You were the spice of life, the gin in my vermouth

I'm having a little bit of trouble coming down from my awesome Friday night Elvis Costello experience. I promise not to dwell on him too much, but the whole thing has got me thinking about the past.

I've been an Elvis fan for 16 years. That seems like an awfully long time but I guess it's not as long as it could be. His first album came out when I was 19 days old...

As a teenager did you ever imagine what you would do when you were older? When I was 15 or so I figured my life would be perfect if I could have my very own car with a CD player so I could listen to Elvis as much and as loud as I wanted. Really that's about where the dream ended. I figured if I had that (and a job that paid enough for me to buy the car) I would be set. I do have that now and it is pretty sweet. It just sometimes weirds me out that that was as far as my ambitions went. I guess I should cut the fifteen-year-old me some slack. My list of priorities were pretty limited at the time.

So now we go to the audience. When you were younger, what was the one thing you thought would make your life complete? Did you ever get it? No need to get too philosophical here. It could be as dorky as a car (like me). I just want to find out if I was the only person who was this shallow.

And I promise, no Elvis tomorrow.


Mission accomplished!

Today has been about the luckiest day ever for me. I should have bought a lottery ticket but the luckiness of the whole day wasn't evident until just recently.

I left early for the Elvis Costello concert tonight and got up to Dayton around 6. There I met a woman who was also waiting to get an autograph. We had a great conversation and it really made the time fly. It was good that we had fun talking, though, because we weren't getting any autographs. We did get to pet Emmylou Harris' dog but that's a long story without much of a payoff. Just believe me when I say I met her dog.

Right before 8 I headed in for the concert. It's good I did, too, because the show started promptly and there was no opening act. Elvis just came onstage and tore through half a dozen classics before anyone knew what hit them.

Now here's a good part. I thought I had tickets in the pavilion area but not particularly close. I was just happy to be there so it didn't worry me. When I tried to find my seat, however, I was totally confused. I had to ask an usher who told me that my seats weren't way back here, they were in the ninth row - dead center. I think the ninth row is about perfect for an EC show. You're close enough to see all the wacky facial expressions but far enough away to be safe from the showers of spit that he rains down on the audience. That dude is a spitter.

Jeff arrived a little late and found that I was already in my happy place. I just had a huge grin on my face as Elvis went through his set. There aren't many places I'd rather be in this world than an Elvis Costello concert.

After the first few songs, Elvis introduced Emmylou. She was great to see and her guitarist guy was awesome but the whole show started to take a little bit more of a turn for the country than I would have preferred. It also doesn't help that I'm not very familiar with her work. They did play a lot of old covers and some bluegrassy stuff, though, so I didn't feel totally out of my element. Those kinds of songs tap deep into some sort of early childhood musical background I have and sound comfortingly familiar. Overall it was nice, I just wish it had rocked a little more and twanged a little less.

After the show I made my second attempt at an autograph. Jeff and I hung out near the stage until they kicked us out. Outside we found a group of people standing on a corner near Elvis' bus. Jeff hung out with me for awhile but he is driving up to New York tonight so he had to leave. Just a few minutes later, the man himself appeared.

Elvis was super nice and signed autographs for everyone. Some people just wanted to talk or shake his hand and he was cool with that, too. I'm sure it helped that the crowd was very polite and kept thanking him for taking the time to do this. I finally got my chance and handed him my iPod. He said "What's this?" and I explained how my iPod had one of his lyrics engraved on the back. His wingman turned on a flashlight so he could read it. He seemed pretty impressed and said "They never told me they could do that." Too bad Elvis, too bad.

So my iPod was the envy of the autograph crowd and I stood around listening to him answer questions and talk about his wife's Christmas album. There were good vibes all around. The whole thing was over very quickly and even now it's starting to seem like a blur. The concert ended at 11 and I was in my car by 11:40. This guy is all about promptness.

So here's what my iPod looks like now. I will treasure it forever.

Finally, I have a few more thoughts about the concert. The show started at 8 and ran until 11 with only one short encore break. It was amazing. Not wonder the guy's throat has been giving him problems. I don't think I've ever been to a show where the headliner did a three hour set. He had this little spray bottle of stuff that he kept shooting into the back of his throat. It looked uncomfortable. He sounded great, though.

Favorite songs: "American Without Tears" "Uncomplicated" and "Waiting for the End of the World"

Unsurprising fact: Elvis also played both "Pump It Up" and "What's So Funny ('bout Peace, Love and Understanding)" It figures.

So what else made my day so lucky? I went to get my plates renewed and figured it would be packed since it was the end of the month. I walked in and was helped immediately. The whole process took five minutes. I should have known that that was a sign of good things to come!


Welcome to the Rust Ranch

My friend Melissa got her very own blog yesterday so I thought I'd say welcome to the neighborhood! She is awesome so I'm sure her blog will be, too (no pressure). You can visit her here or go to the permanent link over there on the right. She's new and impressionable so be nice.


Underrated: Elvis Costello

In honor of the Elvis Costello concert I'm going to tomorrow, I thought I'd offer a list of his most underrated songs. Many of his tunes like "Beyond Belief" are required listening in my book but there are some gems out there that often get lost in his ample discography. Here are a few that are worth the extra effort to check out:

  • Less Then Zero (My Aim is True, 1977) This was the song that never got played on Saturday Night Live. A few bars in, Elvis stopped the music and played "Radio, Radio" instead. But any song with a line about "trading in your baby for a Chevrolet" is good in my book.
  • Running Out of Angels (This Year's Model, 1978) "Running Out of Angels" is actually a bonus track included on the 1993 reissue of this album so you can't go to the original for this one. It's a funny studio outtake that features Elvis and an acoustic guitar. After singing half of the first verse, he blows a high note, apologizes and starts the whole song again. I love demos that provide a stripped down version of a song, and the restart makes this one especially endearing.
  • New Lace Sleeves (Trust, 1981) Trust was a commercial bomb in 1981 but today it's one of my favorite Costello albums. "New Lace Sleeves" is filled with witty lyrics sung longingly which means I automatically love it: "Oh I know they've got their problems, I wish I was one of them."
  • Human Hands (Imperial Bedroom, 1982) Imperial Bedroom is filled with layers of music that seemed to go everywhere at once and "Human Hands" is no different. The syncopated piano holds everything together and instruments seem to fly in from every direction. Once again, though, the great lyrics are not be missed.
  • Sleep of the Just (King of America, 1986) A sentimental ballad with an angry edge closes out what is perhaps the most underrated of Costello's albums. The whole thing feels loose and sparse and a little bit country. This song is no exception.
  • Poor Napoleon (Blood & Chocolate, 1986) Elvis described the album this way: "This is us truthfully, we're thirty-two, a couple of us have got divorced, we're pissed off, and we've taken all the drugs and we've done all that stuff and we're still alive, and this is what we sound like. And you know what? We're much better at it now." That about sums it up. This album also credited Costello as Napoleon Dynamite, years before Mormons made it cool. "Poor Napoleon" is a bass-driven, mid-tempo ballad about a relationship falling apart. It's filled with that bitterness I love so much.
  • God's Comic (Spike, 1989) Perhaps the strangest song on Spike, this jazzy tune shows us man from god's point of view: "I've been wading through all this unbelievable junk and wondering if I should have given the world to the monkeys." The multiple vocal tracks on the chorus blew my twelve-year-old mind when I bought this album and it's still worth a listen.
  • Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4 (Mighty Like a Rose, 1991) As a rule I like any song that has a banjo in it. I'm not sure why, but I just do. If you listen hard to "Couldn't Call it Unexpected" you'll hear a banjo among the piano and drums. This one is a concert favorite of mine because he often sings it without a microphone - just getting all operatic on your ass.
  • All The Rage (Brutal Youth, 1994) With a jangly '60s guitar this song starts out sounding like it might be the feel good song of the summer. But then the lyrics kick in. Oh, the lyrics! The music may sound happy but Elvis is oh so angry and by now you know I love it when Elvis is angry.
  • My Little Blue Window (When I Was Cruel, 2002) Here's a note to future wives of Elvis Costello: When he starts writing songs about how much he loves you or how only you could save him, it's time to find a good divorce lawyer because he's gonna leave you. When I Was Cruel is filled with such songs and poof! We're on to wife number 3 (see also, Imperial Bedroom). Anyway, "Blue Window" is a sweet little song about maybe not being so gloomy or angry and I love it anyway.

And now I have to mention two songs that I don't care if I ever hear again. I've been to enough sporting events to have gotten my lifetime fill of hearing "Pump It Up." Enough already! The same goes for "What's So Funny ('bout Peace, Love and Understanding)." Something compels Elvis to play this tune every time he's on national t.v. and I'm just really tired of hearing it. He'll probably play it tomorrow night, too. I know, it's catchy and people like it but not me and that should count for something!


I can't feel a thing

I went to the dentist this morning. Since I'm a bad flosser, this was no ordinary cleaning trip. I needed some fillings.

I got to the office and the sat me in the reclining chair and I began my death grip on the armrests. Ever since I had a botched root canal a couple years ago I've become a nervous patient. It doesn't help that it usually takes more novocaine and more time to get my mouth numb than the dentist is used to. Dentists are always trying to get started with that drill while I can still feel stuff.

After several shots and a lot of drilling I was finally done. I usually just like to go home, take a nap and try to forget about the horrors of the dentist but Tippy wanted to go out. It was the first cool day in ages so I figured I owed him that. As I bent down to put on his collar he let out an annoyed whine and I figured he was just upset about having to get his collar put on him. When I was done, though, I looked down and there on his face was a small dollop of drool. I drooled on my cat and I never even felt it!

I wiped off the drool and sent Tippy outside. Really, he didn't seem to mind it that much.


The mission continues

This Friday I have tickets to see Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris up in Dayton. I've never been to Fraze pavilion but I'm going to see if I can finally get my iPod autographed. As most of you know, I originally had hoped to track Elvis down when he came to the Taft Theatre in May. That show got canceled so now I have to move on to Plan B.

I have Friday off so I'll be able to get up there early. I really don't know how I'm going to do this. I just figure I'll nose around and see what happens. I've never been much of an autograph hound but this process has taken too much effort to give up now.


I bought the new David Gray single from iTunes today and it immediately started bothering me. The melody sounded oddly familiar but I couldn't quite place it. I finally decided it was a Bruce Springsteen song and did a little searching. Then I figured it out - it's "Brilliant Disguise." I'm mean it's no exact copy but you can probably sing Springsteen's lyrics to Gray's tune.

O.k., I just watched the accompanying video and even David Gray admitted it sounds like Springsteen. So once again, I am right!


The flash

I got a call yesterday at 10 a.m. It was my friend Nancy and she told me she had a layover in Cincinnati on her flight from Lansing to NYC. It was a whole hour!

Luckily, I only live a few minutes from the airport so I decided to meet her. By the time she got out of the concourse we had just enough time to get in line to go back through security. We stood in line and talked until we got to the point where they were checking boarding passes. It was probably a total of about 5 minutes.

Nancy likes an adventure and it was fun to see her even for a few minutes. It also gave me the chance to give her a mix CD. The whole thing was annoying, though, because before 9/11 I would have been able to meet her at the gate. Stupid terrorists ruin everything!


I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I was going to wait to post about The National but I couldn't. Here's what you need to do:

(1) Go to your local record store.

(2) Buy Alligator by The National in a format that can be played in your car.

(3) Play said album in car as you drive around at night.

(4) Smile!

I've read quite a few things from people who said that this was their favorite album of the year, and after just one day of listening to it, I'm starting to agree. The lyrics are great and the music reminds me a little of Interpol with a more homemade sound. Does that make sense?

Just go out and buy the damn album, you'll like it. If you really must check them out first, you can go to their website and listen to a stream of the album. The quality's not great, though. I didn't really appreciate it until I got the CD for myself.


Hailing from the land of beer, bourbon, and frustration

I got the title of this post from a piece in the Village Voice about the band I'm going to see this Saturday. The Heartless Bastards are from our very own Cincinnati, but have been getting a ton of national press lately. I'm going to see them at Alchemize so I can go on and on about how I saw them in a little club before they made it big. Also, their music's good.

The lead singer, Erika Wennerstrom, has vocal stylings that have been compared to Robert Plant and Janis Joplin. To me they sound like the Kings of Leon with a female lead singer. Erika also used to be a bartender at the Northside Tavern - a bar forever known to my friends and me as the place where Reid ate a live cicada.

Also playing on the Saturday bill is Staggering Statistics. I saw them at the MidPoint Music Fest last year and they were awesome. They kind of sound like Pearl Jam covering The Byrds.

Staggering Statistics greatest claim to fame is probably their bass player, John Curley. He used to be the bass player for the Afghan Whigs and he still does all kinds of musical stuff in Cincinnati. I love him because he plays a Rickenbacker bass and we all know how awesome those things sound.

So I'm looking forward to a rockin' weekend! We're also going to a Reds game but hope has dwindled for our once mighty Big Red Machine. Save us Pete Rose!

I also got the new CD from The National. I'll have more on that later...


And a dollar short

I know I'm WAAAY late on this, but have you heard the album 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields? I got volume three from the library and I really loved it. I'm going to see if I can track down the other two CD's as well. All the songs are different. Some are fun and some are sad and it's just a great musical journey.


There's blood in my mouth 'cause I've been biting my tongue all week

Finished! I'm surprised but it really didn't take that long to read the new Harry Potter book. I got home about 12:30 a.m. Saturday and read until a little after 3 a.m. I woke up at 11, made some coffee and read pretty much straight through until 9 p.m. when I finished it. Tippy used the time to take naps on my lap and I tried to walk around every s often so blood clots wouldn't form in my legs. Wouldn't it be awful to just finish reading Harry Potter only to die of a brain hemorrhage from a stray blood clot? I bet J.K. Rowling would come to your funeral, though.

So I really liked the new book but I haven't been able to talk with anyone about it. They're all just starting to read it now so I have to sit on all my valuable knowledge. I've only mentioned that there is a lot of making out in the new book. Those kids are 16 so I guess it's about time they got their game on.

One final Potter comment. When I got my book Friday, Barnes and Noble gave me a free colored wristband. You know those ones that are everywhere now like the Lance Armstrong "Livestrong" bands? Well this one is green and has an owl with the date July 16, 2005. I've been consciously avoiding the wristband craze ... up until now.

Want to support cancer victims? No thanks!
How about Parkinson's? Nah.
Goodwill? I'll Pass.
Harry Potter? Hell yeah, where do I sign up?

The worst part was I must have looked at a calendar four times yesterday to figure out what day it was. It was the only time my wristband would ever be useful and I completely forgot about it.


Cho Chang!

In mere hours I will be in possession of a copy of the new Harry Potter book! I know the hype is out of control on this whole thing but those books are fun, fun, fun. I plan to spend the rest of my weekend making my through the book and I'm a pretty slow reader so it'll probably take me the whole time to finish. I promise to post when I'm done, though.


My mom doesn't speak cat

So Kelly wants to know how Tippy enjoyed his trip to Milwaukee. I think he had a fair time of things, but first I should give you a little background on him.

Tippy was born under a shed at my grandmother's neighbor's house in Red Oak, Iowa. His mother was a stray with a gimpy leg and a generally homely look.

That's her in the foreground. Tippy had two sisters who beat up on him all the time. He learned to only fight back when they were sleeping so he could mount a sneak attack.

As he and his siblings grew up, my grandmother had them all spayed and neutered (per Bob Barker's request) and found a farm for them to live at. She checked back a couple of weeks later and found that while the girls were doing well, a neutered boy cat didn't stand much of a chance on a farm surrounded by dominant virile male cats. She took pity on the poor Tipster (who was always a favorite) and took him home. There he discovered the joys of plush carpeting and central air and dedicated himself to a life of luxury.

The only problem occurred when my grandparents went to Arizona for the winter. They had a condo in a complex that didn't allow animals so Tippy spent the winters with my aunt and uncle in Fulton, Missouri.

Things worked well for a couple of years until my aunt and uncle decided to move to their own condo in St. Louis. They were traveling more and my grandmother didn't want them to have to also watch a cat.

Tippy needed a home.

I'd never had a cat before but I felt it was important to keep Tipparoo in the family, so I offered to take him. I lived in Nevada City, California at the time, though. My grandmother sprang for the flight to St. Louis and I came back to Cali with one very confused (and slightly sedated) cat. He quickly learned to love the California life and we lived out west for a year and a half.

Then I got the job in Cincinnati. My mom and I spent four days driving across the country with a cat in the back seat of my car. He had a nice set up and pretty much stopped meowing after the first day. I think he had resigned himself to a life of hotel rooms when I finally got an apartment.

So I've lived in Cincy for two years now and Tippy has learned to love that, too. Last year, though, I was going up to Milwaukee to visit my parents. My grandmother was going to be there, too, and I thought she might like to see her long lost cat. So once again I threw Tip in the back seat and we headed north. By then he'd learned that meowing doesn't make the trip go any faster and now he's pretty used to the whole thing.

I think Tippy likes my parents' house. It's much bigger than my place and it has lots of beds to hide under. He also loves unfinished basements with cobwebs and spiders and my parents' house has that, too. He usually gets more attention during the few days we're visiting than he gets in a whole year at home.

This trip was the first time I'd actually left him alone with my parents for any significant amount of time. After the first day he finally crawled out from under the bed to see if anyone was around. He spent the rest of the time meowing at my mom for no apparent reason.

But Tippy's meows always have a reason. He's either hungry or he wants to go outside.

It seems that most of the time at my parents he was hungry. So like a dateless girl on a Saturday night, Tippy turned much of his attention to his meager allotment of food. He probably would have appreciated some fine Wisconsin cheeses but he was left with his usual Science Diet Lite cat food.

When I finally got back to Milwaukee, Tip was less than thrilled by my return (as cats are wont to do). He merely meowed at me as well, hoping to scam an extra serving of food.

That's really all he cares about.

So the next day we headed home for another of our regular car trips. He gets the entire back seat, complete with a cat bed and a travel litter box. Usually he just crawls under a blanket and hides there for the next seven hours and that's what he did this time, too. I think that after years of traveling around the country he knows that as long as he has his food and his beloved litter box everything will be o.k.


Killing me softly

Have I mentioned that I'm really starting to love Brandon Flowers from The Killers? He's not British but he seems ever so sad. I also love that he's a Mormon who isn't afraid to wear some lip gloss and eyeliner. I can't stop watching the "Mr. Brightside" video and staring and his beautiful shiny lips.


From the land of sky blue waters

I know you guys are all just dying to know about my trip. The public outcry for an update has been overwhelming. So here goes.

First, I went to Milwaukee where I hung out with my parents, brother and sister-in-law. We went to a Brewers game and celebrated our nation's birthday with peach margaritas.

The day before, I celebrated my own birthday with cheesecake. I also got a digital camera so let the photos begin!

On the 5th, I made the nine hour journey to Park Rapids, Minnesota. Much of the drive looked like this:

It seems like Minnesota has about 10,000 lakes or something.

My friend Josh has been spending the summer at his parents cabin near Park Rapids. He's having a Walden experience except it's with more copy editing. On the 6th he worked on a story while I listened to my iPod on the dock. It's not a bad way to spend the day.

While Josh was doing this, my view looked more like this:


On Thursday we headed to Fargo, North Dakota. On the way we went tubing on the Otter Tail river. I don't have any photos because I didn't want the camera to get wet. Let's just say that any trip where you get a free inner tube for your cooler makes for a wonderful day.

Later we had dinner with Josh's family in Fargo. Don't they look great?

Afterwards I got the full Fargo tour. Getting tours of my friends' hometowns is one of my favorite things to do. It's cool to see the sites of all their youthful exploits.

About the time I stopped being amazed every time I saw a car with North Dakota plates, we headed back to the cabin. I finally got a ride on the much balleyhooed pontoon boat. After a couple of drinks at Zorbaz, I was satisfied that I'd had the full cabin experience and could safely return to Cincinnati tanned and relaxed. We laughed, we cried (well, not really), we had margaritas and we discussed the looming end to life as we know it. What more do you need?

So there it is in a nutshell. Ten days, seven states and 2121 miles in all. I rocked the Northwoods!


The more you know, the more you grow

I've made it back to Milwaukee after my road trip through the great north woods of Minnesota and I've come back a little wiser. Here are some things I learned:

  • A well-managed balance of sugar and caffeine is really the key to long distance driving.
  • Always bring your swimsuit - everywhere!
  • Wisconsin drivers should really look into that cruise control thing they have on their car. It can be very handy!
  • One word for the new Coldplay album, "overproduced."
  • When tubing on a river your constant mantra should be "asses up."
  • Minneapolis' radio station 89.3 The Current is perhaps the greatest on the planet. Seriously, check it out.
  • Fargo, North Dakota smells like Iowa.
  • Don't eat the guacamole at Campaneros, the salsa's not great either. In fact you should just stick to the margaritas.
  • Maggie's new mix CD is excellent to listen to while driving through corn fields.
  • Penguins are merely a figment of our imagination.
So I'm driving back from Brew City today and I promise there will be pictures and more stories soon. It will be worth the wait.