Pretty papers

Behold!  A gift wrapped entirely with hoarded scraps of wrapping paper, ribbon, and packing materials!  Take that, husband who said I’d never use them!  Hey, I get it, it’s not the prettiest gift in the world, I may not be THE BEST at this.  Although, who am I to say, maybe I am the best at this? It’s settled, I am.


A young girl’s first angry letter

This is my college graduation program.  Why would I want to throw this away?  Read on, if you don’t mind being incensed on behalf of a 22-year-old me!

I’m taking you back to a much simpler time.  It’s the 90’s.  I am still loving Def Leppard and Patrick Swayze even though most people have moved on.  I am a senior nearing graduation.  I decide to do my final 3 credits as an internship the summer after my fourth academic year and graduate with those people.  Sure, I could have taken more than 12 credits per semester (plus 6 each summer) and graduated earlier, but then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the outstanding grades I had there near the end.

Okay, so I’m graduating, and I decide I’ll go ahead and walk mainly because my mother would be in attendance and my cousin Doug was graduating at the very same time.  Now, I was in Orlando schlepping sandbags for Universal Studios all summer… not as drop-dead Hollywood glam as I thought a movie studio in Orlando Florida would be.  But I did get to do crowd control for the John Stamos Beach Boys and, separately, escort Cathy Moriarty to the bathroom.

I mention my terribly glamorous Orlando summer, as I had to apply for selection to the “Outstanding Graduating Senior Leader” from my remote, fabulous location.  I thought I was fairly worthy of consideration: I not only had a high honors-level GPA I somehow managed to pull out of the toilet, but I was also an officer in my sorority, the Creative Director for our big homecoming show, a student tour guide on campus, and a member of the prestigious Florida Blue Key leadership honorary.  Also, I once took an underprivileged kid to a basketball game and paid for his snacks.

I knew I wouldn’t be the one top girl selected — I am ambitious but always a realist.  I had a feeling I might be one of the extra few that got “Honorable Mention” — and I was!  Despite the rarity of such occurrences, I truly love being awarded for things and this was no exception.

So on graduation day in Gainesville, with my mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins in the stands somewhere, I opened my booklet and skipped right to the Honorable Mention page.

Say what now?

I couldn’t believe I was left off the program!  How could they do this to me?!  I had given this school my most!  I had lobbied the Dean of the journalism school to change the AM radio station to this thing called ‘alternative’; I had only cheated on two tests, and just slightly; and, like I said, I bought that poor kid popcorn.  What the hell?

After placing more than one fact-finding phone call, I was sent a form letter saying a few people were left off the Honorable Mention list in the graduation program, and sorry.  Oh, but, this!  Would!  Not! Stand!

I fired off a letter — you heard me — to the Dean of Student Services.

It’s truly cringe-worthy stuff.  Especially the line “Needless to say, the magnitude of my embarrassment, anger, and frustration was without precedent.”  This so isn’t true — I had some jerk guy make me feel this way just weeks before!  “I can hardly believe a gross error such as this could be possible.”  Take that, dumbasses!  I hope some fat cat program typesetter gets fired!

The one line I still stand by: “As students, we would surely be judged more harshly if we forgot a brief list of names.”  There’s me.  There I am!

So, keeping this program (plus insert) keeps this upsetting memory and its ridiculous aftermath alive. But I do like that I didn’t take it lying down, which I hate to admit I do now mostly.


Professional organizer to the rescue, Part 2

Part 2 of my cleaning odyssey.  Hey, I spelled that word right on my first try!


Professional organizer to the rescue, Part 1

So, I purchased a Groupon that offered a discounted session with professional organizer Robyn Reynolds, who has worked for the show “Hoarders” and is a great gal in her own right.  Here is Part 1 of our story:


Toiletries humor

What you are looking at is our drawer full of hotel-procured toiletries: shampoos, bath salts, soaps, sewing kits.  When we have overnight guests, I’ll go to this drawer and pick out a few items and set them in the guest bath, like a hotel does.  Because we’re nice!

My husband is partially-to-mostly to blame on this one.  Hubs is a pro at maximizing the volume of these things we take home with us, because he has a system: when we leave the hotel room in the morning for breakfast or whatever, he’ll hide the soap we just used in his suitcase wrapped in a washcloth.  Then when the cleaning staff pops by, they replace all the soaps,etc. and the washcloth.  Upon our return, he switches out the new and used soaps.  Simple, yet elegant.

Reminds me of this one time.  We frequent this one hotel, let’s just call it the Scooby Doo hotel. Well, one time the toilet in our room was acting weak — meaning you had to flush a couple of times to get a even a square of TP down it.  Well… how can I say this delicately… I had the fast poops right before we were set to check out.  I had a feeling to toilet couldn’t handle it, and indeed it did not.

We had to get back home to our baby, so, yes, I left a bowl full of diarrhea in the posh hotel that knows us by name.  Does the Scooby Doo have loose-lipped housekeepers?  Will this pretty horrible offense be part of our permanent record?  How skinny did I look that day?  All questions I cannot answer, except the last one, pretty skinny.  Hopefully that tip my husband left would have to do– what?  You forgot to tip extra for the poop in the toilet?  I’ll never show my face there again until at least 3 weeks!


Something clipped

This is my drawer full of unused coupons, mostly expired.  I have absolutely zero stories about couponing.


Just what I needed, Part 3 of 3

So, where was I?  Oh, yes, the New Cars (featuring real Cars Greg Hawkes and, most importantly, Elliot Easton) pricey VIP concert tickets which I had in my possesion.  I roped my sweet new fiance Gary into going with me.  I felt he needed to see this side of me before we went any further.

They told all of the VIP’s via email that we were allowed to bring something for the band to sign.  Of course I’d bring my copy of Elliot’s 1985 solo album: Change No Change.  I was sure he’d be impressed – I’m a real fan, not some poseur who just likes to throw money around.  The album’s cover is black, so I bought a silver paint pen for him to sign it with, because I think of everything sometimes.

The day of the concert, we arrived at the Universal Amphitheater and were led in by a cute, college-age girl whose job it was to wrangle us.  I hated her.  I would have killed for this job as a young woman, did she even know how good she had it?  Would she ever?  Should I explain it to her?

Okay, so, this girl, who probably had never heard of the Cars before this job, sat us in a spot out of view of the band as they rehearsed their set.  Elliot was in charge of things, you could totally tell.  Signaling with his hands, saying things with his voice – he was choreographing the dance that was the New Cars.  I had never loved him more.  Then the rehearsal ended, and the Girl Who Has Had More Than One Exchange With Elliot Easton, You Know It said it was time for the meet and greet.  I felt my throat tighten; my body became cold and unmoving.  A dream was about to become reality – most normal people think this would be amazing and not be sick to their stomach and want to run crying to the bathroom pretending to have the fast poops.

We filed out and into a tented area where we were instructed to form a line perpendicular to the table where the band sat, open faced and ready to receive us.  Then the line started to move.  The closer we got to the table, the more I wanted to expire before I got there.  I had been waiting for this moment all my life, and yet all I wanted to do was run away and dive into the Waterworld moat.

I felt bad for Gary as well – I gave him the terrible task of getting my Shake It Up album signed – but only by the two original Cars.  He’d have to pull it away from the others.  To this day I don’t know how he did it, nor do I want to know, because rudeness terrifies me.

We inched forward…  Oh my stars.  It was happening… what’s happening… where am I?  I felt a shortness of breath and my heart race – please oh please let this be a grand mal seizure.  Throughout all this panic, I kept the line moving ever forward.  The order of it all kept me from losing my mind.

Before I knew it, I was standing right in front of original keyboardist Greg Hawkes.  I smiled at him, nodded and said hi, all awkwardly.  Next to Greg sat one of Todd Rundgren’s buddies.  I smiled at him, too – whatever, I’m nice.

Next was Elliot, looking resplendent seated in the center – like the Jesus of the New Cars.  The guy in front of me was slow, so I was stuck smiling at Todd Rundgren’s buddy more.  The guy moved on.  Elliot looked at me.  I stepped up to him and I handed him my album.

“I brought this silver pen,” I said, indicating.

“There’s a grey one here,” Elliot Easton said.  I looked down – there were Sharpies in at least three different colors.  I felt like an asshole!

“Oh!” I said, and just stood there like a ding dong.

He signed his name and handed the album cover back to me, and I said nothing else.  I am such a planner – why didn’t I plan something to say to him?  I have written an entire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute speech to the Cars in my head once during a long drive – why couldn’t I summon up something from that?

Mercifully, I reached the end of the slow-scooting line, turned, and rushed toward Gary with a sense of exhilarated relief, the kind you feel when you exit a really scary haunted house, one where they have no boundaries and grab and poke you.  But then the girl said we needed to get back in line – we’d each be taking a picture with them!  Oh, how I wished Gary would just punch me in the face.  Someone – please stab me in the neck with your keys!

With sweet Gary’s encouragement, I found the strength to pose for the picture – and another one for safety!  You know, up to that day, I always thought that, had I lived in pioneer times, I would never have survived.  I think the strength I showed that day proves otherwise.

Here I am, managing to live through a very pleasant experience.

After the meet and greet, a half-assed buffet, and a trivia contest where I won a t-shirt, of course, we were herded back into the amphitheater and watched The New Cars from our amazing seats.  I would have wept through the entire set, but one of Gary’s friends had joined us, so I acted like I was having fun instead of dying inside.

This is me saying to Elliot “Back off, I’m engaged!”

Okay, so here’s the stuff:

The t-shirt is fairly new and it doesn’t fit.  There’s a picture disc, a tour program, and a homemade Cars button since I could never find one.  Also included but not pictured are my Circus magazines and loose-leaf pictures of the band cut out from magazines I once put into collages.  I’m keeping the signed records, obvi.  And this other unwearable t-shirt.


Just what I needed, Part 2 of 3

OKAY, so… 2002?  2003?  I wanted to wait out traffic after work so I stopped at the Chin Chin in Bev Hills for dinner.  I walked in, approached the hostess stand and… talk about dim sum and then some… Elliot Easton was there, eating with three dudes!  I wondered — did he notice me noticing him, and if he did, was he flattered or creeped?  Keep in mind I was alone and staring right at him for like a solid minute.

My table was kiddie-cornered to where he and the dudes sat.  I tried to eat my Chinese chicken salad like a person, but it became unwieldy and the wonton crisps were spilling out every whicha way.  I wondered if Elliot saw this, and if he did, would he think I was clumsy, like a woman in a romcom?  Or clumsy, like a woman who’s just gotten out of prison?  I used the time I spent corralling the crisps to try to decide if I should say something to him.

I decided against it, because I do not approach those I admire, for fear of their contempt.  I learned this the hard way at 9 years old at a skating rink in Texas, when I made the mistake of telling this girl who had just won a skate-dancing competition that she was a good skater.  In truth, she was just little and sassy and won the crowd over without having to skate particularly well.  And back then I was really impressed by girls who were small for their age.  After I congratulated her, her two guy friends started harassing me and hurting my feelings.  I can’t remember what they said, but if it upset me back then, chances are it was either “That girl has dandruff” or “That girl just farted.”

Now, I knew Elliot was way too awesome to say I have dandruff or anything, but if his reaction to me was less than “this encounter has made an indelible impression on my life,” I would be heartbroken.  And I was sure another, more ideal opportunity to meet Elliot would present itself – maybe something that involved working together on the internet.

A couple of years later I heard a commercial on the radio (which is a miracle since I always flip past them because I like to rock): the New Cars would be playing the Universal Amphitheatre as part of their Road Rage tour.  The New Cars?  I was intrigued and hopeful.  I got home and went to their website and discovered that the members of the New Cars were: Elliot Easton, original keyboardist Greg Hawkes, Todd Rundgren, and a couple of guys he knows.

I had only seen the real Cars in concert once, when I was 14 with my friend Craig Rodgers and his brother and his brother’s girlfriend.  Seeing them live moved me so profoundly that I cried when it was over.  Craig asked if I was okay.  Inside I thought “no, I’m not” and I said “no I’m not.”  I didn’t know how I was supposed to just go back to my life after that — but I managed to, and good for me.

Now!  How was I going to get good tickets to this show?  You can’t just camp out on the sidewalk outside a Sears like a hobo like you could in the 80’s.  As a teenager, I did this many times with varying degrees of success.  There was Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A tour, where I couldn’t get off work early enough from Baskin-Robbins, so I was, like, 30th in line.  Then the sprinklers went off — people scattered, there was lawlessness.  But then I got front-row tickets for being first in line for the Moody Blues.  I was actually the only person in line for nearly 3 hours.  I didn’t get it – what teenager wouldn’t want to see the Moody Blues play the hits from their parents’ records?

I found out from the New Cars website that for $500, you could get a VIP experience, which included a premium seat and you could watch the sound check and meet the band!  This situation brought together two of my favorite things: Elliot Easton, and throwing money at a problem.

Come back everybody and find out what happened next!


Just what I needed, Part 1 of 3

When I was a teenager, the rock band the Cars were my everything.  When I discovered their first album within the record collection of a Tennessee cousin, I didn’t know how I had lived eleven whole years on this earth without them.  To the back of the stack with you, Donna Summer and Olivia Newton-John albums, Fame soundtrack and the like!  (P.S. I still have all of those.)

Good thing all I needed to know about this exciting new band (it was 1981, the record was released in 1978) was right there on the album’s sleeve: their names, what instruments they played. Right away I had a favorite Car – Elliot Easton: guitar, backing vocals. I started to fantasize about how I would meet him: I’d be picking out earrings at Miss Bojangles.  Elliot would be lurking behind a kiosk, watching me entertain friends with a really funny story.  Lots of friends.  Then he’d walk up behind me, and when everyone stopped laughing and widened their eyes, I’d turn around and he’d take the cigarette out of his mouth and introduce himself.  For much of my teenage life, this is the kind of thing that would fill my thoughts as I would listen to The Cars’ music.  Especially in times of great emotional distress — which was most days for me, as the girls at school were what would later be called “mean girls” and my mother was what would later be called a “hoarder.”  Also I ripped my shorts in gym — that could not have helped.

So in 1985 when Elliot went on the nationally syndicated radio interview show “Rockline” to promote his new album Change No Change, I was totally stoked.  What if I could actually talk to him on the phone?!  And what if he’d ask to talk to me privately afterward?  What if what if what if?!

Patty Smyth of Scandal was on before him, but I knew I should go ahead and start calling because I am most comfortable being steps ahead of things.  After a few busy signals, the line started ringing.  I thought maybe I had misdialed, but I did not want to hang up just in case.

I had the volume on my shitty stereo very low so as not to wake up my mother.  I say shitty because the knobs on it were clearly not the knobs it came with — Mom had given me some song-and-dance about how the store didn’t have the knobs in stock on this model, but they’d be getting them in and I would get them later.  There is no second part to this knob story.

Back to me, phone clutched to my face, waiting.  Ringing ringing ringing.  After Patty Smyth of Scandal’s interminable interview, which I believe was 30 minutes in length, someone finally answered the phone.

“Rockline, what’s your question?” said some man.

“I… I don’t know!”  How could I have forgotten to have a question ready?  This isn’t how I am, see ‘steps ahead of things’ comment earlier.  The man was really nice, as I was crying now — excited and also worried he would hang up on me and my conversation/life with Elliot would be not happening.

“Well… he doesn’t sing lead any Cars songs, does he?” said the man.

“No!” I said, getting where he was going with this — he was like a beloved teacher who knew I had the answer all along.  I thanked the living shit out of that man and waited my turn in the cue.

Mom yelled at me me to turn off my stereo and hang up the phone.  I didn’t have time to explain what was happening or the irreparable damage she would to if she barged in and did those things herself.

The recording below, done by putting a transistor radio on top of a tape recorder, is of me asking my question and only part of his answer:

Mom always said I’d outgrow this.  And, to her credit, I thought I had.  But a few years ago, I went to the Chin Chin in Beverly Hills, and guess who I totally spotted not ten feet from me oh my gosh y’all I spotted Elliot Easton.  I’d recognize that buttoned-up polo shirt and round-framed glasses anywhere.  I knew this getup well, because I had more than once dressed up like him for Halloween.

Read all about this encounter in Part 2!  Vote in Part 3!  It’s like the Hunger Games trilogy but no children get murdered!


Rush for a change of atmosphere

This is a collage my sorority little sister Denie Freyer made for me for my birthday (collaging and covering photo albums in decorative fabrics were the crafts of sorority girls in the 90’s, y’all).  It is a time capsule of all things me at the time: the Simpsons, stinky Red perfume, not having a boyfriend.

What a darling Denie was to make this for me!  I remember the first time I met Denie, I was visiting a friend at Rollins College, as was she.  We were playing “I never” with some beer or something we managed to have.  When it was Denie’s turn, she said “I’ve never picked my nose and eaten it!”  I thought she was the most adorable thing ever.  During sorority rush the following year, I tried to convince her to pledge Chi O and she did.

Sorority Rush is the most fun and dramatic time in a young woman’s life.  As a rushee and a rusher. One year the Rush chairman wanted a new Round 3 skit written, and I convinced her that I could do it. But what ended up happening was, I screwed around all summer and wrote something incredibly flimsy.  (I find it hilarious that, having shown not a smidge of early promise as a writer, I would eventually be able to convince people to pay me to do it.)

Not knowing just how shitty and lame my script was, it came as a total shock when I heard that the Rush chairman, one of the LaVarge twins, cried after she read it… okay yes, this is my second sorority story, and yes, it is the second one with one of the LaVarge twins crying, but that’s pure coincidence, people.  We all cried all the time in that house.

With only a few days before this new Round 3 skit was to be performed, a crew of my sorority sisters hunkered down with me to help create a new one out of thin air: Adrienne Koester, Staci Rackstein, I think maybe Paige Biagi, Tamara Johnston, Tami Bright, or some combo of those gals? My mind is a sieve now, and not the good kind that pans for gold.  (That was a tweet of mine, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see why I have amassed an impressive, uh, 56 followers — wait, it’s 54 now?  Seriously?)

Well, the skit we came up with was a winner.  It was about lost fairy tale characters, a la “Into The Woods,” coming together and finding their home at Chi O.  Cindy, whose last name escapes me now, see mind sieve Twitter comment, sang a beautiful song, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” as the big closer.  I was doing the sound backstage, and, mid-show, something went wrong with the master cassette that contained all the music and effects in sequence.  I took the cassette out — the tape had come unwound.  I had a pen handy, so, sweating it about now, I wound the damn thing back up, like we did when that happened.  I put it in the player, then fast-forwarded some — I knew I had missed a sound cue, the one right before Cindy’s big number.  I had no headphones with which to monitor it — which was weird, I worked as a DJ at the campus radio station, you think I would be aware of the benefits of this.

By the grace of almighty Isis it was on the right spot and the song went off without a hitch.  I think even some of the rushees cried, which was the goal.  If you could get some cute girls to cry during the Round 3 of sorority rush, boom, you were going to have a great pledge class.  And by great I mean cute.