. for whatever reason, the darkness does that for me. they’re fun, they’re campy, they’re positive, their music is massive and personal all at the same time.

i had a hard time reining in my glee as i waited for them to come on stage at the neptune last night. i was hoping hoping hoping that justin would come out in one of his trademark catsuits, cut rakishly open to the navel. i couldn’t wait to hear these guys live.

they exceeded all my expectations. while he didn’t start out with a catsuit (instead, a three-piece denim ensemble, of which he periodically removed pieces), he did two costume changes, which i have never seen at a rock concert. britney spears or some lip-syncing pop act? i’d expect to see costume changes there, but this was just awesomeness as only the darkness could bring. the first change brought him back out in a lemur-striped catsuit job with a codpiece (lol!) and a plumy tail appendage (LOL!). good god. the second change was even better – a white/pink/silver business with cutouts and a feathery spinal stripe down the back. he strutted around the stage like a pink spandexasaurus, scissor kicking and stage leaping to my heart’s delight. pure, unapologetic, unadulterated joy.

and they fucking ROCKED. they sounded so amazing live, it was unreal. the notes that man can hit? the guitar licks? unbeatable. they played a near two-hour set, which included all of the tracks from their first album, many from the second, and some off the upcoming new album. can’t wait to hear that thing in its entirety.

as a bonus, the two openers were rad. crown jewel defense was fun, campy and awesome, and though it’s probably not anything i’d listen to on my ipod, they were fun to behold in live form. then came foxy shazaam, who were a huge surprise of awesomeness. andy and i both loved their set, their energy and their totally hilarious and irreverent frontman. we both plan on looking into their stuff and i’d definitely go see them again.

basically, i feel like i got to cross off a bucket list item – a real mylestone. i think most people will never understand my sheer and deep love of this band, and i’m not sure i fully understand it myself. all i know is that their music has been putting a smile on my face for 9 years, and i hope i never lose that. i hope they keep producing and touring and rocking as only they can. i will be along for the ride, and judging by the crowd’s reaction last night, i’m definitely not alone.

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arrogant bastard

he wasn’t the first person to call me arrogant, and he wouldn’t be the last.

it popped into my head today, years later, causing me to delve into some serious self-analysis. how do we define arrogance? what makes somebody arrogant? and do i really do that thing?

i think i’m pretty self-aware. i can easily rattle off some of my worst qualities to you: i’m selfish; i procrastinate; i’m kind of sloppy; i’m a worry-wart; i have hypochondriacal tendencies; i’m commitment-phobic; i really struggle with change. plus, in my personal life (though for some reason, not at all professionally), i’m virtually incapable of making a decision; i have been known to spend 30 minutes in a shampoo aisle trying to choose a brand.

but surely, self-awareness isn’t only knowing the worst parts of yourself. isn’t there something to be said for knowing the good stuff, too? everyone has things they excel at. everyone has a particular bag of tricks that they bring to the table.

the first accusation of arrogance that i really remember came during a rocky relationship. he practically spit the word at me; there was definite intent to wound. and while it didn’t exactly hurt me, it did make me think. the accusation came after a particularly heated disagreement (of which there were many) which ended with me saying something about being smart, having a good head on my shoulders, and being able to make up my own mind. he accused me of being arrogant because i thought i was smart.

i guess that deserves a little bit of background: the truth is, i’m smart. i do have a good head on my shoulders, and i feel lucky for it. i feel lucky that i have parents who encouraged me and bought me books and read to me since i was small, who sent me to good schools and supported my goals. i embraced reading and school and extra work – i studied hard, took honors classes, went to a great college.

i tried to clarify with him. “so let me get this straight: it doesn’t matter that my whole life, people have labeled me as smart. i’ve been raised to believe that i have a good head on my shoulders, and for the most part i’ve proved it. but for me to simply acknowledge it makes me arrogant?”

yep. that’s exactly what he thought.

i hadn’t bragged about anything. i wasn’t prideful about it. i didn’t say i was smarter than anyone else, him included. there was no sense of measuring myself against someone. it was simply me, observing a quality about myself.

another time, after a discussion with a coworker about proofreading: he said it was arrogant of me to say that i’m good at spelling and never use spell check.

but i am good at spelling! it’s actually a measurable thing!! why is it arrogant to know that about myself after years of having demonstrated it?

it seems like simply acknowledging any positive quality about yourself makes you arrogant. and that’s so disappointing. if that’s really the world we live in, how fundamentally sad and small of us. it seems like the world and the workplace and everywhere in between would be so much more positive if people were allowed or (gasp!) encouraged to recognize some of their positive qualities.

there’s a huge difference between that recognition and being a braggart or taking credit for things you shouldn’t. there’s a huge difference between knowing some of your better qualities, and that knowledge making you think you’re better than others. i’m not perfect, and i’ve totally been guilty of that at times. do i think i have a better sense of humor because i love things like arrested development and the league, rather than two and a half men or everybody loves raymond? sooooooo guilty. and i’m sure there are other places where i toe over that fine line between self-awareness and arrogance.

but it’s disheartening to think that you can’t ever say anything positive about yourself. does that mean we’re all doomed to this half-life place of waiting/wishing/hoping someone will say something good about you, because you’re too afraid to ever acknowledge it yourself? does this mean we all live in this space where self-deprecation, false modesty and fishing for compliments is the norm?

even if no one else will ever understand it, i’m happy that i am in a place where i know that there are good things about myself. it took me a while to feel comfortable in that place, and ending that rocky relationship was the biggest step toward self-awareness and happiness that i’ve ever taken. not because he was such a bad guy, but because i realized that the things he didn’t like about me were things i really valued about myself.

if that makes me an arrogant bastard, so be it. there’s a beer for that.


morning glory

woke up about 15 minutes ago.

there was the most gorgeous peachy-pink golden light coming in the windows. it’s been forever since i woke up and had that beautiful morning light stream in and pull me out of my dreams.

then it dawned on me that this is the last morning of 2011. so fitting! i’d been dreaming deeply, and it took a few minutes to shake off the sleep. i remember swatches of the dream – several people from my past, a place i dearly love, my family and some current friends – they’d all been prominent pieces of the dream, but the threads that connect all of them were fuzzy and blurred.

this whole year has been crazy and it’s blurred by. i love the idea that this beautiful morning is a send off to this year, and i’m choosing to think it’s a foreshadowing (fore-sunning?) for 2012.


ghosts of christmas past

the other day at work, we were chatting about our favorite christmas songs. although i’m as secular and irreverent as it gets, i love me some christmas music. i have a whole christmas playlist that i add/delete from my ipod on a seasonal basis because it takes up a fair amount of space.

anyway, my favorite christmas song is “have yourself a merry little christmas.” whenever i mention that, the typical response is “oh. that’s kind of a sad song.” and i agree – it is a little melancholy, which is what i really love about it.

the holidays aren’t just fun and games and presents and glitter. i think there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up there too, and some of it is sad. i can’t be alone in this – otherwise, how would we have these wistful and wishful christmas songs?

i think a lot about what christmas was like growing up. my brother and i were very lucky kids. we always had wonderful christmases. our parents did things like the family-christmas-tree-getting excursion (very griswald, i know!). we’d head up to arlington for a day of hay rides, cider, and choosing our very own tree to chop down (we usually chose a douglas fir). we did an annual day at a food bank where we helped assemble christmas food baskets for people in need. my parents helped us put out the eggnog and cookies every christmas eve, and never laughed at my insisting we include carrots and apples for the reindeer. snug and freshly pajama’d, we’d read “’twas the night before christmas” before bed, and we’d wake to a bunch of presents under the tree. stockings first, then breakfast, then prezzies.

i think a lot about christmases spent with my first serious boyfriend and his family. they always welcomed me over to share in their christmas eve festivities. i remember little things like how they always opened all their presents on christmas eve (which i found equal parts horrifying and hilarious), and then on christmas day they’d open all their stocking presents which were always stuffed inside of paper grocery bags instead of actual stockings. then they’d go to a movie (horror of horrors!) and have turkey, having done a honeybaked ham on thanksgiving (so backward! so adorable!). despite our differences, i loved being a part of their festivities and being exposed to something so different from what i did with my family. i bought his parents beautiful ornaments every year. sometimes i wonder if they still use them.

for me, the holiday sadness comes with having most of that magic and sparkle and ritual left in the past. it’s nothing anybody does intentionally – it’s just growing up. i do my own tree now, very different from my mom’s – it’s more dr. seuss than classic christmas. i put up stockings for vindaloo and me, and because i am completely that crazy dog lady, i only fill her stocking after she’s already gone to bed. i’m delighted by how she heads immediately for it in the morning, sniffing out whatever new toys and goodies hide inside.

slowly but surely, i’m creating my own christmas rituals. they’ll never be what they were when i was a child, but they have meaning all the same.

the sadness is part of it for me. listening to “have yourself a merry little christmas” and reflecting on christmases past, looking at my tree or wrapping presents for my nephews and nieces…it’s one of those moments where happiness and sadness meet in the middle. if i hadn’t been such a lucky child, if we hadn’t had such loving parents and solid christmas traditions of our own, i might not feel the sadness at all. but really, without the sadness, how do you truly know how to measure your happiness?


tip-off

’tis the season for tipping, apparently. i was listening to talk radio the other morning on my drive to work, and they started discussing tipping practices during the holidays.

first off, i’m putting this concept in the category of “nobody tells you this.” i’m actually creating a new blog tag for that very concept, all the things you’re just supposed to know but that nobody ever tells you. you know, the proverbial nobody.

anyhoo.

so the idea that during the holidays, you are meant to increase your tip amount for all types of services. now, this i get. i get that you would want to be more generous to others during the holidays. if you normally tip 15% to your waiter, you might find yourself upping that to 20 or even 25% for great service. i do this, and it makes sense to me.

what i don’t understand is the idea that during the holidays, you are now supposed to give tips to people you never tip normally. seemingly random positions that really have nothing else in common other than they do something for you. your mailman. your doorman. your newspaper deliverer. your personal trainer.

can postal workers even accept tips? as public employees, i’m pretty sure they aren’t allowed to take money. newspaper carriers and doormen? they’re doing the same thing they do every day that you already pay for.

but wait, now that i’m thinking about it, this sort of calls into question the whole tipping system. why do some positions get tips and others don’t? why do we tip waiters and cab drivers, but not newspaper carriers or doormen?

dwight schrute would tell us to only tip people who perform jobs that we ourselves are incabable of performing. dwight can deliver food, so waiters don’t get tips. he can cut his own hair, so no tip for the stylists. he does, however, tip his urologist, as he is unable to pulverize his own kidney stones.

interesting.

i guess the part that irks me is the arbitrary nature of it, and how you’re supposed to know who to tip and who not to tip.

the other piece is that while some people get christmas bonuses, i don’t. as a public employee myself, my holiday pay looks exactly like any other time of year. we don’t even get cost of living adjustments these days. so the holidays find me spending lots of money on gifts for friends and family, but i’m not seeing any extra income during that time of year. the idea of adding on tips for everyone is overwhelming. i think i’ll stick to what i know and where i already tip. everyone else? that’s what christmas cookies are for.


spin cycle

d’you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? sometimes i assume that i’m moving along, speeding by, and then all of a sudden it dawns on me that i’m simply spinning out and not really going anywhere.

other people do things. they have jobs they love. they’re parents. they travel a lot. take classes. i don’t really do anything.

angsty is normal when you’re teenaged. still kind of charming as a twentysomething. 32? not so much.

what am i waiting for? 32. wish i knew.


dim bulb

on our way home from watching the badger game tonight, my brother informed me that i should replace my car’s headlights. i asked him why, and he asked me when was the last time i replaced them. i told him never, and he said “that’s why.” so then i argued that they’re not burned out, so obviously they still work, so why would i replace them?

am i the only person on earth who didn’t know that headlights dim over time, even if they haven’t burned out? i still think andy was pulling my leg.

i’m a little disappointed in my own self-sufficiency that this was such an ah-ha moment for me.


cell out

i’ve been a sprint customer for over ten years, and have always been happy with their service. their phone choice has usually left a bit to be desired, but that all changed when the htc evo hit their shelves – and, just as quickly, i nabbed one off of those shelves. 

loved it. evo and me – we were so happy together. like, twirling around in a sunlit meadow, skipping through clover and holding hands on twilight beaches happy.

then i got the bright idea to upgrade to the htc evo 3d after a year with evo. this was with a 30 day trial, wherein i could test run my new evo and decide whether i liked it better or worse. the first 30 days, we were cool. we were honeymooners, taking it slow and finding out new things about each other.

and then there’s now. not even 6 months later, and i want a divorce.

so glitchy! so cranky! so fussy! tired, all the time – like his battery just drains by the second and he never fully recharges. sometimes he just shuts down completely and there’s not a damn thing i can do to shake him out of it. alas, like our friend kim kardashian found out 72 days too late – you can’t just trade him in for a new model. you gotta get out completely.

but apparently, sprint is getting rid of their premier program. which means i can no longer get a phone upgrade every year. now i have to wait 22 months like the rest of the world. 

which is where the fury comes in.

where is the incentive to stay with a company anymore? good offers, screamin’ deals, low prices, incentives – all of these are aimed at new customers only. comcast, directtv, all phone companies, many insurance companies, etc., they’re all guilty of it. get you in the door. and once you’re there? we don’t really care.

listen, sprint. i love you. i have loved you for over a decade. frankly, you’re probably my longest relationship at this point. i have defended you to the core, when others ask me “what the hell do you see in sprint?”

but i want you to want me. i need you to need me. it’s like you’ve started wearing your old busted flannel pajamas to bed every night – you’re not even trying anymore. 

at this point, i feel like cheating on you. my eye is wandering. i fantasize about running into the arms of some company that will welcome me, scoop me up, wine me and dine me.

at least until i sign on that dreaded dotted line, and they know they’ve got me for two years. i know the old busted flannel pajamas are coming out for the duration of those two years – but then i might just move on to someone else. 

serial cellogamist.


the man bash

there’s an interesting thing that’s been happening in the world for the past few years (maybe longer; this is just my radar) – the man bash. it’s become totally acceptable, and even somewhat encouraged, for men to be portrayed as total idiots in the world of pop culture, advertising, and even somewhat in our real lives.

maybe this came about as a byproduct of feminism. in order to boost women up to the same level as the fellas, the faster track found us elevating the ladies while simultaneously knocking the boys down a few pegs.

the past decade or so of television has been ripe with man-bashing. hugely popular sitcoms like “everybody loves raymond,” “king of queens,” “according to jim,” “home improvement,” and countless others have made millions (and made millions laugh) at the expense of guys. the bumbling guy who somehow lands the superhot wife, has a couple kids, and becomes a laughably incompetent father, barreling and fumbling through this thing called life, to the delight of audiences (interestingly, both male and female) around the world.

advertising winks knowingly at moms, seemingly assuming that dad isn’t responsible for much to do with household or kids, and that even if he was, he’s too dumb to know the right brand of peanut butter to buy. ragu came under social media fire recently for a spammy twitter campaign that targeted dad bloggers and then proceeded to directly insult them with their video of what it looks like when dad has to make dinner. (adam singer has a great writeup of this whole disaster over at future buzz).

even among real world people, there’s this underlying current of “he just doesn’t know what he’s doing.” women i know (even women i know and love) often insult the men in their lives, sometimes explicitly and sometimes thinly veiled or through pointed and public jokes. i know for a fact that many of these women would be devastated if their partner spoke to or referred to them in the same way.

so why is it ok to man bash? ladies, haven’t we reached a better place of equality, a level where we don’t need to man bash to create or advance our own success? guys, aren’t you tired of the man bash lurking around every corner, where your real and valid contributions as a husband, father, provider, and a generally competent human being aren’t constantly being questioned or overlooked?

equality is a double-edged sword, and wielding it properly means acknowledging that it’s not ok to consistently marginalize, mock and ridicule half of the population. maybe it’s all in good fun, and maybe it’s not – but at least in my world, it’s totally last call for the man bash.


calling inaudible

i’ve had a couple days to reflect on this and am ready to own up to it.

actual quote i overheard myself saying: “ugh, i can’t stand that kind of music. you can’t understand a single word coming out of their mouth!”

it’s official. i’ve become my parents. only theirs was circa 1992 regarding rap, whereas mine was last week and concerning death metal.

in retrospect, the genre i was speaking of is so crazy and niche anyway that i don’t really feel bad about it. i mean, death metal all sounds like some really angry german with a bad case of laryngitis.

oh god. i’m just making it worse, aren’t i?

shh. just shhhhhh…


wrinkler

playing angry birds is totally contributing to premature wrinkles.

i discovered the other day that i consistently furrow my brow in anger and/or concentration while playing. it takes a hugely conscious effort to relax, which i do whenever i become aware of it. but then ten seconds later, and i’m right back to bitter beer face. (sidebar: is that a younger chris parnell of snl/30 rock fame in the vid?)


mylestones

it’s dawning on me more and more these days that i really am on the road less traveled. getting older, it’s really no shock. you hit that age where you’re attending three or four weddings a year. a year or two later, the weddings may have slowed down, but the couples whose weddings you attended start welcoming their first kid. and another year or two after that, many of those families are welcoming their second or more.

i hate to have to refer to sex and the city, but i always reflect on that episode wherein carrie’s shoes are stolen at a remove-your-shoes baby shower, and her friend guilts her over replacing them because of how ridiculous an expense they are. she reflects on how much time, energy and money she’s spent on her friends and the celebrations of their milestones.

but if you never get engaged, you never have an engagement party full of presents and well wishes. if you never get married, you never have that one day where you’re the center of it all at a huge party with a gift registry and everyone celebrating you. if you never have kids, you never have friends and family surrounding you, showering you with gifts and love and attention.

it’s not about the time, energy or money. i love my friends and my family and i am honored to celebrate them and their lives. it’s just that if you don’t follow the typical path, you don’t celebrate the typical milestones. you go along, kind of uncelebrated.

i’ve decided i’m not cool with that. i’m not going to go register for a single pair of manolo blahniks or anything. but i am creating mylestones –my milestones– where i will stop comparing myself and my life and my choices to everyone else’s self and life and choices. i will celebrate these things that are meaningful to me and really take the time to honor them. some of them won’t be unique, and others will share them, and that’s ok – they can still be mylestones.

some of them? they’ve already come and gone.
falling in love for the first time
getting into a great university
traveling to the galapagos islands, a dream of mine since i was 9
graduating college
getting my first job and apartment
moving
moving again
moving another time
picking up the pieces and starting over
getting my first big promotion
traveling to europe
getting a puppy – my dream girl who i love more than anything, who i waited for and who must’ve been waiting for me

future mylestones? who knows – they might include:
graduate school
more world travels
starting a business
making good investments
hitting my goal weight
finishing my novel
hell, starting my novel
buying a house

maybe someday i will even add one or two of those traditional milestones. if i don’t, i’m ok with that. i’m not saying i need celebrations and gift registries and all of those traditional things. but what i do need is to spend more time reflecting on and acknowledging the achievements i have made. i would also like to be better about reflecting on the mylestones of my friends, those who are in a more similar space to me and may not be receiving those traditional acknowledgments and celebrations either.

sometimes it’s hard to feel so different – it can feel very lonely and sometimes downright wrong, even if you willingly choose your choices.

even if no one else considers my mylestones to be milestones, i aim to be better about recognizing them and making them more than just another passing moment on this road less traveled.


no fnl? fml.

ohhhhhhhh friday night lights. i just finished watching the final season, which i dvr’d weeks ago and had been doling out in small doses as time permitted. this is a show i have quietly LOVED since sabrina first introduced me to it years ago. she promised me i’d love it – she’s usually right, but never more so than here.

i sobbed through pretty much the entire final episode. it hadn’t really occurred to me how much i would miss the characters. for once, i actually cared about the people in the story and what was happening to them. i’m not that heartless, it’s just that usually tv characters are pretty one-note and don’t do much to pull you in. but fnl? i loved everyone. coach taylor? my god, he was fantastic. tammy taylor? loooooved her. tim riggins? heartbreak and hotness on a platter.

the finale did a great job of bringing back past characters in believable ways, so we learned where they ended up without it feeling too contrived the way finales often feel.

now that it’s over, i realize how much i’m really going to miss it. there are some shows i watch pretty regularly, but few i’ve ever cared about this much.

next season is gonna suck without it.


asshole day

ever have one of those days where someone’s a total asshole and it just RUINS an otherwise great day? don’t get me wrong – there are times where someone’s an asshole to me and i totally deserve it. but other times, like what just happened, it’s totally unfounded and it gets me soooooo fired up!

i pulled in to get gas on my way home. the station was pretty full, but there was one open spot and it happened to be on the right side for me. i pull in, nose to nose with a truck who was at the next space down. the chick looks like she’s leaving, so i wait a second before shutting off so that i can pull up a bit further after she leaves. suddenly, she’s totally EXASPERATED with me. hands up, gesturing like crazy, somehow over-the-top angry with me for having pulled in so she couldn’t simply drive straight through and out. there was nobody behind her blocking her way if she’d just reversed a titch. there was nobody to the side blocking her ability to drive out around me. she was even pointing the way she wanted to go – no tricky maneuvering necessary.

i throw up my hands with a “what the fuck?” kind of motion, and gesture grandly to the vast amount of space available to my side, informing her that she has “50 fucking feet available.” she starts jawing as she drives past me, with the words “stupid bitch” clearly visible through her closed window. i mouth back some less than savory phrases as she rolls past, furiously.

the thing is, i know she’s not still thinking about it. she’s totally over it, and i’m the one who’s sitting here blogging about it. i just get so damn ANGRY when i’ve done nothing to incur the wrath of a complete stranger. when i mess up? i own up. if i’d somehow effed her over? i wouldn’t be talking back. but somehow, i’m the asshole by just doing what everyone else is doing at the gas station. i’m the asshole because i had the bad luck to pull in in front of this chickadee.

if i had one wish today, it’d be that each and every asshole was forced to feel the real weight of that. acknowledge what it’s like to ruin somebody’s day when they did nothing to deserve it. you jaw at someone at the gas station, you cut someone off in traffic, you rant at a customer service rep who’s got no responsibility for your problem, you call somebody a name to make yourself feel better. i wish these people had to own and carry that karma around in a tangible way. like the chains that the ghost dude lugs around for all eternity in “a christmas carol.” every asshole thing you do? add another weight.

maybe it’d make people think twice and try to be nice.

or maybe i’m just an asshole for dreaming it.


autopilot

yesterday i shampooed my eye. on accident, of course, but still. really? how do things like that still happen? i know how to wash my hair. i know that getting shampoo in your eyes is a bad idea. but sometimes that autopilot that we rely on for certain things falls asleep at the wheel. like when you’re chewing something and suddenly bite the hell out of your cheek. or drinking something and you get it down the wrong pipe and start coughing uncontrollably. those things, i guess i can’t help, but at least i can buy some no-more-tears shampoo.