Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYC, Baby

I am in NYC. And it is good.

Shopping in Soho. Catching up with old friends. Jumping on the Williamsburg bandwagon. Cupcakes. Roof decks. More attractive people on the street than you might see in Phoenix. Public transport. Bridges. I am taking back NYC in a bag, as seen below.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home

It’s almost Christmas Eve, I’ve been home for 24 hours and here’s why it’s awesome.

It’s freezing. Like 27 degrees when I landed at 6pm last night. I brought my cute leather jacket cause it’s cute and I don’t get to wear it in Phoenix. I should’ve brought the old huge marshmallow Lands End windproof to -30 degrees coat. It rained today though, so that warmed it up a little.

Mom and I decorated the tree this morning. Haven’t done that in ages. We never really made a big deal of the tree while I was growing up, since we were usually gone to Arizona. But now, we’ve got a real-live, fresh-smelling tree covered in lights and ornaments.

And, now that my parents are empty-nesters, meaning no more kids to ruin the stuff, they’ve got really nice things! I have my share of 2 bedrooms and a bathroom, all newly painted, decorated, and uncluttered. New couches, entertainment system, huge plasma TV, surround sound, two computers, wireless internet, even a new shower head. It kind of rules. Mom and I plugged in the PlayStation tonight and battled on Guitar Hero, too.

I ventured out to the Post Office this afternoon and took a quick drive through town. Some things have changed, but a lot’s the same. My best friend came over for lunch, it felt just like high school when we’d come home and my mom would have something ready for us. Except now I’m here visiting, she came from her law firm, and later will go home to a husband and child, not cheerleading practice.

I’ve already had more than my share of chocolates, chocolate-covered Oreos, fudge, peanut butter balls, etc. I brought freshly made tortillas from the Mexican mart in Phoenix; mom made green chile meat, salsa and tomorrow it’s on to tamales.

I watched The Encounter at the End of the World, focused on the weird things you’ll find in Antarctica, mostly the incredibly odd people who make their way as south as you can go. There’s a reason they congregate together and you’ll see why if you watch it. I also made it halfway through Lawrence of Arabia – it’s 4 hours total. I’ve got a 3-hour Gandhi to go and my movie goals are met.

My dog still loves and remembers me. And she’s funny. After she eats dinner in the laundry room, my parents always give her a rawhide stick for dessert. They’ve taken to hiding it in places in the living room. Today I got to hide it. I parked it on the couch and waited for her to finish eating, and soon I saw her running into the living room, full speed, automatic, nose sniffing everywhere like a machine. She lives for those sticks. It’s funny to watch. Want her to do anything, just say “stick” and she’ll obey.

Yay for Christmas at home!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Musical Monday

I've avoided loving Ryan Adams for a long while, but for some reason over the last few months I've turned to a more mellow sound and he's been at the top of the list.  I'm loving Easy Tiger, especially this track.

I can name the people i know that don't know themselves
Without talking to nobody
I can count to people i know that want to fix themselves
Without taking my hands out of my pockets
I make these promises but all my promises hurt
It's like they never get a lift off
So if i'm being honest with you and it seems like i'm being cruel
At least you didn't get a rip off, a rip off
And you'll know how i feel
I've got faith in you
And it's a little too late for "goodbyes"
Good morning, open your eyes
I can see the tears so long before they know your face
I can almost draw the lines
But when you smile it spins me like a ferris wheel
Washed out to sea in your eyes
I make these promises but all my promises hurt
It's like they never get a lift off
So if i'm being honest with you and i seems like i'm being cruel
At least you didn't get a rip off, a rip off, a rip off
And you'll know how i feel
Like a rip off, a rip off, a rip off

And We're Off...

Headed to OK today, first time in over 2 years.  Kind of amazing.  It's currently 19 degrees there.  I don't do cold anymore.  I have to dig out socks!  They're all in storage.  I don't know how to dress for 19 degrees anymore.

Then back to PHX for 48 hours this weekend.  Then NYC.  Then Belize and Guatemala.  I've got 7 airports and 10 flights to look forward to over the next 3 weeks.  Pray for no weather delays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Get Thee to the Theater

Finally, victory.

I saw Slumdog Millionaire last night.

I’m at peace. It was outstanding. And I wanted to call it a feel-good movie, but it’s really not. It’s gritty and real and I’m amazed that some parts of the world live the way they do. Are we not better than that? This world needs a serious overhaul in many aspects. But that’s another rant.

Even though it was cold and rainy, after the flick I had a craving for, what else, ice cream. I stopped at the store, grabbed my pint and got into the single check-out lane that was open. I watched as the woman in front of me unloaded her very full cart. Almost in slow motion she picked up a 24-pack of Grade A Large Eggs with one hand. Next came the Frisbee move. They went flying. Splat, splat, yellow runny liquid everywhere. The poor cashier tried to mop part of it up with a single piece of paper. We were reassigned to lane 2.

I arrived at work this morning to find a box of the best Tim Tams ever, the double coat variety. Along with a card, stuffed with glitter. It immediately exploded all over me. Blue and gold, in case you’re wondering. Thank you, Australia team, for sending along that goodness!

The work holiday potluck international lunch happened today too. Hallelujah for working in an office where native US residents are outnumbered. Homemade samosas, chicken biryani, tamales, dim sum, dumplings.

Six days til home!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Musical Monday

Thank you, Snow Patrol and Shockhound and Clubhouse venue, for teaming up and having a free concert where:

1) I was able to get tickets
2) I was able to get prime parking
3) I was able to sit in the car and stay warm until it was time to line up
4) it was very, very organized and not chaotic in the least
5) the bar section is in the back of the joint, far from the stage so that when the crowds rushed into the venue and headed that way, I got a prime spot in the 2nd row, center
6) Gary Lightbody and company played a studio masterpiece of a track from the new album that sounded amazing live and blew me away
7) Gary did his little creative twitch and released most of his expression through his eyes and made us all love him even more than we already did
8) I got lots of good photos and video so I can relive it a little bit every day




Movie Mania

So many flicks to catch before the end of the year, especially as the nominations start rolling out.  I've got to be ready for Jacinda's annual Golden Globes and Oscars contests!  I usually place at least top 3, two years running.

This week's probably my last week to get a couple of these in, seeing that I'm going home to Oklahoma on the 22nd and the closest indie theater is oh, probably 3 hours away.  Then I'll be traveling til Jan 11 so I'd better squeeze what I can into this week!

This week I saw:

Australia - expected to hate it, based on reviews, and while it's long and disjointed, there were certain elements that I really loved.  And I could've sobbed through the last half hour.  But I was with a new group of people, most of whom I'd never met, so I held it in.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - I can't stop watching Holocaust films.  This was one of the most intense endings and it's awful, awful stuff.  But I think it's important for humanity that these films are still made.

Yesterday - granted it came out a few years ago, but it's the first Zulu-language film to be internationally distributed.  About a woman in South Africa dealing with AIDS in her family.  I liked it.

I need to see:
Slumdog Millionaire
I've Loved You So Long
The Reader
A Christmas Tale

So it seems Slumdog Millionaire isn't even playing at all in the entire state of Oklahoma, according to the Fandango search I just did. Seriously. Why does this not surprise me?


Monday, December 08, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Musical Monday

A day late, but I went to Coldplay and you (probably) didn't.




From an email I wrote to friends afterward:

They take a piece of my heart every time. I will cry when they're finished.

I took a video clip of most of the tracks. I have realized I should update my camera.

I want one of those revolutionary jackets so I can be Coldplay for Halloween next year.

They did all of the new album, got In My Place and Clocks outta the way pretty early on and encore was a tight, quick, rockier version of Yellow.  They even did Chinese Sleep Chant (the last half of Yes on the album). 

My favorites:
Fix You and the end of Politik (which I underestimated for a long long time), continuing into my newest favorite, Lovers in Japan.

That one got chills from me.

They opened with Life in Technicolor, predictably.

Halfway through they all came together on a small side stage and did some tight excerpts of
God Put a Smile on My Face and Talk.

They also ran through the audience at one point, I thought they were just hi-fiving people, but all of the sudden they pulled out instruments and did The Scientist.

Chris Martin, as usual, made a self-deprecating remark that most of the people at the concerts buy tickets as far away as possible from them, and he hoped he wasn't ruining anyone's experience by treading on their space.

Most talented guy in the band probably goes to Will the drummer. He sang back up on a quiet version of The Hardest Part (a track I don't really care for), but stripped down to just the piano, quite lovely.

Fourth time's the charm. I've seen them on both American coasts, time to see them in Europa

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Uhhhh

Coldplay was amazing, Thanksgiving delicious and now I'm buried in work over the weekend trying to catch up.....it's gonna be a long couple nights.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Economist Hilarity

I couldn't stop laughing when I read this article about the sinking Maldives. Love the sense of humor over at the Economist. Granted, this is somewhat of a problem since I'd love to visit the islands before they go under but.....

From the Nov 15 Issue:

LOSING one's home is a sadly common experience in these dark economic days, but it normally happens at an individual, rather than a national, level. The residents of the Maldives, however, face collective homelessness as a result of rising sea levels, which are expected eventually to engulf the 1,200-island nation, whose highest point is 2.3 metres above sea level. Faced with this alarming prospect, the country's new president, Mohamed Nasheed, has come up with an equally dramatic solution: put aside some of the Maldives' tourism revenues to buy another homeland.

Anyway, they may not want to be absorbed into a larger nation. They might prefer to stay together to maintain their community spirit and traditions of folk-dancing and imprisoning political dissidents. So a solution as radical as Mr Nasheed's may be the only answer.

It's a buyer's market in property these days; and, if the Maldivians are looking for an island, Iceland is said to be going cheap. But they may be spoilt for choice: think of all the tiresome bits of territory that other countries would like to offload. The snooty English, for instance, have long disparaged Wales, which they caricature unfairly as being populated mostly by Methodist preachers and disaffected sheep. It might be a challenge to persuade the Maldivians to swap their palm-fringed paradise for Llandudno pier on a wet Sunday afternoon; still, a bit of adroit marketing, focusing on the height of the hills, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins (both sadly no longer resident) might do the trick.

If they clubbed together, they could get somewhere really nice—Florida, maybe. China could stop making aggressive gestures towards Taiwan and buy Malaysia instead. It's already run by Chinese, so they'd hardly notice the difference. And Barack Obama, committed to uniting America, could defuse the nation's culture wars by purchasing an alternative homeland for those of his countrymen who want more use of the death penalty, less gun control and no gay marriage. A slice of Saudia Arabia's empty quarter would do nicely: there's plenty of space and the new occupants would have lots in common with the locals.

The British are familiar with the notion that, if you're bored at home, you grab somebody else's country; but recent experience suggests that invading places can be expensive and troublesome, so a market solution seems a better way of dealing with national dissatisfaction. The British are, let's face it, fed up with their damp little country. Instead of renting villas in Tuscany, they should buy the place; instead of complaining about the weather, they could complain about Silvio Berlusconi. The Russians suffer from too much crime and too much snow; the Gulf Arabs from too much heat and too little fun. Both should think of buying a temperate, orderly city with decent nightlife, such as London. Wait a minute…

Musical Monday

Brightest Young Things just posted about one of my favorite East Coast bands, the French Kicks and had a little live session with the interview.

I miss their semi-regular appearances at 930 or Black Cat, and somehow I doubt that they'll ever visit Phoenix.  I've seen them many, many times, even if they're opening for a band I don't really care for.

I once dragged Tim to see them with me and as soon as they came on stage, he turned to me and exclaimed, "Oooh, the leader singer is just your type!"  That may be partially true, but that's not why I love them.



Sunday, November 23, 2008

Busiest Weekend Ever

Maybe not ever, but in awhile....

  • New seat installed in my car
  • Movie night with the girls (No, it was NOT Twilight)
  • Interviewed a high school student who's applying to Georgetown (and actually a fascinating and deep conversation)
  • Christmas shopping (but I only got a shirt for myself)
  • Grocery shopping, three times cause I kept forgetting stuff.  Like onion salt.
  • Pie making
  • Appetizer making
  • Hoity Toity discussion group dinner at Le Grande Orange where I led a discussion on this article from the Economist
  • Friend over before church
  • Choir practice for the Christmas program
  • Thanksgiving pot luck dinner
  • Carpool to the Pie Fest in the middle of nowhere, Mesa (really, the place looked like where DHARMA lives on LOST)
And now, time for sleeeeeeep.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Smooches from Einstein

My cuddle partner from last evening, who's probably taller than I am. Love this dog. And he loves me better than almost anyone else who's home at the time.  (No, he's not mine.....)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Almost but Not Quite

I ate a brick for dinner tonight.  Bleeeh.  I'd been craving it for awhile and seeing that I eat one only every couple months, I downed the whole thing, slowly but surely.

I was worried the the sparkling lime water that I accidentally froze wouldn't be the same when it thawed, but it's okay.

I almost bought a new car last weekend.  This one. 
I don't need one.  I don't particularly want one, seeing that I still hate the fact that I don't live in a place with adequate public transportation and I'm stuck making a car payment, insurance and buying gasoline. But when car salesmen saw me sitting in the dealership waiting for my 2007 model to get an oil change, they figured they'd pounce anyway and convince me to upgrade to a 2009.  Really, a 2007 is plenty new enough.  In the end I drove it overnight, had some fun, and took it back the next day.  I figure I wasted about 4 hours of my life, most of the time with a new car salesman who was awkward enough that it was funny.  At one point during all the downtime he says "You haven't asked me anything about me."  Um...I didn't know we were on a date.

The rest of the weekend was a blur, I was rarely home.  I like those kinds.  Spent the afternoon making fall-shaped sugar cookies and mixing colors in frosting trying to create an appropriate brown color for the turkeys.  It turned out this sparkly metallic deep purple.  Oh well. 

It's the time of year to do "Arizona things."  Bonfires on mountain reserves, outdoor runs around resorts, Suns games at sports bars, it's actually kind of nice when I hear stories of snow back East.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Musical Monday

So Snow Patrol's new album is basically amazing in so many ways; the second single was my instant first love (and super obvious to any who hears it) and we now have a video.  

This certainly won't be the last post about the album.  I discover new gems in it every day. Lyrically, Gary Lightbody does it right.  He tends to write more break-upish tracks, but this one, this one, I want to meet the woman who inspired it.  And maybe even be that for someone else.

I'll keep raving later. 

Go get the album.
Can't wait for the tour.

Crack The Shutters

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hello? Hello.

I'm still in my 20s and yes, I subscribe to Reader's Digest.

My mom and I used to fight over it when it came in the mail, usually I'd hide it until I had read it cover to cover. Now that I have my own household, I get my own subscription. My grandma subscribes too; I guess it runs in the Kleck family genes. And we all get other each gift subscriptions for Christmas so each of us probably has a few years piled up and we should stop responding to the holiday mail that lets you send 274 free gift subscriptions if you renew your own.

I never thought my love for RD was strange, until I started working in the magazine industry and confessed to my boss that I subscribed. He looked at me like I was joking. I had to convince him over several minutes that yes, I as a mid-20s single woman loved Reader's Digest. I'm apparently very much an outlier in their demographic. Which I came to understand after seeing how the magazines I marketed (fully knowing their target audiences) performed among the RD subscribers. It all makes sense to me now.

Yet I'm still reading, and this article caught my eye.
Hello. It's one of the first words we learn as babies, yet it's one of the last ones we think to use as adults. In our never-ending rush to get something or somewhere, it seems we don't have time anymore for this most basic of gestures. And that's unfortunate, because saying hello is more than just saying hello. It is an acknowledgment of existence. It is a pause, however brief, to affirm another's worth (and have yours affirmed in return). How might the world change -how might we change- if we mastered this word?

How startling the word truly is.

HELLO

It took a move across the country to realize it. Pulling up to In 'N Out burger, I'm always greeted with a "Hi, how are you?" I'm compelled to answer the question coming from the other side of the speakerbox. My first visit to Jamba Juice after a long time away, I ran in and barked my order, exactly how I'm accustomed to behaving at a quick-food joint in DC. I was interrupted with a "Hello, good morning, what can I get for you?" before I could finish. I had to take a step back and remember that we're all human and this sort of dialogue is completely appropriate and welcomed.

I hate to point fingers at the east coast for falling short on this word, but the difference is noticeable since I moved West. I lived 3 years in the same house, never once said hello to neighbors. Here, I go out running and everyone on the street (when there are people on the street) nods or smiles or says something to you. Grocery store clerks, gym staff, coworkers, security guards, you get it.

One goal I set after moving here was to be a little more open to humanity. Hello will do that to you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Musical Monday

So I missed last week, mostly cause I was playing in Los Angeles and seeing this guy at the Hotel Cafe with my two favorite people on the Westside.

Greg Laswell's amazing.  No question.  Perez Hilton even posted about him today and Grey's Anatomy has been playing his stuff on almost every episode this season.  But I promise you I'm months ahead of them.  Really.

This track in the video isn't even close to one of my favorites (yes, there are that many tracks that are that good, this being the most played song on my iPod), but hearing it live last week on stage, full band, gave it a sweet little turn for me.  I can't get it out of my head.
 



Blah

things i don't like today:
  • the radio station at my dentist's office, already playing christmas music.  at 8am. on a monday. while i'm getting 25 x-rays taken of my entire mouth.
  • my dentist recommending $3k worth of work done on my mouth. she doesn't like my bite.
  • having to take my car in this week for an oil change.  and a transmission flush. and maybe some new brake pads.  and $$$$$....
  • being cold (it's barely in the 60s today people.  i'm shivering).
  • i'm also wearing probably the most boring clothing ever today.  blah. even my cute new necklace doesn't seem to spice it up.
as much as i'm enjoying the complaint list, i do feel the need for an equal and opposite reaction soo....
 
things i do like today
  • half price lemon bars at fresh and easy
  • 7 weeks away from new york and guatemala
  • hearing ice ice baby on the radio and singing every word, even staying in the car til it was over 
  • i might not have to go home for christmas (instead, others will travel to me)
  • no more summer rates on the electric bill (finally, in november)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the Pearl of the United Network of Blackberry
And to the emailing for which it stands, 
One QWERTY keypad,
Under silicone cases,
Indestructible,
With PIN messages and Google maps for all.

I got a new one today.  To replace the original version whose trackball doesn't want to scroll down anymore.  It's been a good 19 months.

There is no other phone for me.

I heart the Pearl.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Keep the Tradition Alive

We all know  - the economy basically sucks right now.  Thankfully I still have a job, I don't have a mortgage to pay, I can pay my bills on time, etc.  I'm in a decent spot (and I hope it stays that way).

Except that I had planned on cancelling the annual New Years trip that Tim and I started back in 2005. 

I've tried to stop using credit altogether, stop buying clothes, stop buying expensive decorations for my apartment, and instead making a bigger dent in the student loans, car loans, credit cards that I've already used too much.  No extras, just the basics.

Tim and I have been holding out for a few months, looking for deals.  He was a travel agent once upon a time, I'm the queen of finding deals, and it's always worked out well for us.  We've both traveled pretty extensively, so finding a locale that we both haven't already seen and is affordable (he's in grad school in NYC.  Ouch on the budget) is rather difficult now.  We usually search Europe since it's cheap to get there in the winter.   This year we've talked Mexico City, Costa Rica, Iceland, and had even realized that we may end up in Vegas of all places (which we'd both hate hate hate).  Heaven forbid we stay in the borders of the United States.  We have almost full passports to max out, thankyouverymuch.

We usually end up with a trip planned as early as July, as late as September.  Except here we are, end of October, nothing going for us.  Flights are too expensive or the cheap flights only go to expensive cities.

But I'm extremely pleased and excited to say that we stumbled upon the most RIDICULOUS deal of all time over the past weekend.  And I do mean RIDICULOUS.  

Let's have a quick look back at the years, first, however.

Ringing in 2005 on the banks of the Seine, with the French and their wine.  We found tickets on sale on British Airways in July for $89 each way.  We jumped.  And we went to London and Paris, the two major cities in Europe I hadn't seen by that point.
2006 - Tim went back to London, I stayed in DC for some strange reason.

2007 - Easy Cruise - a tad pricey to fly to St Maarten, but 20 bucks a night for lodging and transport to 6 islands in the Caribbean on a sweet little boat - awesome.  We saw St Maarten, St Barts, St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla and Antigua.  Great, great deal.  Sadly I don't think Easy Cruise is operating in the Carib now; only in Europe.  I marveled at the water of Anguilla on New Years Day, thinking about my freezing friends back in DC.
2008 - Que vive Espana!!  A return to my homeland.  Cheap tix to Barcelona from NYC.  I was able to return to one of my favorite cities on the planet and also venture south to Valencia.  


And 2009?

Bring on Central America!!  Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras!!
American Airlines had tickets from New York to Belize City for SIXTY dollars roundtrip (plus like 50 bucks for taxes, but not bad at all).  SIXTY DOLLARS.  That's just like not eating out for two weeks.  No sweat.  Granted we booked the tickets that were $105 cause the flight times were a little better, but still.  Cheap!

Tim and I are both more than game to take local transport and sleep in hammocks.  I've already researched - bus from Belize City to Tikal - 15 bucks.  Hostel in Flores, outside Tikal, as cheap as 3 bucks a night.  The delux rooms go for 10 bucks a night.  Sweeeeeeet!  This may be the cheapest trip ever.  I'm so so excited.

Now just pray for no parasites or kidnappers and we're good.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Musical Monday

This week may be an odd choice, but I feel that I should pay tribute to one of the first things I fell in love with upon moving to Arizona (and maybe the only thing I've fallen in love with here), and that thing is Energy 92.7, playing today's best dance hits.

Incredibly sad, this is the station's last week on the radio.  They will cease broadcasting this Friday at 5pm.  And no longer will I listen to any radio.

I have a not-so-secret desire to be a DJ and this station has given me some of the latest tracks (granted we're still 9 months behind European releases), but they've kept my workout playlist full.  It's been a tiny slice of musical heaven for me.

So in honor of Energy, here's the latest track from their playlist that I had a crush on, from JES.
If you're into this genre at all, you'll know her voice.  And if you know Tiesto, you should definitely know her voice.  Granted, I had never SEEN her until I pulled up this video.  Not really at all what I expected.  And I'm always curious how dance track vocalists pull off live shows, but there's footage in here that proves it's possible.  Check out her rad hair at the end.

Now This is What I'm Talking About

Lots of people have these things on their blogs; I've been playing around with Wordle over the past few weeks and decided to make and post one.  Perhaps I'll do it from time to time.  It's visually appealing and just cool.  Go play.



Weekend Update

Time for fall, finally. It's still close to 90 degrees during the day, but when it's dark outside and you can't see the palm trees, the temp falls a little, and surrounding yourself with pumpkins helps you pretend it's fall.  A few of us made the trek (and I mean trek) out to Schnepf Farms over the weekend to participate in all sorts of fun.

We had some cornbread and chili, rode an old carousel (I felt really bad for the kid operating the ride.  He's the perfect angsty teenager type, and probably spends 30 minutes a day blow drying his locks into this forward facing style.  He's wearing the dorky Farm Staff t-shirt and once everyone is loaded on the ride, he pushes a button on an ancient boom box that's off to the side to play some creaky carousel music, over and over and over.  I hope he has an iPod).  We meandered through the pumpkin patches, watched the rickety roller coaster and sort of got lost in a corn maze that's supposed to look like Muhammad Ali from the air.   I don't think the maze was big enough to have been Ali but....
It was dark, but not really scary and we couldn't really have gotten lost.  Isn't that the point?  Good times though, worth a visit at least once.  I spent the rest of the weekend trying to maintain the motivation for productivity that I felt this week.  That included cleaning the kitchen, finally hanging art and photos on my walls, cleaning out my entire closet, donating clothes, recycling magazines, and even taking a lint roller to the shower curtain.  That last one might have been taking it too far.....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Summing Up September - Part III - Birthday Style

So in a previous post, I reminisced about past birthdays.  And the brilliant idea Ms. Liz had for the 2008 event.

Phoenix, not my favorite place, I've still got some growing to do before I can fully appreciate it.

Palm Springs it was! 

Initially this started as a girls' weekend.  Liz and me, I'd kidnap Janelle from Phoenix and we'd make the drive.  Liz had just had a birthday too; we'd double up the celebration.  But as the news trickled out, it became a favorite group thing with some of my most favorite people on the planet, minus a few who are scattered around the country. 
What better way to spend the weekend (in my opinon, at least, and it was my birthday) than lounging by the pool with fruity drinks, catching up on reading, with such good friends? Including favorite people who are so thoughtful and wonderful that they got me the only thing I could possibly want right now, a guitar!  And all the accessories that go with it!  Granted, the learning is going slow.  I'm teaching myself.  But I figure if my brothers could do it, surely I can.  Any tips - send 'em my way.

We stayed at the Miramonte for the weekend and had a glorious time.  We hauled RockBand over from Phoenix and played daily (I even got to the Expert level on a few tracks.  Impressive, I know).  I think this may have to be an annual tradition.  Even if not on my birthday, no reason required to have a sunny poolside weekend at a Palm Springs resort.  Liz wrote a nice summary, far more detailed than this short post, complete with video evidence.





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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ah, the Fate Stare. I mean, the State Fair.

I'm not sure why I got so many bewildered looks of disgust when I told friends and coworkers that I was headed to the State Fair last Saturday.

My question back - Why wouldn't you want to go?

Besides being the BEST people watching experience of all time, you can see crafts and animals and carnies and fried food and screaming children and cheap junk for sale, all in one place.

There are cowboys and girls wearing super short dresses and hoop earrings who belong in Scottsdale clubs (who dresses up like that to go to a FAIR?), Mexicans and women in daisy dukes with Uggs, women with shirts that look like Edward Scissorhands got ahold of the back (we tried to follow her and take a picture, but she was too darn fast) and lots of other fun What Not to Wears.


But the best part for me is filling up on my once a year Funnel Cake and Indian Fry Bread.  Mmmm.....
I tried to break up the food, not cram it all down in one sitting, since I knew I had to try it all.  But by the end of the night, I was home popping Pepto like candy, wishing I hadn't eaten so much.  My stomach felt like a rock, even when I awoke the next morning.   Suddenly I'm craving fresh fruit and veggies.




Monday, October 20, 2008

Musical Monday

Last week I got to hit not one, not two, but THREE shows.  Hallelujah!  Back to normal pre-Phoenix behavior.  Thank you bands, for actually stopping here and not just skipping Phoenix for LA or Vegas, or even Tucson.

Last Monday - We Are Scientists (one of those bands that their home country doesn't fully appreciate; they're much more loved in the UK).

Last Tuesday - The Hotel Cafe Tour (chick style)
I had been dying to see Meiko, who was great, but everyone else was equally impressive.  Laura Jansen especially (I always love the ones with the piano more than the ones with guitar).



Last Saturday - Weezer at the AZ State Fair

I sang "Say it Ain't SooooooAwhoaaawhoaaaa..." with all these people:

Rivers Cuomo is a strange little man, but so so entertaining.  I had to think back to the previous Weezer shows I've attended; one at Coachella and one in Spain where I almost died on the floor of the Plaza de Toros en Madrid because everyone rushed the arena to see Dover when Weezer had finished and there was only one exit and it was tiny and I was pushing to get out while thousands (okay, maybe hundreds) were pushing to get in and at one point my feet were off the floor and my shoulders pinned to the people around me and I almost hit the metal barriers on the side.

And then, possibly the most crowd participation I have seen, and the most entertaining -the Hootenanny revival.  He brought out 35 people with their own instruments to play along, ranging from trumpets to cellos, flutes, and even a didgeridoo.  The crowd chanted Hip Hip! when appropriate and all was well.


Friday, October 17, 2008

A Walk Down Birthday Lane

Ah, the Birthday recap edition, looking on past Septembers

People tend to ask, what do you want for your birthday? Or what did you get?

I guess I’m not so much into “things.” I’d much rather have experiences. Memorable ones. With bright sunny days surrounded by friends with music and laughter and stories of past excursions and creating moments worthy of future tales.

My birthday celebrations in recent years (for my own sake, I'm starting to forget these things):

2007 – I really don’t remember. Guess it shouldn't be on this memorable experiences list. I had just moved to Phoenix. I’d been at my job barely a month, a couple coworkers took me out for lunch to Delux. The grandparents with whom I lived were in the California condo for two weeks. I was home alone. I think I visited the other grandparents down south for a birthday dinner or something. May have been a rather sad experience, comparatively speaking.

2006 – Bowling at Lucky Strike! And a barbeque on our stoop afterwards, in our tiny little area of green space on our tiny little grill on the steps of our townhouse. Man, I miss that place.














2005 – The big 2.5 decade celebration with a huge party and glossy black and white invites and black attire requested and my roommate passing out 25 candles to 25 guys who had to present me with said candle after giving me a smooch. Hilarious. Thank you, Niki.










2004 - A year I'd rather forget, the year of the "Bar Mitzvah." Thanks to a few good friends, I still managed to make the weekend mostly decent and we're all about to laugh (sort of) about the whole thing now.Pre-digital camera days
2003 - Really, no idea.  I had just moved in with Niki and Yuhi to our Van Ness apartment.  No recollection.  
2002 - I have a really cute picture of me, Erin, Crystal, and Shannon in our apartment from that day.  I think we went out to dinner?  I wore a red skirt.
2001 - A few days after 9/11.  Rather muted. I do think JWP took me out for a really nice dinner and got me an awesome spa package, which I used during Thanksgiving break when Tanner came to visit me at the S St house.  Yeah....
2000 - The Henle apartment.  I think I went home around that time for a long weekend.  And when I came back the roommates + Abe had ice cream and cake waiting for me late one Sunday night.
1999 - First college birthday.  The ladies of Harbin 3 had been friends all of 2.5 weeks.  My lovely roommate ACS decorated the hallway, got a cake, balloons, and we had a little fiesta.

This year as I was pondering what to do, this wonderful lady suggested she could come into town for the weekend. My immediate response was a forceful NO! I (and I hate to say hate) strongly dislike this place and don’t want to spend the weekend here.

Her immediate alternative (and one of the reasons why she’s brilliant), let’s go to Palm Springs. Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Weekend recap, coming up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh, and I'm a Horse Jumper Too

USEF * USHJA PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP2008
LAUREN WILLIAMS
line
USEF: 5005952 Senior Amateur 1/4/2008 - 11/30/2008
USHJA: Senior Active 1/4/2008 - 11/30/2008
line
May compete in Hunter/Jumper
 
You must present this card or a copy thereof to prove your eligibility to participate as a rider, driver, handler, owner, lessee, agent, trainer, coach, vaulter or longeur at USEF licensed competitions. 

ATTENTION COMPETITION: Please accept this in accordance with GR 1504.2.1(d) as proof of 2008 USEF and USHJA membership

Sorry, You've Got the Wrong Person....AGAIN

One of the best things about having a common name AND snagging that as my email address on Google means I get a lot of email for other people with my name.

Like LOTS of it.

I mean, enough that it has to be directed to at least 25 different people with my name. This is a constant source of entertainment, and I occasionally like to share on this blog. I’ve previously posted about it here.  I almost think I should try and get national recognition and track down all the intended email recipients and bring us together on Oprah or something.  That could be my 15 minutes of fame.  Just a thought.....

Upon receiving such email in error, I usually respond to the originator politely, like ‘Hey! You’ve reached the wrong person, wanted to let you know!” Most of the time I get nothing in response, sometimes I get an “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry” and on a rare occasion I’ll start a dialogue with strangers on the internet. Right up my alley.

Twice I’d have to make phone calls explaining this (mostly due to library cards and renewal notices).
 
Some recent emails of amusement:
  • She looks beeeautiful! Apparently I helped a youth pastor at Cornerstone Community church redecorate the youth room.

  • Bonnie wants to know if I’m becoming a real estate agent

  • Whitney sent me 5 pictures of her and her boo from her Picasa account, complete with the backwards cap and dreadlocks

  • I’m staying at the Four Seasons, Las Vegas soon! And I ordered a balloon bouquet with a message “Happy Birthday Stud!” and a Pink Pig Staff Animal attached.

  • Austin sent me some photos that he took on his first day of work as a newspaper staffer (see below)

  • Desiree is a little pissed at me: “I need to submit my other payroll numbers now. I waited to hear from you all day and have been hung up on, or disconnected, and have not got a return call from you so the best I can do now is assume on what you would like. I have also emailed you 3 times.”

  • I went to the Ravenscroft school.

  • I also went to the University of Georgia

  • The Kalamazoo MI public library has my email on file for one of their patrons. I get renewal notices. I had a lovely phone conversation with a woman at the circulation desk when I called.  She perfectly understood the situation and was able to get my email address out of their database.  Now, when the same thing happened with a DC public library, no disrespect to my former home, but I KNEW I'd have a problem.  Sho' 'nuff, when I called, the employee was confused beyond measure and had no idea what on earth she could do to help me cause she can't do nothin' cause I'm not the account holder.  

  • I signed up for Emerson Ecologics??

  • A dude named Buell Fogg from Union College is going to help me with the FAFSA.
  • Will thinks I’m an agent – see headshot below. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I told him I sent his headshot and resume to friends. I hope he thought that was funny.
  • Charles in DC emailed me the weekend plans for the wine tasting tour. Turns out he lives a couple blocks from my old place – we chatted briefly and he issued a real invitation for the weekend!

  • I’m also booked at a resort in Anguilla. Lovely place, lovely place.

  • Hello Daughter, The reason I need you to come back, well, let's just say that we (your mother) screwed up. Instead of just putting or keeping you myself and travis on the lease, she also signed tutor and the baby. (that you should have known) But she was still on kisha's lease as well. The management people informed kisha that as of 1/31/08 her rent was now 1,500. a month. You know kisha had a cow, (as she was supposed too). Long story short, a new lease has to be drafted and signed again. Dad

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Summing Up September Part II

Let the California adventures begin, trip one of three in a month’s time.

It only took a year to get together. After a few years of great geographic separation, Erin and I both moved to the southwest around the same time – me to Phoenix, her to San Diego. A year later, I still hadn’t visited. It was high time to visit Erin and the Toddster and the munchkin, baby JAG.

Erin and I date back to Georgetown, first bonding in Harbin and Profesora Wear’s class and slight disdain for our ward and later moving in as roomies with Crystal and sharing a love for Spain and Christopher Guest films.

It was my first real road trip since the Volvo disaster on the way to the Grand Canyon in February. I’d driven all over the East Coast, with friends, alone, and fully explored. But the West seems a whole new ballgame. Especially stopping at two border patrol checkpoints on Interstate 8 amidst the barren wilderness. That’s a new one for me. The six hour drive went by quickly. And I rather enjoyed being alone in the car; after years of not driving, I figure karma will even it out or something like that. With a fully stocked iPod, anything is more than bearable (almost).

As I get older, it takes less and less to entertain me. I’m simply content to converse, catch up, read a book, relax (really, did I just say that? Hmmm). And it was a good weekend for that. I pulled in Friday night, right as JAG was going to sleep. Erin and I caught up over dinner and errands and soon I fell asleep in JAG’s room, on the spare bed.

Erin warned me he’d cry in the morning upon the discovery of a stranger in his room. He did. But I was determined to make him like me before the weekend was over.

Me and babies – not so much a natural interaction. Over the last couple years as I’ve shopped for baby shower gifts, I can’t even bring myself to go near the baby clothing section (I almost had a heart attack writing that word – baby – just now). I usually steer clear of the baby sections of stores and end up purchasing something to pamper the mother-to-be. When I met another friend’s new baby earlier this year, the first thing I could stammer out was, “Congratulations. You reproduced.”

Sounds heartless and awful and my mom says that’ll change when/if I get married but we’ll see……I’m really not cold-hearted towards children, I just don’t know what to DO with them. I grew up watching my little brothers and of course I love them, but the rest of human beings under the height of 3 feet….not really sure what do with them most of the time.

Back to the trip.

We started off Saturday at Seaport Village, a touristy little shopping place that I’d always visited as a kid. Even the old kite shop was still there. The harbor is beautiful, the weather perfect, the artwalk full of things to see. We had great kebabs for lunch, made the trek to the beach, and had a great day despite the clouds.

Sunday morning – no more tears from baby JAG. He woke up, I woke up, and I managed to spend a little over an hour with a 15-month old. This is a big deal. I consider it a small feat. We read books and talked about animals and played. And perhaps we made friends.

Then I gave him back.

We headed to church, had some lunch and then it was time for me to trek back to the Valley of the Sun.

It won’t be a year before I return. Life’s too short to let a 6-hour drive separate me from great friends and possibly the best weather on the planet. But Erin, be assured that I’d still come visit, even if you don’t stay in the perfect weather city.





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Monday, October 13, 2008

Summing Up September Part I


September, the month of my birth.

Autumnal Equinox
The start of school
Talk Like a Pirate Day

Here go my attempts to review the very Satisfactory September that just passed me by.

The whole fam (minus Tanner, who’s in Argentina) came to visit AZ during Labor Day weekend. Mom and Dad made it in time to celebrate their birthdays; Taylor and Courtney (perhaps future sister-in-law? Do I jinx it by saying that in a public forum?) managed to get out of class and work to make the trek down to AZ. I’d been to two continents since the last time I saw my dad.

Mom’s sisters presented her with hilarious birthday gifts, themed around blueberries, since my parents run a blueberry farm in their spare time. But the big kicker, my two aunts claimed, would be the very limited edition gift they put together for my dad. They slaved away over the stove for hours, they claimed. And finally, when the time came to reveal the gift, I almost couldn’t stand it.

I was nervous. Knowing my aunts, they’re quite the characters. You never know quite what they’re going to do.

Tah-dah! He pulled out a tie from a bag. But not just any tie. A tie that had been specially dyed with fresh blueberries. Cooked with blueberry juice. Stained in such a way that could never be reproduced. Apparently this tie didn’t absorb enough color; they spent hours and hours cooking down the blueberries to get it just right.

Who thinks of such things?

The two crazy aunts also put together a ‘Welcome to AZ’ pack for Courtney, complete with a coloring book and scorpion lollypop. Ewh.

We drove up to Sedona for a day, something to pass the time. My mom had been calling for weeks prior, what should we do while we’re there? Uh….same thing we always do. You grew up here. You’re here at least twice a year. You’ve been here 3 times this summer already. What is there to do besides the normal lay by the pool, eat Mexican food and shop?

So we tried Sedona. We sort of hiked in the barren mountains. We ate at a mediocre restaurant. We walked through the sidewalk sales and saw Native American dances and drummers and finally drove out through the gorgeous trees and water.

Taylor and Courtney came to hear me mess up on the organ at church on Sunday, and soon enough the weekend was over and they all went home. I felt that I should leave with them. But no, I live here. I’ve lived here for a year. Does it feel like home? Still not really. But where else in the world should I be?



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It's Cold!!

Finally, in the middle of October.

Cold by Phoenix standards. Sixty-five degrees this morning. When it drops below 90, that’s the trigger to bring out the boots. Which I did today.

Despite my professed hatred for cold and ice and all things winter, I think I just might miss it this year. Shhh....

A year in the extreme heat has thinned my blood, I still freeze in the AC and revel in walking outside into 115 degrees in the summer, yet I find myself longing for some chill and sweater and scarves that will linger a bit longer than December to February. This might be a decent year for an extended winter. I may even willingly go on vacation to a place that’s cold this winter, rather than try and escape further south.

I long to unpack my great white marshmallow coat. I’ve even put away all socks that aren’t in my gym bag.

I reminisced about great fall weather with fellow Georgetown grads last night, a couple of whom just moved to the Valley. We know what we’re missing. Yes, we do.

Musical Monday

In anticipation of Keane's new album tomorrow, here's Spiralling.  I previewed the album over the weekend and kinda dug it.  Hopes and Fears was a great album, couldn't really get into Under the Iron Sea as much, but I think third time, they've brought the charm again.



Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World on the Edge

Usually the Economist is a source of comfort and happiness.
With this week's cover image, not so much.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dr Pepper.....everywhere....

I love Dr Pepper so much that I left a can from the last purchase in my car for future use.

Not such a good idea when it's still 100 degrees daily in Arizona.

Got into my car after work (even though I park in a covered garage) and noticed brown dots all over the back window. Hmm...

And on the floor. And the seatbelts. And the door handles.

The can was mostly exploded on the opposite side of the car, under the seat. Would've loved to witness that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Only in DC....

Phone conversation I had with my old college roommate who still lives in DC, sometime last week (we keep in touch mostly via email, phone calls are a little unusual), went something like this:

Me: Hey hey, what's up?
ACS: Hey! What are you doing calling me in the middle of the day?
Me: Excellent question.....(laughter)....I have a random, very random favor to ask of you.
ACS: (More laughter) Alright....let's hear it....I'm a little worried.
Me: So this favor involves you going to the Embassy of Ecuador, finding Marco and giving him 20 bucks....
ACS: Uh......(laughter).....what?
Me: Yeah, you heard me. I need you to go to the Embassy of Ecuador tomorrow, find a guy named Marco, and hand him 20 bucks. He takes cash.
ACS: Uh......

In case you're wondering, she did indeed go, walked into the joint, saw a dude, said "Are you Marco?" and he said, "Do you have $20?" and it was settled.

Musical Monday

Instead of reviving the old link to my Heavy Rotation Archive, (and man was that a pain to dig up regularly), I'll stick to the easy Musical Monday or something. I see a lot of Wordless Wednesdays on other blogs, so perhaps I'll have Musical Mondays, even though that's way too obvious and simple.

I think that's what I need to get back on track with this blog. Simple. I have a ton of issues of the Economist piling up around me, overloads of work, a Netflix queue 1.46 miles long and novels to read and discuss, so yeah, let's keep it simple.

This week's pick, Kings of Leon, Use Somebody

I can't say I've ever been a big fan, but I have a few tracks and I listen on occasion and more often I watch the video for King of the Rodeo since my good friend has a starring role as the cowboy. Their performance on SNL last week has revived my interest and I think the new album may hold some gems. This is the most recent fav:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Revival?

For the Nth time, maybe I'm back.

I've had the urge to explore my "creative" side again through various means.

Perhaps due to the 2-day class I attended because of work, taught by theater actors and I angered and I improvised and I emoted and I claimed my space.

And I now have a guitar.

And I "play" the organ.

And maybe I should write a little? But reading > writing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

From Hong Kong....


From an email I wrote while I was recently away on a work trip:

This may be the coolest city I've ever visited.

It's not nearly as overwhelming as I thought it'd be. It's like NYC. But with more Asians. And announcements in Chinese. And skyscrapers and mountains and forests. Cleaner, VERY organized - these people queue up for the bus and subway like no other. I've never been more crammed into a train, but getting on - hundreds and hundreds of people on the platform waiting to board, all in perfect queues, lining up exactly where the doors would open. It's all very comfortable and familiar. As different as this part of the world seems, it's really a lot the same.
There are lots of rules, as you can see from one of the signs. One of the first I saw at the airport - Take Care of the Children and the Elderly. Good advice, no?

I thought I was going to be detained by the HK authorities at the airport, as my passport seemingly expired in 2002, though a note in the back points out that it was extended. Not good enough for the passport control agent. He called someone who came up and said "Please come with me..." and wandered off to the security control center. Great. He took my passport into a back room for a few minutes, came back out, asked for more ID and was eventually satisfied that I'm not a terrorist traveling on a fake passport.

I'm staying with my friend Jean Ann for a few days before work stuff starts next week; she's been here a year and a half, working for Exxon Mobil. If you've been watching the news the last couple days, you'll see they just posted a record profit. And I'm reaping those benefits, staying in a gorgeous corporate apartment that rents for a ridiculous sum of money and has daily maid service. Thank you, Facebook, for letting me stay in touch with these types of people.

I'm all for globalization, but it errs a little on the ridiculous side when there's Bubba Gump Shrimp and Popeye's. Seriously?
I spent half of the first day on the Peak - the huge hill on HK Island with amazing views of the whole city. Made friends with Indians, Koreans, eastern Europeans. Wandered through HK Park, where (and I have to laugh at this, am I terrible?) I just had to find the Fighting SARS Memorial Architectural Scene. It rained for a good couple hours; I got soaked, as I left my umbrella at home.

I wandered off to the night markets on the other side of the harbor this evening, bargained for stuff I don't need in a language I don't speak. For a whopping 40 cents I took the Star Ferry back across Victoria Harbor, probably the best thing of the day. Cityscapes at night always amaze me.
To sum it up - I could easily live here. Easily.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Losing the Brain

In an attempt to regain an old hobby that I love and not allow my brain to completely waste away, I've set a goal to read at least one book a month. That seems like a paltry number compared to how much I read once upon a time, but I have a job now and stuff, right? I seem to be focusing on non-fiction or classics, but I'll take any suggestions! I'm a little behind at the moment, but here's how the calendar is shaping up

December - The Looming Tower
January - The World is Flat
February - Interpreter of Maladies
March - Short History of Nearly Everything
April - Everything is Illuminated
May - Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
June - The Awakening

Other potentials that could make the list:
La Casa de los Espiritus
The Glass Castle
Water for Elephants
Great Expectations
Those Who Save Us
The Kite Runner (again)
Chronicles of Narnia

Silver Lining

The one nice thing about having a car accident is that I'm able to walk away from my $800/month car expense. Not paying rent has made things a little easier, but after taking a look at how much a car (sadly a necessity here in the AZ) is really costing me, I feel relieved at a chance to cheapen up.

Or.... I could stock up on cute spring/summer clothes. I hate when I open the J Crew catalog and want everything in it. I've avoided the infamous Mormon Migration at Memorial Day to Duck Beach for 8 years, but somehow this year I'm flying across the country for it, and a girl needs some new beach gear, eh?

A shortened version of the wish list!
RIP my little Volvo. I'll miss you!







Skop-meh and the good parts of Macedonia

We arrived back in Skopje after that early bus ride from Prizren, and while we had to check out of our Airbnb apartment that morning, we we...