A Friday Night, a Rock Concert, and an Asshole Boyfriend

I went to a concert last night.  The tickets were general admission seating, and I’d gotten there early enough to secure a spot one person away from the stage. Having a feeling I’d be close to the stage and the speakers, I brought ear plugs with me. Which was a good thing because I needed them. I’ve gone to, and continue to go to, a lot of rock concerts. I need to protect my ears. After the show, walking to my car, I heard a guy complain to his friends about how loud the music was and that his ears were ringing so bad he couldn’t hear a thing. I’d been there many times, which is why I finally got smart and now bring plugs with me.

Anyway, the concert was great. Four hours, five bands.  A great way to spend a Friday night, and for the most part the people around me were cool. Which is important when you’re standing in tight spaces for hours. A short woman who looked slightly older than me was next to me. She was very sweet. She kept asking me if I was okay. Three hours into the show, she offered me a sip of her beer because she noticed I hadn’t left at all to get a drink. I thanked her, but declined her offer. I hardly ever drink when I’m at concerts. I have the bladder of a small child. It’s very annoying. But it was a very nice gesture from the woman.

It just makes the night that much better when you’re surrounded by nice people. People who just want to have fun on a Friday night. I was by myself, as is mostly the case when I go to concerts. Not too many friends like the music I listen to, which is fine. I don’t mind going to concerts alone, but being around friendly people definitely makes for a better experience.

A woman near my own age with long thinning red hair stood next to me, and her boyfriend, wearing a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers T-shirt, was in front of her at the stage. Off the bat, there was something about the guy that screamed dickhead.

The woman and I talked between bands. She was pleasant, but had a sadness about her. Without judgement, I noted traces of addiction on her face, and the more I observed her, the more I wanted to put an arm around her in a comforting way and tell her everything will be okay now. I could see she lived a tough life and probably hadn’t gotten a lot of breaks.

Take in point, in the middle of the show something sailed past me and nailed her right on the head. She threw her hands up and ducked down.  I touched her shoulder and asked if she was okay. She looked at me with tears and asked what that was. I didn’t know, and she used the flashlight on her phone and we looked around the floor for anything, but we saw nothing. Her boyfriend was in front of her and didn’t see anything, not that he would have done much if he had. When the band finished, and she told him what happened, he showed no concern or interest.

She was visibly shaken up about it. The nice older woman on the other side of me inquired how she was and asked what hit her. We never found out. Throwing an object into a crowd is such an asshole thing to do.

Standing in front of me, and next to the redheaded woman’s asshole boyfriend, was a friendly young man in his early twenties. He left his spot, and when he came back he touched me just to get by, and I jumped up. He laughed and apologized profusely for scaring me. Not sure why he caught me by such surprise. I was surrounded by people and should have been expecting to get or touched in some way. But he was genuinely sorry and called me ma’am, and I felt old.

The jerk boyfriend wouldn’t move when the young man got back to his spot, even though that’s a courtesy we were extending to everyone. We’d hold people’s places when they left and make sure no late-comers pushed past us and took spots that didn’t belong to them. The older woman next to me was really nice about saving spots. But the redhead’s boyfriend wouldn’t budge even though the young man had been in that spot since the start of the show. The young friendly man was visibly shocked at the level of dick-headedness, and the two argued. The redhead told me that it didn’t bother her, but that her boyfriend didn’t like that the young guy kept leaving his spot. She said something to her boyfriend and whatever he said back to her upset her and she started crying, though she tried to wipe the tears before they showed. But I saw them, and wondered what the asshole said to her.

The young man pointed to all the space to the left of the guy and forced his way into his spot. I don’t know if the asshole said something to the redhead but next thing I knew the woman suddenly left and never came back. The headline act came on minutes later, and the boyfriend looked back once, saw that she was gone, and never looked back again.

I’m not gonna say I didn’t enjoy the headline act, because I did, but I thought about that woman often while the band played.  Last night was probably not the Friday night she had anticipated. You go to a concert expecting to have a care-free fun night. And then you get pelted in the head with a flying object and your boyfriend makes you cry.

I hope wherever the woman is now, she’s happy. Maybe life will get easier for her. In my limited time of knowing her, I’d say she deserves that.

 

 

 

A Night of Nostalgia

Today was Major League Baseball Opening Day.  This day is always a bit nostalgic for me because baseball makes me think of my father. Not only did he take me to games when I was a child, but it was with him that I watched my first Sox game on TV, and after that, watching games with my father became a normal thing.

Me on the floor, him in his chair. I’d always ask him who the crowd was rooting for. He used to think that was cute of me. I didn’t know back then the team wearing white was the home team.

But baseball wasn’t the only thing that brought me nostalgia today. I went to a concert tonight of a band I absolutely adored when I was an early-teen. My walls were covered with this group, and my tape deck wore out their music daily.

Yes, I said tape deck. It was 1989.

I’ve seen this band perform before, but it’s been a while. I haven’t listened to some of their songs in over twenty years, yet the moment the first chords were played, I was back in my childhood room, sitting on my bed next to the radio, belting out every lyric to every song. It’s crazy how your brain doesn’t let you forget words to old, favorite songs no matter how long it’s been since you’ve listened to them.

It was a good time, but as much as I love this band, I hesitated buying a shirt at the show because I wasn’t sure how often I’d wear it. The band isn’t exactly popular anymore and for about two minutes I thought that would deter me from wearing the shirt in public.

I was wrong, and it only took me two minutes to realize it. I’ve never been a trendy person, and most people would say I have taste for shit when it comes to clothes, so I will wear my new shirt proudly and ignore any side way glances that may come my way.

While I was watching this band play, I thought about my thirteen-year-old self and wondered what she’d be doing right now if she were watching her favorite band play in a small theater like the one tonight. She’d be going absolutely nuts. Back in the day, I’d seen this band perform in big venues, 30,000 plus seating.  And tonight, I watched them play in a theater with an 867 seat capacity.

And they didn’t even come close to selling out.

Ah well. Such is life. No one can stay on top forever, but they’re still enjoying their ride. And that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

A Solar Eclipse and a Nasty Cold

Summer is coming to an end, and I haven’t touched this blog since May.  It wasn’t intentional. I was pulled away by baseball games, concerts, fests, shelter dogs, and family.

Oh, and there was that little bit of “real” writing I needed to make time for.  Those pesky books won’t write themselves.  I completed a short story in July that will be part of a Christmas Anthology published this December, and my coming-of-age novel, A Penny on the Tracks, is slated for an October release.

So, the coming months give me something to look forward to, besides the fact that we are heading into my favorite season. I absolutely love the fall. Even though it would be so tempting to move to a mild climate that sees no below-zero weather, and sports clear blue skies most of the time, I can’t live without experiencing the shift to the season of falling leaves.

Fall is crisp autumn leaves, apple cider, early sunsets that bring out the ‘cozy’ in me, Halloween, scary movies, sour apple and caramel suckers, pumpkins, Thanksgiving (minus the turkey, please), and hoodies with long shorts (because that’s the way I roll).

I had meant to close out the summer with a total solar eclipse, but a nasty and stubborn cold kept me from making the hundred-plus miles to Carbondale, Il. I had a motel booked in Troy, the closest city I could get to that suddenly popular college town in southern Illinois.

My solar eclipse glasses and a guide to all I needed to know about a total solar eclipse sat waiting to be packed. My tank was full. Supplies were bought, including pepper spray because a woman traveling alone should never be too careful. I had cash in my pocket and water bottles chilling in the refrigerator.

What I didn’t have was a capable body. The trip was not meant to be, and I was stuck at home with a stuffy nose and a throbbing throat, watching a solar eclipse on a cloudy day.

Awesome.

I watched the Carbondale coverage on my TV without being too bitter. Good for those people who witnessed such a spectacular sight. I have 2024 to look forward to, right?

There was one silver lining in getting sick though. I now appreciate so much the ability to taste and smell. Being without those two senses for even two days took so much away from me. I’ve had colds before that limited my senses, but I never before considered what if this were permanent? No matter what I ate or drank, I couldn’t taste a thing. Every food was the same, just different texture. I can’t imagine living in such blandness.

I thought of the the former INXS singer, Michael Hutchence, who had lost his sense of smell and taste during an altercation with a cab driver that left Hutchence with a brain injury, triggering his senses loss. Hutchence would die five years later of what was reported to be a suicide. The people who knew him best said he changed after the accident. Not being able to taste or smell anything had changed him.

Hutchence was described as a sensual man who loved wine and fine dining and women. I can only imagine the depression that settles in when you can no longer taste or smell that which you love, and that which brings you the most satisfaction in your life.

There is definitely a level of intimacy that you lose with the world around you when you can no longer taste or smell anything it offers.

I don’t know how I would cope walking outside on a fall night and not being able to smell the leaves scattered all around, or the musky air filled with that raw earthy scent I love so much.  I’m grateful I can smell Fall, my favorite season.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

End of Year Reflections

The end of the year always comes with some form of reflection. Have I done everything I sought out the year to do? What were my achievements? Downfalls? Setbacks?

I headed into 2016 with a list of resolutions, like so many people. A lot of what I resolved to do revolved around furthering my spiritual state of mind through meditation, yoga, clean- eating, fasting, and being present.

As the year comes to an end, I have not become the meditation guru I had dreamed to be. Sitting quiet and still, in one spot, for a designated amount of time may be attainable on the occasion, but committing to a daily meditation practice fell out out of my reach.

Not that I didn’t meditate. I did. But not every day, not nearly as much as I had intended. I’m no where close to where I thought, one year ago, I’d be today. On days I meditate, I do so in thirty-minute intervals. Anything longer, my mind strays. More training will fix that problem, but I need to put in the time.

I can’t imagine anything more freeing than sitting in one place, closing your eyes so you are blind to all that is around you, with nothing but your mind, body, and soul at your disposal, and completely losing yourself to your own self, for hours at a time.

This state may not be something one can plan, but rather, is attained naturally through practice done organically. I need to stop treating yoga and meditation as words I cross off a daily “to-do” list.

If I forget to make a list, do I forget my practice?

Yoga and meditation need to be felt. Once my body grows to crave the serenity, the state of missing nothing that yoga and meditation provide, I won’t need a list to remind me to do my daily practice. 

It will become who I am.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Just the Writer in Me.

An excerpt of a story about a middle-aged woman who visits her old college in an attempt to settle the obvious midlife crisis/crossroad she’s living through:

The coffee tastes like shit, yet I continue to drink it. Writing and coffee always went hand in hand. At least I no longer smoked. I visit the old college I attended when I was a fresh-faced eighteen year-old. Maybe it will help me become more creative as I sit in a place that reminds me of my younger days, when anything seemed possible.

One of the perks of writing here is the coffee costs 75 cents, a monster savings compared to Starbucks, but like I already said, the coffee tastes like shit and I’m on my fourth cup.

I’m sitting at one of the tables in the lounge. There is a young woman, maybe nineteen, at the table next to me, face deep in a text book. Her long hair is dark and carelessly messy, but in a stylish way. She looks like someone I would have had a crush on. She wears jeans with holes at the knees, a black graphic tee, leather studded boots that capped at her mid-calf. Kind of grungy (do kids today even know what grunge is?). Maybe she’s a bit rebellious in a dark, mysterious, Kristen Stewart, kind of a way.

Her attire shows she might be of the “alternative” lifestyle. I remember looking for that in girls I met at college in 1995 because I was incredibly desperate to meet girls who were like me. I expected everything to be so much broader than the restricted Catholic high school I went to, and in some ways they were, but probably not broad as I had wanted, or needed, them to be.

I wonder if what I’m experiencing is a mid-life crisis. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if I felt I had accomplished something in my life. The fact that I haven’t done anything depresses me.

Did I know I would do this? Did I know I was going to spend so much time looking back? I wonder if I’m capable of anything more with my life. It’s so hard making it as a writer and I fear I may not even be any good at it. (Pause. Takes another sip of coffee. Yep. Still tastes like shit, even more so now that it’s cold.)

Two girls sit on a couch across from me. They are very affectionate and playful toward each other, despite the fact I’m only a few feet away from them and another boy sits at a near-by table. But they don’t seem to notice either of us. I watch as people pass in the busy halls, and barely look at the two girls sitting closer, now holding hands.

Their interaction isn’t tacky, nor is it an in-your-face display of affection. The two girls appear to be in love, lucky to be living in a time when they could be like this in public. Definitely not something I would have expected to see when I walked these halls very frequently, 21 years ago – though I wish I had.

I think about leaving, but decide to stay. I watch. I write. I sip my bad coffee. I sit and observe other people, like a spectator in life.

I suppose that’s the writer in me.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net

 

 

 

 

 

Orlando Won’t Be the Last.

It was a week ago tonight that a gunman would enter a popular gay nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon and kill 49 people and injure an additional 53.  Some of those people are still in hospitals today, desperately clasping onto the life their injuries threaten to take away.

I pray they all make it.

Most of us by now have heard the names of the dead and have seen their faces. The majority of those lives taken were young people in their twenties. Though any life taken in such a brutal manner as this is tragic, seeing the pictures of those young faces, some posing in bars from a different time in their life, hit me hard.

I used to be one of those twenty-something year old faces, back in the the days when the weekend meant going to bars filled with people like me. Where I could dance, kiss, and hold hands with another girl without feeling strange. It was “normal” to be like me in places like those. And despite what people say about “defying the ordinary” and “normal is boring” it’s nice to not stand out sometimes, rather to fit in. Go unnoticed.

Gay bars offered a refuge, a safe haven, for gay people who might have spent Monday through Friday hiding while feeling self-conscious living and working in a heterosexual world. But the weekends we were free. We let loose. We were ourselves.

Because the gunman (I won’t call him by his name because he doesn’t deserve that kind of respect) called 911 before the attack and pledged his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS, some people are calling this a terrorist attack, and only a terrorist attack.  All attacks are done to cause terror, but this assault was triggered by hatred toward a specific group of people. Gay people. And everyone needs to acknowledge that.

Every gay person across the country, maybe even the world, who’d ever been to a gay bar – felt safe in a gay bar – has watched this story unfold as each day brought new horrifying details, and thought, “That could have been me.”

Those are terrifying words when uttered in relation to a morbidly hatred act.

I learned of the shooting the morning after my niece’s wedding. I had just woken up in a hotel room, my mother beside me in my bed and my two young nephews sleeping in the other bed, and I turned on my phone. I read the headlines news of that morning and sat in stunned silence as my mind took in the unbelievable words I had just read. I listened to the steady breath of my loved ones, sleeping safely in the room with me, yet I still felt so afraid.

My mind turned to the night before, a joyous occasion, and I struggled to imagine that while I was dancing and laughing and drinking, there were people, half my age, thousands of miles away from me, who were only minutes away from taking their last breath while doing something I had done hundreds of times before – dancing, laughing, having fun at a gay bar.

A little while later, my 11 year old niece came into my hotel room from her own, and when she heard the news on the TV reporting that 50 people were killed, her eyes opened wide and she asked me why someone would do that.

One of the most difficult consequences of hate-filled murder is trying to explain the act to children. I couldn’t answer my niece’s question because I don’t know how a person hates so much to kill innocent people. All I could do was hug my young niece. Assure her she was safe.

The same niece, days later, would overhear me on the phone talking to a friend about going to a gay bar the following weekend (because gay people aren’t going to hide in fear) and she cried out for me not go. “Gay people are being killed Auntie! Don’t go!”

She had heard the reports of the man who was arrested while heading to the L.A. Pride Parade the Sunday following the shooting, with guns in his car, looking to do more harm to gay people.  I assured my niece I wouldn’t go to a gay bar this weekend, however my city’s Pride Parade is next weekend, and I’m planning on being there.

I don’t know what happens from here. If six-year old’s can be gunned down in their Kindergarten class, no one is safe. I don’t know when or where the next shooting is going to take place, or who the target will be this time, but I do know that another mass shooting will happen again.

That, I know for certain. That past assures me of this.

While we wait for our country’s leaders to finally do something about our much too-easy access to high-powered, high-killing guns, we cross our fingers that it’s not us, or our loved ones, caught in the next horrifying headline news that results in moments of silence and American flags ordered at half staff.

 

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Photo Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Things…

Today was the epitome of what a spring day should be, and it was about time because only a few short weeks ago there was snow on the ground. But this morning, as I walked my dog underneath the warm sunshine, I watched birds flap their wings boldly as they flew in the sky, and listened to them chirp their soothing sounds. I love listening to birds sing. For me, the sound is the first proof that winter is finally coming to an end and the days will soon be getting longer. 

I took a moment to appreciate that not only was I physically well enough to take my dog for a walk outside, but also, that I was able to hear and see all the beauties of the day. Ever since I had read an article written by a young man who had lost his sense of taste after suffering a nasty cold, I have imagined what living would be like without other senses. 

When people are asked about our five senses, the ones that people probably consider the most are hearing and seeing. I remember as a child watching a blind woman in my grandmother’s neighborhood walking by herself, up and down the streets, with only a stick to guide her. I was amazed and when I asked me grandma about it, she very causally responded that the woman walks by herself outside all the time. Everywhere.

I have been in public places where I’ve watched hearing impaired people communicate through sign language, and of course, before most any TV show or sporting broadcast, a voice instructs the audience of the option available to select for the hearing impaired.

Also, I’ve seen many movies and TV shows that have included characters who are either deaf or blind, so I have many times considered what it would be like to be deaf or blind. Yet, I don’t remember ever contemplating how life would be if I lost my sense of taste, but since reading that article, I think about that possibility all the time.

Losing one’s sense of taste may not seem so life-changing as compared to the thought of losing one’s sight or hearing, and that may be true. But food is a big part of people’s lives. Not only is it needed to stay alive, but people often feel an identity by the food they eat as being part of their culture.

The man in the article described eating with no sense of taste as being the same as chewing a piece of gum that has lost its flavor.  Basically, when the gum starts to taste like rubber. This is how this man’s food now tastes to him–all the time. Like rubber.  There is no getting a fresh piece of gum for him any longer. Everything he puts in his mouth has the same bland, dull taste.

The food he eats will no longer satisfy any craving he may have. His taste buds have deceived him. About a month ago, I was watching a movie about the Australian band, INXS. I learned that lead singer, Michael Hutchence, had lost not only his sense of taste, but his sense of smell, as well, after a confrontation with a cab driver that left Hutchence on the ground with a banged up head. Hutchence would take his own life years later.

As I walked my dog this morning, I took a moment to appreciate the ability to take in the scene in every way possible. I could see the gorgeous blue sky with its white fluffy scattered clouds. I heard the birds sing, as well as the roar of lawnmowers, and smelled the earthy scent of freshly cut grass. All of this combined, helped to bring out the true beauty of that day.

I may never realize the feeling of flying in my own private jet, or  having more money than I know what to do with, but today I am grateful to have all of my senses.

Sometimes, it truly are the little things that matter in life.