Wednesday, May 18, 2011

dancin in the dark

At a Paul Simon concert in Toronto on May 7th, fan Rayna Ford screamed out a request for the song "Duncan," calling out that she had learned to play the guitar on the tune. Paul heard her and pulled her up on stage to have her sing the song. I dare you to watch this and not choke up a little:

Thanks to Sammy Jane Allison for linking me to this great story about it on NPR.

You can feel the soaring joy and trembling disbelief as she straps Paul's guitar on and starts strumming along. She finds her rhythm as she goes, but her performance punctuated with irrepressible moments of giddy gratitude. She can't believe it. Paul Simon is watching her play "Duncan." She brings the house down with tears streaming down her face.

It's hard not to imagine yourself in the same position. Admit it. You've been fantasizing over it ever since the first time you saw Bruce Springsteen pull Courteney Cox onstage in the "Dancing in the Dark" video.

How impossibly young and gorgeous are they in this video??

It's so easy to imagine it. I'm a few rows back at a Lil Wayne concert, wired on sheer excitement and squinting through the plumes of smoke issuing out of the fog machine. Between songs, I scream out SWIZZZZZZZYYYYY! PLAY SWIZZY! Weezy squints out at the audience with his hands shielding his eyes from the stage lights, wondering who has requested such a deep track--a true fan. He catches sight of me and grins, the rainbow of pulsing lights glinting off his grill. Out of nowhere, the helicopter-chop crescendo of the beginning of the track booms out of the wall of speakers. Weezy points at me and gestures for me to join him on stage, laughing. I point at myself (who, me?) and then laugh, shaking my head (no, I couldn't) as my friends push me up towards the stage.

I jump up on stage with the help of a few refrigerator-sized security guards. I give Weezy the most effortless hip-hop hand-clasp-then-hug greeting with a familiar smile and a wink, and then like magic a golden mic appears in my hand. I'm a little taller than Weezy, so I throw my arm around his shoulder, resting on his dreads, as I furiously spit the opening lines:

You know me I just be chillin in the Phantom
Listenin to opera
Gun is my bodyguard
Call it Kevin Costner

Weezy laughs in disbelief at my unexpectedly tight flow. He slugs me on the shoulder jovially to indicate his appreciation, mouthing the words as I rapid-fire spit them like I've been practicing for this every day of my life. (Which I definitely haven't.)

When I reach the final lines (WEEZY THE BEAST! KATIE THE MONSTER! And we're gone.), Weezy lifts his chain off of his neck and places it around mine. There are so many diamonds on it that it actually makes a soft bling blingbling sound. The crowd loses it, nearly knocking us backwards with their adoration. Weezy and I forget the encore and head straight to his bus to start working on my album.

Bonus: scroll up and watch Bruce and Courteney dance to "Swizzy."

Discussion Question::
Which musician would you most want to be pulled onstage by?

Friday, May 13, 2011

on the value of useless trinkets

I read an article today that filled me with total delight: What Your American Girl Doll Says About the Rest of Your Life. I don't necessarily agree with the conclusions of the article, but who cares. Let's talk about American Girl dolls.

I had a Samantha doll for whom I purchased Molly glasses. I didn't particularly connect with the Victorian orphan's story, but she had brown eyes and brown hair like me, so she was in.

I had a variety of little outfits for my nearsighted orphan: a beautiful pink striped party dress, a navy winter coat with a snow-white muff, a crisp white summertime sailor suit, a stiff cranberry Christmas dress, and even a delicate nightgown.

photos from this American Girl collecting website

I read the little accompanying Samantha books too. They weren't particularly memorable aside from Samantha's birthday party, an elaborate affair featuring petit fours and home-churned ice cream, the latter of which is befouled with salt by evil neighbor Eddie. Not cool, Eddie. Not cool.

God knows what amount of whining I had to pitch for my parents to actually buy me some of Samantha's accessories. Anyone who is not familiar with the American Girl doll collection could not possibly believe how overpriced and useless these little trinkets are. I had a tiny doll (a doll for my doll!) and a tiny music box and a little brass lunch tin with a tiny plastic watercress sandwich and peach and a tiny embroidered handkerchief. But what really tickled my mom and me were the useless little kits.

I had two of these useless little kits. The Summertime Amusements set came with a tiny sketchbook, a tiny paint set with tiny tubes of real paint and a tiny artist's palette, and a tiny pine satchet that says "I Pine for You." This photo doesn't give a sense of scale, but the sketchbook is about the size of a business card.

Early 90s retail cost: $22
You thought I was kidding, didn't you.

Even more tempting was Samantha's Gingerbread House Kit, which came with impossibly small gingerbread pieces, a few tiny pieces of candy, a miniature pastry tube, and instructions for making the icing and assembling the whole thing.

Early 90s retail cost: $15
accessory photos from this alarmingly comprehensive American Girl dolls wiki

I'd beg and beg my mom to let me get into these kits and, I don't know, paint a teeny tiny picture in the sketchbook or (let's be real here) eat all of the stale component parts of the gingerbread house when my hammy little hands inevitably proved unable to assemble the tiny thing.

My poor mother. This was her:

Samantha still holds a place of honor in my childhood bedroom, all snugged up with my favorite stuffed snow leopard and a plastic Betty Boop doll who, characteristically, can't seem to keep her dress on. I guarantee that my mother could still put her hands on the still-pristine Summertime Amusements or Gingerbread Kit in five minutes flat if given the task. Guess whether or not she'd led me get into the kits if I asked her today.

So you can imagine my despair when I learned today that Samantha has been retired. Aw hell naw. But I am feeling grateful that my mom never let me tear into Samantha's accessories--I'll sell them on eBay one day to put my kids through college. Maybe it's time for a trip to Georgia, aka Doll Mecca, to visit Babyland General Hospital and then the American Girl Boutique and Bistro. Samantha can have a plastic watercress sandwich and get her hair did.

PS I have two relevant links to share: one which shares my sentiments exactly (and even makes a salty ice cream reference) and the first of eight YouTube videos of Samantha's movie, which I bet you never knew existed. In case you're wondering, yes, she does wear that sick signature checked dress in the very first scene.

Discussion Question: What overpriced silly stuff did you have as a kid?

Monday, May 2, 2011

they should arrest you and whoever dressed you

I started drinking at the crack of dawn last Friday. Against all better judgment and reason, I invited my girlfriends over to watch the royal wedding and drink champagne before work. Jess and Helen turned up right on time at 5am, only a little disoriented. Julia arrived in her bathrobe and a party hat. We had grits casserole, biscuits, berries, and at least Kate Middleton's weight in champagne.

We modified a variety of royal drinking game rules I found online to suit our purposes. We remembered Diana at every mention of her name with a MAY SHE REST (and a drink), and honored Her Majesty the Queen's presence on screen by drinking continuously.

The wedding party looked more perfect than dolls. But if you looked past the heirloom jewels and the endless rows of military medals, you could see that William and Kate really are two people in love. And that's pretty special, no matter what. I didn't expect myself to get so emotional when they exchanged vows.

We oohed, we ahhed.

We laughed, we cried.

And then, somehow, we went to work.

As for my favorite moment, well, it's between

"You look beautiful."


Discussion Question:
pssh you know what we're here to talk about. ROYAL WEDDING DISH you know you have a lot of feelings

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Things I must begrudgingly admit I like about Boston

taken out of context I must seem so strange

Winter is ostensibly over here in Boston (although don't tell the winter coat I'm continuing to wear most days), so my homicidal winter madness has subsided temporarily. After a winter so insane that the snow had to be measured in Shaquille O'Neals, every bud, blossom, and shoot is an impossible miracle.

My skepticism about living in Boston is well documented. Very well documented. The 30 Rock episode where they go to Boston for a week in January ("Winter Madness" S04E11)--particularly the experience of native Southerner Kenneth--pretty much sums up my dominant feelings about this place.

And let's face it. I don't really fit in here. People have a hard time understanding my accent. Yesterday, when attempting to order a blueberry ale, the waiter helplessly asked me to repeat myself over and over again, asking, "Blueberry aioli?"

I never realized that my daily habits were so redneck until I moved to Cambridge. I live in an apartment complex with dozens of units, but we are the only residents who ever use the small common yard out front. I can often be found out front working on craft projects like Tanie's space shirts or assembling our many dozens of pieces of IKEA furniture in my overalls from the Fairview Tractor Supply Company. Nick and I also like to sit in our deluxe canopy camp chairs and read.

just LOOK at those rainbow glow-in-the-dark pony bead accents!!
I guess it goes without saying that this picture was not taken in Boston.

The neighbors walk by and they're all

It seems like something happens every day that makes me feel like an alien. Facebook friends of mine know all about my considerable distress about the difference in Southern and New England traditions--in my world, a white elephant exchange is not called a yankee swap and people not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day get pinched.

Even the smallest things are different. I started noticing recently that every monetary transaction I experience up here ends with the cashier informing me that I'm "all set." This is not an unusual thing to say at all, until you realize that every cashier says it every single time without fail. A quick Googlin' informed me that this is, in fact, a Boston tic.

But despite the cultural differences and the winter (oh lord, the winter), I have to admit that I'm coming around to a few things about Boston. Since I hate being such a Negative Nancy about New England all the time, I thought I should fess up to the things I've started to like.


They put fresh blueberries in it!!

from LittleBill's flickr


All the beer and shouting--it feels like home!


Glistening water and athletic rich people rowing crew--what's not to love?


Seagulls scream at you on your way to work. You can almost smell the salt air. You can drive up to New Hampshiah and eat lobsters that mere hours before had been minding their own business in the ocean.

from Ken-ichi's flickr


Boston's Little Italy. They've got the best Italian food this side of Trastevere. There is magic in the air. And garlic.

from bradunc01's flickr


It's no Bourbon Street, but there are drunk Harvardians! And Christmas lights!


There's a swank restaurant at the top of the 52 story Prudential Center. The view is astonishing.

from Basically Boston's flickr

Julia and I had a boozy lunch there last weekend.

THAT is the face of a woman enjoying her life in Boston.

And finally, my favorite thing about living in Boston is


It's good for you. It reminds you who you really are underneath it all.

Discussion Question:
Tell me about a time you've been out of context.