Friday, February 27, 2009

Accomplishment #29: Learn About Safe Sex (#40)

*giggle* Ohmigaaawd! *giggle*

Okay, let's face it. I am way past the age of learning about safe sex. That was something that actually did happen by the time I graduated from high school, which really was an Accomplishment. It would be, like, awesome for you guys and the blog if I had some sort of Afterschool Special Worthy Life Lesson to share, like, if I was like Dana Plato and got knocked up with Rob Lowe's baby at summer camp, but nope. Didn't happen.

Best Afterschool Special EVER.

I also came of age when AIDS was coming into collective consciousness. I remember reading about this new, scary disease in Time Magazine in our high school library. As I read the list of symptoms, I was sure I had it, despite the fact that I was a virgin and had never had a blood transfusion, shot up drugs, or had gone to a bathhouse where, apparently, that's where the disease was rampant. (I was sort of a drama-prone hypochondriac as a teen. I was also sure I had malaria at one point, and any disease that was written about in People Magazine where only less than 1% of the population was affected.) While vaguely horrifying Sex Ed classes had always preached about condoms, they had something else to add to their litany of warnings: unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and death. We were all made very aware of the consequences, even if not every teenager was paying attention.

I didn't have to worry too much -- it's not like I was exactly a teen vixen, and I had a tendency to have crushes on gay boys who wore more eyeliner than I did with ratted-out bangs. (It was the 80's. Sigh.) And even more scary than getting pregnant or driving drunk or failing a class was getting in trouble with my dad (though, huh, that happened a lot, but for much minor offenses), so I didn't step over the line. Too much, anyway.

Having to talk candidly with my parents about anything in those days was, like, thee most mortifying thing ever. Even if one of them asked me, "Oh, who is this band?" trying to make conversation with me, I'd cringe. I figured that they'd only had sex three times to have me and my two sisters, and didn't want to think about it any more than that. (And yeah, I still don't.) Of course, later on I realized just how amazing and cool my parents were, but as a teenager I just thought they were the biggest dorks in the universe who just didn't get it. GAAAAWD.

So we didn't really have any "Our Bodies Ourselves" moments in our house. No sitting around the kitchen table with my mom while drinking tea, chatting about sex and douches or anything else like that. Everything I knew about sex came from Judy Blume (remember, page 81 in Forever) or Flowers in the Attic (real healthy), those mortifying Sex Ed classes where nearly everyone looked down at their binders or at the diagrams on the board but not one another, and listening to my friends who were, like "doing it" talk about it. ("You WHAT??? Nuh uh!!! Gross!")

Ohhh, Ralph.

But my poor mom, bless her heart, she tried. Right before I was going away to college, I was sprawled on the couch watching Dialing for Dollars (that's pretty much all I ever watched back then) when she came in and sat down. "Honey, I want to to talk to you about something..." she said.

I knew. I thought I had avoided the Bird and the Bees Talk, but I knew. This was IT.

""Yeah?" I said. Oh God, oh no, don't do it, Mom...

"There will be some, um, things that will happen now that you're leaving home... Things involving boys --"

"IT'S OKAY MOM," I said, a little too loud. "YOU TOTALLY DON'T HAVE TO TELL ME, I KNOW, I GET IT..."

"But Karen," she said. "I just want you to be sure you know how to handle things and be prepared --"


And I don't think she did, either, because we both kind of said, "well then, okay," and she went off and I went back to Dialing for Dollars.

So since I'm not exactly well-versed in how to deliver a truly good Birds and Bees and Safe Sex lecture, I will leave that PSA for Rascal Rapper, the Blueberry Condom:

I may be making light of it because I'm not a statistic, but I know plenty of people who are. Unfortunately, some of those gay boys I loved way back when have or have died of AIDS. My best friend in ninth grade got pregnant and dropped out our junior year. I've spent enough time in Planned Parenthood waiting rooms, conscious of the consequences of unsafe sex around me. So no, it's not funny.

But then again, I know I could never demonstrate putting a condom on a banana because I would totally die of laughter. But that's because I'm totally immature.


*giggle* Ohmigaaawd! *giggle*

Twenty-nine down, 68 to go.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Accomplishment #28: Cook a Three-Course Dinner (#30)

I'm not really a cook. I mean yeah, I can boil spaghetti noodles and dump a jar of sauce in a pot and 40% of the time it tastes decent, and I make a mean tuna noodle casserole with potato chips crushed on top. I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan and never let you forget that it's your turn to do the dishes. Sundays we have tacos, and I can warm up the tortillas in the microwave. I've even cooked two turkeys, though I managed to set a kitchen towel on fire on one of those occasions and lots of screaming and crying (and drinking) ensued.

So yeah. Julia Child I'm not.

But I sort of long to be, just like how I wish I could knit and cobble my own shoes. My friends will talk about how they made these dinners from Epicurious or whatever, with exotic ingredients and paired with the perfect wine, and I'll be befuddled as I try to remember what I ate the night before. (Something my boyfriend or a restaurant cooked, most likely.) Or I'll get all proud if I made chicken and the inside was cooked all the way through.

My friend Mimi claims she doesn't understand how anyone can be scared of cooking, but I'm here to tell you: I am. Not scared necessarily, but let's just say I'm always pleased when after I do cook something, no one gets sick and dies. That, to me, is a culinary triumph. Also I will buy cookbooks and then see some weird ingredient that is supposed to make something uber-fancy and I think, "Seriously? Pineapple and mango chutney over chicken? Why???" and then I figure I have the palate of an eight-year-old. (Which is probably true.) Plus -- I have been told by all my boyfriends that I am a fairly lousy cook. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but those words got me a pass out of the kitchen. I still make dinner, sure, and sometimes have an accompanying salad, but never anything terribly fancy or memorable.

So for this Accomplishment, I decided to challenge myself. Sure, I could make a three course dinner: salad from a bag, tuna noodle casserole with potato chips crushed on top and a freezer-burned popsicle. But no! It would be a nice meal, a belated Valentine's Day Feast. And so I wouldn't cheat, I would take pictures to chronicle the whole ordeal. And I was going to LOOK IN A COOKBOOK and pick something that I had never made before. Like the scariest thing of all:

SEAFOOD. And not Chicken of the Sea, either.

Seafood I am definitely scared of. I don't know how to tell if it flakes easily, and I always just think of The Simpsons when Homer ate the poisonous blowfish while Lisa and Bart karaoke "Shaft." It would be just my luck that I would make fish and it would turn out to be a baaaaad mother. (Just talkin' 'bout Shaft!) But this time, I was going to conquer my fears, and Jon agreed to be The Royal Food Taster. So I poured over my dusty cookbooks and picked Spring Greens with Radishes, Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts with made from scratch dressing (no help from Paul Newman for this girl!) for the first course, and Asian Style Sea Bass for the second.

what it was supposed to look like. what it was supposed to look like.
What they were supposed to look like.

Oh geez.

So armed with a list of stuff I didn't have on hand (sea bass, sesame oil, fresh ginger, walnuts, a shallot and a frozen pizza if it all went to hell), I went to the grocery store and marched right up to the seafood counter. "One pound of sea bass, please," I told Seafood Counter Man, hoping I sounded like someone who cooks sea bass on a regular basis.

He laughed like I was an idiot. "Um, no way," he said. "We don't carry it. It's thirty bucks a pound!"

Leave it to me to ask for the most trop cher seafood ever. (I may have the palate of an eight-year-old, but a spoiled one.) "Okay," I said, thinking fast and hoping I didn't come off like a total moron. "Give me the scallops." (Which, by the way, weren't cheap either.)

Once home, I did the first thing I believe every chef should do: don an apron. (And even better if it has cat heads all over it.)

3 course dinner
OMG, does this apron make my butt look big?

And then I set to work on the third course, BROWNIES. Okay, they were from a box, but people, the box was 99 cents and there's a recession on. And I added THREE eggs to make them cake-like, which is trying something new. So there.

3 course dinner 3 course dinner
Mmmm... brownie goodness. And the cook always gets to lick the spoon.

And then, because it was belated Valentine's Day and we weren't going to be eating dinner in front of the TV watching DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I set the table all purty.

3 course dinner
But no, I didn't iron the tablecloth. There's only so much I can handle.

And then I prepped the asparagus for roasting in the oven when the brownies were finished baking, snapping off the ends, drizzling it with olive oil and Maine sea salt and pepper:

3 course dinner
Yes, I need a new cookie sheet.

And then on to the scallops. I washed them to get the grit off, and cut up 3 scallions. Then regarded the ginger. I was pleased to find a little stump that had come off a big piece that cost a penny and looked to be just the right amount I'd need. But it also looked like a thumb. Peeling a thumb is super creepy, but it was all good.

3 course dinner 3 course dinner
Thumb size is the perfect amount. Remember that.

Then I took a square of foil and added the scallops, the scallions, the ginger, a tablespoon of reduced sodium soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, and sealed the tin foil in a package all tight.

3 course dinner
Shiny shiny

Meanwhile, I was boiling one inch of water in a skillet and as soon as it was bubbling, I plopped the packet in there and covered it, leaving it in there for 10 minutes. So I hurried and threw some instant rice on the stove (I know, but I don't have a rice cooker and it was ON SALE) which was perfectly timed, and started on the salad.

It was super easy -- 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (I didn't have any lemon zest because lemons were a dollar -- pffft -- but there was supposed to be 1/2 teaspoon, oh well), and two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of mustard powder. Mix all those up then add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallot. Then I added the greens and the radishes and tossed, and PEOPLE, I TOASTED THE WALNUTS:

3 course dinner

And yes, I burned some because I got carried away chopping the damn shallot, but enough were salvageable. And then I added low fat blue cheese and VOILA:

3 course dinner
Okay, so it doesn't look like the cookbook, but it still looked GOOD.

By then, the timer was going off and everything was ready at once and I felt like a chicken without a head. I uncovered the scallops and poked at them, but I couldn't tell so I just put them back on for another five minutes to be on the safe side. (Our stove is old and wonky anyway, so we always have to do that.) So I took the asparagus out of the oven and put it in the special Russel Wright asparagus dish, and it was toasted and crispy, just how we like it:

3 course dinner
Mmmm, tasty. And it makes your pee smell, too!

I got the rice ready, and then it came time for the scallops! I took them out of their packet, and drizzled the sauce from the foil and another tablespoon of soy sauce over them (and a bit of the sauce on the rice):

3 course dinner
What DO scallops look like in nature, anyway????

Ta da!

3 course dinner
Not bad, if I say so myself.

And a little mood music:
3 course dinner
I'll swing along with Sinatra, no matter how many courses.

Then Jon came home -- perfect timing -- and my three-course dinner earned five stars. Jon even said that it was the best salad he had ever eaten. It was even better than SALAD IN A BAG!

3 course dinner 3 course dinner
3 course dinner 3 course dinner
Look Ma! No leftovers!

And the third course was good, too:

3 course dinner
cake-like brownie with low-fat French vanilla ice cream.

So I'm happy to report that not only was my three-course dinner delicious, no one got sick and died as a result of eating it. Which, in itself was an Accomplishment. But the biggest Accomplishment was that I conquered my fear and preconceived notions that I can't cook, because I can. Which, in a way, kind of sucks because now I'm going to have to do this more often.

Julia Child, eat your heart out.

Twenty-eight down, 69 to go.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Accomplishment #27: Give Technology A Break (#6)

I'll admit, I was sort of late jumping on the whole internet bandwagon.

I had heard about this world wide web thing, and was sort of "meh." After all, I worked in a vintage store and didn't have a stick of new furniture in my apartment, except for an answering machine and microwave oven my dad got me -- the rest of my junk was thrifted or hand me downs, including the TV that needed bunny ears after the free cable got turned off. I was already bad at writing letters, so what would I do with this thing called "email"? And the dot-commers were simply ruining San Francisco. My friends who worked at them had office dogs and basketball courts in their meeting rooms and it all sounded a little fishy to me. I figured it was all just techno thing that I wouldn't be interested in, like Nintendo or something.

And then I heard about eBay. Hello, iMac!

So since the first week of 2000, I have been online. (In waited until the whole Y2K thing was over, because all those dot-commers told everyone it was the end of the world. And, well, there was a big sale.) I delighted in plugging in my Blueberry iMac, and getting my first email, and bidding on my first ebay auction. (And then the thrill was over when I lost my first ebay auction.) I played online solitaire and joined a few Yahoo groups. I "surfed the web." And, I admit, I Googled myself.

I was hooked.

Original Gidget
I was a regular Gidget of the web.

So in the past nine years, there have been very few days that I have been internet-less, and I constantly wonder what I did with my time before all this happened. My apartment was messy so I wasn't always cleaning, I had bunny ears on the TV so I wasn't watching, and I read a lot of books, sure, but I still do. Maybe I was going out and seeing friends more often, but now I have facebook for that. So was my life better back then? Was just having the basics more fun, or is life better now?

Now if I'm away from my computer for a few hours, I get antsy. Not that I have anything terribly import to attend to, but it's become a routine and a habit. I need to check my emails (thought most of them are SPAM), and OMG, what is everyone's status on facebook? Granted, most people just write things like, "So-and-so is drinking COFFEE!" and "So-and-so is going to work out!" but it's nice to feel connected. (My status updates aren't much better, BTW. And they've gotten a lot cleaner since my sweet aunt joined facebook, and I don't want her to tell my mom, "Karen's hungover AGAIN!") Same with Twitter, though since word economy is not my strong suit, I have a problem with the 140 characters. Oh, and the blogs, the wonderful blogs...

But sometimes, as I do in my regular life, I feel like I'm stretched too thin with what's going on the web world, and get overwhelmed. I get behind in the wonderful world of Flickr, and God knows I wish I could update my blog every day, but I just wind up playing Lexulous. (I really, really love Lexulous.) Yet the thought of avoiding the internet makes me anxious. It's become a huge part of my life. It's kind of like soap -- you can live without it, but boy, I sure don't want to.

I knew this Accomplishment was going to be tough. So when my friend decided to get a group together for a weekend to go to Tahoe, I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to test myself.

Now, the book says that you have to shut off all technology -- no music, cameras, cell phones, TV, OR computer. Now, that's a little much, and impossible to go cold turkey. This is not the Sierras and Lake Tahoe of the Donner Party -- we were going to drive in a car to a cabin, not take a covered wagon to a homestead. (And, um, eat food from Safeway. Not Aunt Millie.) So giving up the music part was out, and so was the camera -- I had to take incriminating photos of the weekend hijinks. I wasn't too worried about the cell phone -- mine's usually dead and I never realize it, and I hate texting. (THAT'S what I did when I didn't have a computer -- I talked on the phone for hours. Now I rarely do.) TV -- well, I don't watch much TV anyway (except OMG, LOST, I love LOST). In fact, I should watch MORE TV because sometimes there's good stuff on there, and I'm missing out on all the American Idol conversations at work. But the computer part -- there was no way around it. There was no internet connection at the cabin, and I don't have an iPhone so that was that. No internet for a whole three day weekend.



I got my online time in before we left on our trip, where I got an email from a friend who thought I was mad at her because I seemed stressed the night before. I emailed back that I was worried about the storm coming (that I had found out about on the internet and TV -- had I not turned either on it would have been fine), but in retrospect I was probably weirding out that I was going to be away from the computer.

On the way up, I did get some phone calls from the other people in our caravan to see where everyone was and whether or not we needed chains and if Rena could start making the queso dip as soon as she got to the cabin. So see? Technology was necessary for our SAFETY and NUTRITION. But I left all the texting to my friend Irene, playing a joke on our friend in the car ahead of us that we had passed them and we were already at the cabin. That led to a few laughs. Wheee! Technology is too fun to give up!

The first night was fine, though I did have some pangs. I looked at the people with iPhones, and was jealous. Our friend brought his laptop with a little modem thingy, and I resisted the urge to ask him, "Can I just check my email?" So instead, I had the aforementioned queso dip, some cocktails, danced a little, and went in the hot tub and fell asleep right after. Withdrawl crisis averted.


I woke up fresh as a daisy (okay, not really, but I didn't feel like I got hit by a bus), and though it felt strange that I couldn't get up and check email, I loved waking up and reading my book on The Roosevelts. Plus our room was a "Greek Myth" theme and it was so bizarre I liked just hanging out in it. Then when others started making their way downstairs, we joined them and ate pancakes, and sat around and talked. And what did we talk about? FACEBOOK. So it was like being online, but, um, not. And then we ventured out in the snow. We lasted all of about 10 minutes, but it was something slightly adventurous. If I had my computer, I... I was going to say that I wouldn't have gone out in the snow, but I would have. Bah.

Tahoe 2009!
Snow bunnies

But I was feeling antsy, so I went to Safeway to get out of the house. While there, I did get a call on my cell with requests for more Velveeta for more queso and some tampons. So it was a good thing I had my cell phone, otherwise some people would have been very, very unhappy. (And I'm talking more about the Velveeta than the tampons.)

To get past the online withdrawls when I got back, and making sure I didn't cave and borrow anyone's iPhone or the laptop, I took a nap and then ate lots of junk food and drank a lot of delicious White Russians and then had Big Gay Dance Party with an ipod, dancing to Erasure and ABBA and Lily Allen, laughing hysterically. And instead of writing a "note" on facebook about 25 Things No One Knows or whatever, we ended the night with "I Never" and crawled -- literally -- to bed. Day Two was over, and I'd made it.


I woke up feeling like I got hit by a bus, and was in no mood for much of anything. It would have been great to hole up with my computer and aimlessly stumble around on the internet, but that wasn't an option, so I bucked up and talked to everyone and we laughed and laughed about the hijinks from the night before. And we ate more queso and pigs in blankets and then we actually played SCRABBLE. With tiles. We had to keep score, unlike with Lexulous, that does it all for you. But I discovered my Scrabble skills have not suffered in the slightest, and kicked butt.

When almost everyone else trooped off upstairs to watch horror movies, I decided to forgo that bit of technology, and instead went to the casinos with 3 others where we drank champagne and played nickel slots. (Now that's technology I wish never got updated -- I hate all the lines to bet on and the tickets that come out. I like the cherries and the one to 3 lines and the glorious sound of coins spilling out.) When we got home, we drank more champagne and played a rousing game of celebrity, and laughed and laughed and went to bed, all of us sad that it was the last night.


By then I didn't care about the internet -- we had to say goodbye to our amazing cabin and our friends, and get home. And I knew that 8000 emails would be waiting for me, and that it would be a pain to catch up. So by then, it was the opposite -- I was dreading signing on. But I didn't think about it much, as we laughed the whole way home about stuff that had happened over the weekend. By then I already missed the weekend more than I had missed the internet.

And when I got home, sure enough, my inbox was full of junk to weed through and correspond to. And without print and newspapers, I realized, I had no idea what went on in the world while I was away, and that was a little weird. I didn't know if it had rained the whole time, if the Stimulus package had been signed, if any celebrities died... I was totally disconnected. And after a few minutes of being online, I gave up and went to bed.

So here are some things I learned:

I can live without the internet, and I don't break into hives or seizures.

However, I don't get that much more stuff done, because I am inherently lazy -- if there's no internet, that just means a NAP.

It's okay if I don't check into facebook. Everyone is the same -- still drinking coffee, still working out, and still broke, hungry, stoked and or drunk. Life goes on, and so do status updates. But -- it sucks cleaning out your inbox after not logging in for a while, that's for sure.

And sometimes, getting back to basics and the simple pleasures in life are truly the most magical things.

Behold the greatest technological invention ever:

Tahoe 2009!

Facebook will NEVER be as funny as farts.

I SO need an iPhone.

Twenty-seven down, seventy to go.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I won a Major Award!

The magnificent Megan of All I Need is Everything bestowed this terrific award on me. She does one of my most favorite blogs on the internet -- the perfect blend of fun, personal, and thought provoking. I just love it when she posts something new -- it makes my whole day. So for her to honor me with this -- I feel just like Sally Field, but even more surprised and flattered. Thank you so much, Megan!


The rules for the award are as follows:

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the Award on to 5 most-deserving Blog Friends. You must link to the author and name of the blog from where he/she has received the award.

You must display the Award on your blog and link to THIS POST, which explains the Award. Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit THIS POST and add your name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, they will be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor. You must post these rules on your blog.

But choosing just 5??? That's tough!!! As far as I'm concerned, all the blogs on my list and that I follow are award-worthy. Some of them make me laugh out loud, some get me teary, some make me envious for all the amazing photos or cool things they post, some inspire me... and ALL of them are my favorites.


But I'm going to play by the rules. To make things easier for me (after all, I AM AN AWARD WINNER AND SHOULD HAVE A LIMO AND A TIARA, THANKYOUVEDDYMUCH), I am going to exclude any blogs from anyone I've met in person, lest anyone think I'm biased. (They already know that I'm their fan, anyway.) And I'm going to go with blogs that are heavier on the writing side. (Though I'm in love with the photography and music and collecting blogs on my list, too.) So that said, here are my Superior Scribblers:

1. MONKEY MUCK. My friend Dr. Monkey delights me daily with his political musings, his cooking tips, his glimpses into his every day life, and his awesome 1970's menswear photos -- all done with brilliance and humor. I'm happy to have this monkey on my back.

2. CURLY WURLY. This blog KILLS ME. Maria finds the most wonderfully outrageous Mid-Century photos and articles, but it's her commentary that nails it, all done with aplomb and humor and I love her for it.

3. THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT Biting, sarcastic and funny as hell, Fast Eddie's Retro Rags makes me laugh out loud each time I read her blog. She doesn't know me from Adam, but I wish I could have a cocktail (or 6) with her.

Oh man, how can there be only TWO left????

4. LOVE, ELIZABETH Sigh. I love this blog so much. Each time I click and begin to read, I feel as if I'm starting a lovely novel that I don't want to end. I savor every word, and can't wait for the day that I can read Elizabeth's words bound and on paper.

5. OUCHEBA So smart, so witty, and I always find myself yelping with laughter. And he doesn't have comments enabled (as far as I can tell, but I'm a luddite), and so many times I've wanted to tell him how much I love his blog. So here's my chance.

Again, thank you, Megan, for such an honor. I love doing this blog and for you to recognize me is such a thrill, you have no idea. Oh wait, you do -- you're an award winner, too!

And here's another award winner I love:

I feel totally Accomplished.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Accomplishment #26: Listen to New Music (#5)

When I was an intrepid new wave teen, it was very important to me to be cutting edge. I had to know all the new music -- and had to have all the new music -- before anyone else did. In fact, I was so bitchin that I had the twelve inch MAXI SINGLE of "Hold Me Now" by The Thompson Twins BEFORE THE WHOLE RECORD CAME OUT. That, my friends, is not messing around. It had a "special dub mix" on the other side. Did anyone else at Monte Vista High School in 1983 have that record? I highly doubt it.

Okay, okay, it wasn't all that cutting edge, considering that song was doomed for high school dances and Easy Listening radio stations.

But back then, it was so much easier to find new music and hear new music and get really excited about it, and even wear pins to advertise one's allegiance to it. It was all so new to me then, and I was completely invested in it. We had an awesome "alternative" radio station called The Quake that I listened to religiously, and if I heard something I liked, I saved up my measly allowance (or my lunch money) and went to the record store and bought it. (And would sit on my bed and study the album cover and the liner notes and lyrics.) And it was easy enough to explore back then -- if the people on the record cover had even slightly weird haircuts, or if it was in a thrift shop and from the 50's or 60's, I was all over it.

I loved making mixed tapes for my friends, carefully choosing songs that segued into each other and that sounded good together, and that had meaning. I happily sat on the floor in front of my stereo, amidst piles of records and tapes, waiting for the perfect moment to hit "pause" between the songs, and cursing when the tape ran out before the song ended. Worse was when it wasn't just the usual snap, crackle and pop of records, but when it would skip -- I would wince and just flick the needle, and more often than not left it. (My friend Leslie used to call it "The Karen Finlay Special Remix Version.") While the songs played, I tried to think of witty titles for the tapes, and decorated the inserts by hand with colored marking pens (adding to the piles of records mess), experimenting with different handwriting and fonts. I spent hours working on those tapes, and loved giving them out. (Rumor has it that some of those tapes are still out there -- I love that, too.) And I loved it when people made them for me, too.

Of course, I wasn't all that knowledgeable or cool. I was a dopey kid from the suburbs with a 12 pm curfew and limited access to MTV. (I only got to watch it at friends' houses -- my dad thought it was all crap and he refused to subscribe.) So it's not like I really knew anything too obscure, but I certainly hated all the mainstream stuff that the other kids at my school were into. (Heavy metal was like totally gnarly!) I didn't know about college radio, and I wasn't angry or brave enough to be into the whole punk rock thing. But music was my life, and I took it very seriously, proclaiming my love by scrawling band names all over my blue cloth binders and PeeChee folders.

When I got to college, I had a roommate with big hair and an unnatural tan and a penchant for All Things With Lips On Them. My side of the dorm room had Style Council and Aretha Franklin posters and pictures carefully cut out of Interview magazine on the wall; she had airbrushed posters of lips. And a lips phone. And pens, mugs and stationery with lips on them. And since it was her side of the room, I woke up every morning to the sight of a poster of a pair of shiny lips sucking on a succulent lollipop or something ridiculously phallic. She woke up to my poster of Paul Weller and milk crates full of records and tapes that I had lugged from home, most of which she deemed "weird." "Why do you have so many records?" she asked. (Her music collection consisted of Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" and Janet Jackson and Cameo tapes she played in her Nissan Sentra.) "Isn't that, like, a guy thing?"

"A guy thing?" I asked, confused. "Why would it be a guy thing?"

"Because guys are all into records and music," she said, using a pik to fluff up her bangs. "Girls are, like, into clothes and stuff."

Score zero for feminism. Needless to say, we hated each other by Christmas break.

So, okay, maybe I was a total geek and socially maladjusted in my betty roommate's eyes (and ohhh, what I could have retorted about What It Means To Be Obsessed With Airbrushed Lips Posters), but that meant that most of my friends were, too -- boys and girls alike. Back then, and to this day, most of my friendships have music as the common ground, or at least that's how they started out. I have met so many of my friends through shows and clubs or events, all revolving around music. Being part of a subculture (or a few, depending on how you look at it) was a big part of my life, and the music -- even possibly more so than the clothes and accoutrements -- was the driving force. In a lot of ways, the music I listened to was my identity, and I was passionate about it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to getting older -- the music got too loud.

I don't know exactly when or how it happened, but I kind of lost the zeal for finding new music. I get 6 radio stations in my car (thanks to an Unfortunate Incident with an antennae and a car wash), all of which pretty much suck. There's no one station, like we had back in high school, that I turn on right away -- I push the buttons over and over, hating it all. (But, well, 6 stations doesn't leave me with many choices, I'll admit.) The "alternative" station is the worst. The Fall-Out-Chemical-Romance-Boy crapola (Good God, I sound just like my dad) makes me want Tylenol -- with cyanide in it. MTV and VH1 doesn't play music anymore, and when I go into a music store or open itunes, I just feel kind of lost. More and more I revert back to the music I loved when I was younger, and listen to mostly music from the 40's to the 60's, which is what I've always loved anyway. I'm hardly bereft -- my tastes are all over the place and there's plenty of music to fill it. But new music? I know barely any of it anymore, and lack the inspiration to search.

But I do miss that thrill of discovery, and the excitement of hearing a song and then going to seek it out. So when this Accomplishment popped up, I was pretty happy about it. And I had A Plan. A nefarious, greedy, and lazy Plan.

Last year I was invited to join a CD Club with 11 strangers, and we all had a month where we made 11 cds for each member of the club. I loved the idea -- after all, I had loved making those mix tapes. And while I did get to hear some great new music, not all of it was my cuppa tea. (And I'm sure mine wasn't theirs, either.) So when the year was up, I didn't renew my membership, instead deciding to branch out and start a club of my own.

And hence, my Plan. I could hear new music, and pick out the people that I would personally ransack their record collections, all for the price of blank CDS and postage, and have it all delivered to my doorstep. AND Accomplish something for the Blog. Nefarious, greedy, lazy AND fabulous.

So I picked out about 10 people, all of whom are musical afficiandos within their specific genres with enough diversity to make it interesting, and who I figured would be into it. "New" music wasn't necessarily a focus, but rather "new" to me and others in the group. And then, it EXPLODED.

Because it was such a good idea, someone told their two friends, and so on and so on, until it was like that old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial and suddenly we had 25 people in the group. Which was more than fine with me. All the more music to enjoy, right? Two CDS in a month, why that's back to the old days when I used to walk out of Amoeba records with a bag of CDs!

And I must say, it has worked out beautifully. (Except for CD Clubber for December Jeff who STILL hasn't sent his out... AHEM.) We've gotten to hear music in R&B, Northern Soul, Rockabilly, Country, Mod, Garage, 60's, pop... and yes, even NEW music. And we only started in September, so we still have a long way and a lot of CDs to go.

Mine was last month, in January. And like I used to make those mix tapes long ago, I carefully picked out songs that segued into each other and sounded good together. And some of them had meaning. And because I take this blog verrrry seriously, I tried to be creative and stretch and find some songs that were even recorded in this decade, and songs that might be "new" to the other people in the club as well. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing it. And though it was all through my laptop and itunes, so there weren't piles of records and tapes and magic markers, I still gave it a cute cover:

cd club cover
Okay, it wasn't by hand. But I love this image and thought it went well with the theme.

So in doing the CD Club, I am fulfilling the Accomplishment of Listening to New Music. But I also found something from my past that I had forgotten that I had loved to do, and for a few hours there, I felt like the "old" me -- inspired and falling in love with the thrill of not just discovery, but sharing that discovery as well.

And here are some discoveries for you:

A guy I know has an excellent music blog that you should check out:

Like Dynamite to Your Brain (good, rare 60's gems, and links to other music blogs as well)

And a girl I know has an excellent music and photography blog, too: All Eyes and Ears

And let me share one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE songs with you:

Karen by The Saturn V

So screw my old roommate. It's not a "Guy" thing. Music is universal. Old OR new.

Twenty-six down, 71 to go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Accomplishment for YOU: shop for a great cause!

I have a post halfway written, but wanted to share something with you first, so that YOU, TOO, can Accomplish Greatness.

My dear, darling friend Eartha Kitsch just lost her sweet kitty Saki to kidney failure. She's heartbroken, of course, as I was when I lost my beloved BeBe to the same disease in June last year. But where I couldn't even think about cats in general, Eartha has turned around and proven that she is a much better soul than I am, and that's why I love her so.

From now until March 1st, 100% of all proceeds from her wonderful Etsy shop will go to benefit a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter in Saki's memory. The shelter is the Helen O. Krause Animal Foundation in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, where Eartha's friend volunteers.

Here's a little sampling of not only Eartha's Etsy shop but of her perfect photostream:

Original here: With Love for our Furry Friends

(And check out the rest of her photostream, too. It is, hands down, one of the best things in the whole wide world wide web.)

And here is her Etsy Shop!earthakitsch

Did you see those valentines? They are the cutest EVER, even cuter than the ones we made with doilies in kindergarten.

And if you're a bah-love-humbug but feel like you should do something for this cause, my birthday's coming up:scary scary bunnies I secretly long for

She wrote to me, "I'm really excited about the shelter fund. I just wanted to do put back out into the universe thanks for giving her to us. I miss her like oxygen...that's the truth."

So it's a win-win situation. YOU get to shop and buy either Eartha's original creations or found goodies, and the animals get care and love, too.

And that's an Accomplishment.