This is Me Before I Come Undone

…like I haven’t felt it in a while. I don’t think I realized just how excited I was for Tegan and Sara to play not just one, but two shows at the 9:30 Club, a mere mile and a half from my house. Usually, for me, traveling to far and interesting places with new and old concert friends makes seeing shows near where I live feel downright anticlimactic. (Like, what kind of show is that when I don’t even have to go anywhere?? Haha…) But this time, I guess, Tegan and Sara weren’t playing at the huge Warner Theater or the huge and awkward Lisner Auditorium or the huge and even more awkward DAR Constitutional Hall or the ever-huger (ever-more-huge?) Patriot Center or Merriweather Pavilion (twice) or even the smaller Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore. No, this time they were playing at the 9:30 Club, a place that has become like home to me since I moved to DC seven years ago. I swear, I’ve seen almost every band I’ve ever followed there, and then some, including Metric, Hanson, Amanda Palmer, An Horse, Steel Train, Kaki King, Foals, Bloc Party, Cold War Kids, Citizen Cope, CSS, and the list goes on… I’ve even started a list of bands I’ve seen there before they blew up and got too big to play there, including Gotye, Mumford and Sons, Fun, Death Cab (though that was kind of a small-venue tour for them). I’ve even seen friends play there, including The Pushovers, who got me a press/backstage pass so that for once I could be on the other side of the barricades and see what the artists get to see. But I walk into that place and it feels like home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a show there and biked (or even walked) through the quiet streets on a post-show buzz back to my house. I’ve had my camera confiscated by their security so many times that it almost feels like a fond pasttime. (Almost.)

But I thought that I had lost the chance to see my favorite band of all time ever play there. I knew that they had played the 9:30 Club before I moved to DC in 2007 (as well as DC’s smaller well-known venue, Black Cat), and when they came to town right after I moved here and played at George Washington University’s Listner Auditorium, I figured that I would never get to see Tegan and Sara play in that awesome, intimate venue I loved. When they came back in 2010 and played Warner Theater, I lost a little more hope. And when they started revealing their ambitious plans for Heartthrob, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d missed that era here and would never see it again. I could travel the whole world over to see them play, and yet never see them in the one place that felt like “home.”


But I was wrong. When they released these past tour dates, I couldn’t believe it. And when DC was one of the only cities with two dates AND one of the only cities to sell out the shows, I was so proud of this place I love! Walking into the Canadian embassy, which is only two blocks from my office, I felt so excited to have them playing somewhere so familiar… and walking into the 9:30 Club that first night for the soundcheck, I felt positively giddy (which maybe you can tell from watching the soundcheck video, since I usually try never to talk while I’m filming and almost never talk TO them while they’re performing, but this time I just couldn’t help myself… *embarrassed*) It felt amazing. It felt like they might as well have been playing in the living room of my house. It felt like all of the pride I have for living in this awesome city and all of the excitement I always have for seeing them live kind of collided into this feeling of like wanting to drag them around like a little kid drags their parents to see their paintings hung up in the classroom in kindergarten, like, “Look! Look! This is MY place! And this is MY desk!! And these are MY things!!!” (I mean obviously I didn’t, but that’s the only way I can think to describe that feeling, haha.)


And then the shows were fantastic! Seeing them play at the Canadian Embassy, which I walk by almost every day but have never been inside of, was so cool (and being lucky enough to have a friend take me along after he won tickets was even better). Having them sing two songs to us while sitting on stools in the balcony of the 9:30 Club with just Ted playing an acoustic guitar to back them up because their bus had broken down and their equipment wasn’t set up yet, was maybe the most awesome, most intimate “performance” I’d ever been part of (even if it was an accident!) I got to introduce them to MY sister (who makes them look like elves) and to take a silly photo like the one on their tour merch and to see them try to crouch down in the front of a picture with Canadian military guys (why?? Did they think those guys couldn’t see over them?!) I was beyond excited, all over again, to be lucky enough to be front and dead center for my first time seeing them in this place. And they didn’t let me down, not at all. All of the shows on this tour have been exciting and energetic in a way that I feel they haven’t quite been in a while. Maybe it’s because it’s their first real headlining tour since they started touring for Heartthrob. Maybe it’s because Tegan and her super-confident awkwardness with the wireless microphone (and Sara’s apparent apprehension of her wireless microphone, lol) can’t fail to make anyone smile, even the friend I took last night who didn’t know any of their stuff. But it was great. Sara was on top of her inappropriate banter in a way that has been rare in the past few years. Even Tegan participated in the inappropriate banter, which is even more rare, haha. Tegan danced around like an idiot and totally knew it, which made it even better. I had the angle for their cover of Let My Love Open the Door that I’ve been dreaming of since the first time I saw them perform it. Tegan brought a terrified young fan onstage to play the tambourine for Sentimental Tune. Sara stuck up for Tegan while the audience was talking, and then Tegan let the crowd (badly!) sing Nineteen for her. The Courtneys were great. Lucius kicked ass like usual, and I got to record them from the best angle ever. I met a bunch of new people and came across some old friends and had a great time seeing everyone. And to top it off, I got there early enough to get one of the BEST CUPCAKES ON THE PLANET. Both nights.


And so now, two days that I didn’t even realize I was looking forward to quite so much are over, and I’m almost disappointed to have a holiday weekend stretched out in front of me with nothing to do. Someone suggested trying to make it to some of the shows coming up in the next week, but that’s not even it. I feel like I felt when I was in elementary school and planning my birthday sleepover for months and now it’s over and everyone’s gone home and I don’t know what to do with myself and my house is quiet and empty and Tegan and Sara aren’t hanging out in my living room anymore. I’m sure I’ll be fine after I’ve caught up on some sleep here and start to look forward to the next shows I have coming up… but for now I’m going to hope that I was able to take some good videos for you guys so that you can see what I saw and feel what I felt. It was a really special week.





{September 26, 2011}   A Tangent from 2007.

Yesterday, someone asked me: “So, if you were going to give someone a mixed CD of your favourite songs, and you could choose ONLY TWO (don’t ask me why; I’m arbitrary) Tegan and Sara songs on the CD, which ones would you choose?”

The answer got so long, and after hours of watching Glee with my roommates I feel so oddly emotional, that I decided to just post it on here.  So here goes:

I love making Tegan and Sara mix CDs for people (if they let me… heh).  The first thing I do is put the first song from each album on it in chronological order, starting with “Divided” (except for “The Con”… for that album I put “The Con”… just feel like it’s so much more representative) so that the person can hear what a crazy progression they have made over the years.  It’s amazing to me to listen to it like that.

If I had to pick two songs… wow… hmmm… damn, it’s hard enough to pick like, only three songs from each album for a mix CD.  I remember back in the day when the world was on LiveJournal and I was a part of the Tegan and Sara LiveJournal community, and they would play “album survivor,” voting off one song per day from whichever album they were focusing on at the time.  People would get so torn!  Someone said it was like being asked to kill off one of her children.  Ha.

But I guess the easy first choice for me for one of my two songs would be “The Con”… that song still tears my heart out every time I listen to it (which is mostly why I don’t).  The album leaked three months before its release date, which was totally a bummer… Tegan and Sara (Sara especially) seemed pretty upset about it, and I felt like it was wrong to listen to the album before it was released, out of respect for Tegan and Sara.  (I actually started a petition for people pledging not to listen to it until the day it was released, which actually spurned A LOT of backlash against me, which led to the not-too-eventual demise of my membership in the Tegan and Sara LiveJournal community.)  Anyway, people were gushing on and on about how amazing the album was, and I just couldn’t get my head around it, because I loved all of their stuff already, and I was sure the new stuff was going to be good, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be *THAT* much better than all they’d already done.

Then, a while before the album was released, Tegan and Sara put the track “The Con” up on their Myspace page (I told you it was back in the day) and so I listened to it… I won’t ever forget what it was like to put those headphones on and to be alone with that song in my head.  The beginning just tugged at me, and by the time the bass came in on the bridge I was just consumed.  I’ve always said that my favorite genre of music is “upbeat depressing,” and to that point, Tegan and Sara had excelled at that.  For example, when I first played The Con around my mom, she told me to put on something happier, like that older song she liked so much… and I was like, “what, the one that starts with, ‘I am disappointed every morning that I wake up??'”  And she was like, oh… I didn’t know that… Because yeah, I love tough, depressing, emotional, complicated lyrics… but only if the song doesn’t *sound* depressing, and *FEEL* depressing.  Then, I can’t handle it, it’s too much, and I can’t be alone with it.  Give me ironically happy, bouncy pop music that goes along with lyrics singing about pills and alcohol and “sad, sick people like me.”  And this was the first time I’d ever heard Tegan and Sara sound truly depressing.  But not soft, wallowy, teary depressing… no.  This was a dark, intense, sinister, devastating, completely crushing kind of depressing.  And I just understood that all too well.

I think when the song was over I just sat there and stared at my headphones.  I was totally overwhelmed.   It is so clear in my mind that I even remember what I did next… I put on my purple adidas shoes and grabbed my light blue hoodie and ran out of my room because I was late to meet my friends at the lesbian bar in Atlanta (ironically called My Sister’s Room).  But more than anything I just needed to take big deep breaths and clear my head and separate from that song because it just seeped into my body.  I had just moved in with a friend after my girlfriend of three years, whom I had bought a house with, had kicked me out of our house so that a new girl she had met could move in.  Somewhere in there I dragged myself through law school finals, and tried to deal with the bad flashbacks the breakup caused to how devastated I had been when my very first relationship (of four years) completely melted down when my girlfriend’s mother committed suicide.  I was emotionally wrecked, flattened, for months, and that song was just too much… it was too good, too intense, too perfect, too cutting.  I hadn’t seen Tegan and Sara at all in 2006 or the first half of 2007, they were recording and I was working on the difficult relationship I was in.  My girlfriend didn’t like me seeing them all the time.  She didn’t like that I liked them more than she did, even though she had been the one to introduce them to me.  But, by the time they posted that song on their page, she was gone, and I was alone, and I figured there was no point in giving them up any longer.  At that point I’d only seen them a handful of times.  I didn’t have any friends who liked them (or even knew who they were) and I hadn’t really made friends with many other fans…I’d only ever gone to shows with my girlfriend.  And I listened to that song, and it was like opening a window… and I just knew everything was going to change.

And yeah.


…what was the question again?

As many of you know, I traveled to Australia for the first time a little over a year ago, and met Kirsty, my wonderful girlfriend.  Ever since last winter we’ve been trying to figure out how to get her into the country so we could finally spend more than a few weeks at a time together.  We thought it would be difficult; after all, the U.S. immigration system is notoriously difficult.  What we didn’t realize is that it would be nearly impossible.  We didn’t know that you could have a decent, valid, legit job offer here, with an employer who was willing to do all of the proper paperwork, and have literally NO VISA you could apply for that would allow you to come here and take it.  But that is the case.

On Tuesday night, the attorney we’ve retained notified us that there is no way Kirsty can be eligible for the visa we were trying to get for her.  That leaves very few options, and none of them are all that great.  By way of background, Kirsty is a bicycle mechanic.  Out of high school, she did a four-year apprenticeship in bicycle mechanics, and has spent nearly ten years in the industry.  She can build wheels from scratch, while I can’t even manage to inflate my bike tire without something going horribly wrong (exploding the tube, ripping out the valve, I’m serious…it’s not possible).  Her bike, which she built for herself, is worth more than my car several times over.  In short, she knows what the fuck she’s doing.

Guess what though?  In order to get a work visa in the United States that lasts more than a few months, you have to have a college degree.  That’s right, if you couldn’t afford to go to college or thought some other career path was more interesting or a better move for you, we don’t want you.  If you’ve somehow managed to work 12 years or more in a “specialized profession,” that can substitute for a college degree, with every three years of work “equaling” one year of college.  What counts as a “specialized profession?”  One that usually *requires* a college degree.  Knowing how to assemble hydraulic brakes?  Apparently THAT’S not “specialized” enough.  And so we were told the other night that Kirsty’s four years of apprenticeship work, certification in two countries, and ten years of experience was not worth enough to equal what is often, in the United States, a totally worthless piece of paper.

There are a ton of work visas, it seems.  However, all are so specialized.  The H-1B is the aforementioned “specialized profession” visa, that many people (with college degrees) use to work in the United States.  The process to get one is long (around 4-6 months) and expensive (up to $2,000), but with our limited lack of options is looking pretty ideal right about now.  The E-3 visa is like the H-1B visa, but JUST for Australians.  In fact it’s one of the ONLY work visas that is country-specific, and it proves how much we like Australians around here: It’s faster (1-2 months), cheaper (around $400), renewable INDEFINITELY (even the H-1B doesn’t do that), and the cap is almost never met (the cap for E-3 visas is 10,500.  Only about 3,000 have been granted per year.  To give you a comparison, the cap for the H-1B is only 65,000 granted per year, for ALL OTHER NATIONALITIES IN THE WORLD.  You can bet that is usually met).  We were trying to get that one for Kirsty, it would have been awesome.  However, you already know the problem.

We’re left looking at all the things we can’t have.  “L” visas are for people transferring to an American branch of their company.  “J” visas are for au pairs, students working over the summer, or recent graduates working right out of school (since Kirsty graduated over three years ago, she’s not eligible for these).  “O” visas are for “aliens of extraordinary ability” (I’m not joking) and you can get one if you’ve won an Oscar, a Grammy, an Olympic medal, or a Pulitzer Prize.  “P” visas are for “Internationally Recognized Athletes or Entertainment Groups” (if you ever wondered what T&S or An Horse or any other band has to do to be allowed to tour in the U.S., there you go).

We have only three options for Kirsty: an H-2B visa, a K visa and the visa waiver program.  An H-2B visa is for “Temporary Unskilled Nonagricultural Workers.”  To get one, you have to PROVE that the employer couldn’t find an American to hire instead, which requires you to jump through all kinds of fucking hoops.  You also have to prove that there is some extenuating circumstance creating this need for foreign workers within the company.  You also have to prove that the need is only *temporary* (e.g. you’re not going to get here longer than a few months).  We are probably going to try again for this one… we started the process back in April, when she was first offered a job at a shop here, but we made mistakes and have to start over.  Now that the summer bike shop “peak season” is wrapping up in a few months, we might have to wait until next spring to even try it again.  I was hoping she would be here in July of this year.  March of 2012 doesn’t really cut it.  😦

“K” visas are student visas.  You know what you can’t do on a student visa?  Work or support yourself at all.  You know what else you can’t do?  Get any federal loans or grants, because you aren’t a U.S. citizen.  So what does this mean?  You have to prove up front that you have all of the money to support yourself for the entire length of your visa, or that you have people who will sign an affidavit pledging how much they will give you to support each year.  Plus Kirsty doesn’t even know what she’d want to go to school for, and she’d never really planned on going back at all.  She doesn’t see it as an awesome option to have me completely supporting her (provided I could even do that on my salary, though I think I could) or to take out tons of private loans to not even know what course she wants to study.

Then there’s the visa waiver program.  It allows people from certain countries to stay in the U.S. for up to three months at a time, until U.S. Immigration catches on to what you’re doing and won’t let you back into the country.  You know what you can’t do on the visa waiver program?  Work or go to school or do pretty much anything at all that would let you lead a productive life.

“So why don’t you just get married?!” everyone asks me, “It’s legal in D.C.!”  Ah, right you are my friend.  However, you forget that immigration is a federal issue, and the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages at all, let alone for the hotly-contested purposes of immigration.  I wish it were so easy.  If we were a straight couple, we could get married now and she could start the process to gain U.S. citizenship.  Or, we could apply for a fiance visa, which would allow her to be in the country immediately, provided we got married within 90 days.  Go ahead and argue if you want that that process isn’t necessarily “easy”… but let me tell you that it is easier than NOT having that option.

You know, I was never overly concerned with the same-sex marriage debate.  Yes, it is a hugely important issue and one that I support with all my heart.  However, as I saw it, we are on the right side of history.  The wheels are turning slowly, but they are turning.  In the end, we are going to prevail, no matter what the other side says or does.  There WILL be a time where people look back at this time and can’t believe the debate was as fierce as it was, or even that it existed at all.  THAT TIME WILL COME.  I have no doubts.  But for me, marriage wasn’t in my foreseeable future, and I was (reasonably) content with thinking that if it DID end up in my near future, I could have a commitment ceremony, or get married where it was legal, and be perfectly happy with that, at least until the laws changed.  Well… as is always proven, some things (everything) changes faster than laws do.  Did I expect that I’d end up meeting someone from the other side of the world, and suddenly have the marriage debate, and even more pointedly, the immigration debate, apply directly to me?  Not so much.  But here we are.  For the first time in a long time, things feel truly unfair.  In the next month I will go to two weddings, and instead of being bitter about being single — as I have usually been at weddings — I’m going to feel bitter that I have no power to get my partner here like they could if they needed to.  I’m looking at straight unmarried couples with one non-American partner and thinking that at least they have an out.  I didn’t plan on marrying someone so soon after meeting them, as Kirsty and I have only been together a little over a year… but I’ve thought about it and without a doubt I would, if it meant that she could be here with me every day.  I was explaining the situation to our receptionist the other day, when up on CNN flashed the headline “Green Cards Denied for Same-Sex Couples” and it just felt so ironic.  We are so new to this issue and this problem, where there have been people dealing with it for years, fighting in court, being deported.  The more I think about it, the more I think that it is one of the cruelest effects of the ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples in this country.

So, back to the drawing board.  “What about doing it the illegal way?” people whisper to me, “People do it all the time!”  I know they do.  But do you know what happens to them if they’re caught?  Stay in this country for six months before being caught, and you are BANNED from the United States for FIVE YEARS.  Stay for a year before being caught and you’re banned for TEN.  Can I imagine what it would be like if for TEN YEARS Kirsty couldn’t see my family, stay at my house, live where I live?   “Okay, maybe not,” people whisper back to me.  “Can she marry a man?”  Well, she could… we have several male friends who I bet would do it, who have even offered.  But do you know, in this post-9/11 world (oh how I hate that phrase) just how much you have to prove to establish a relationship worthy of granting the foreign partner a green card?  Do you know what the punishment would be for attempted “marriage fraud” for the purposes of getting someone into the country?  I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I’m thinking a ten year ban from the country would probably be lenient.  The federal government does not like being tricked.  Especially while it’s supposed to be all busy protecting us from “terrorists” and “illegals.”  Not to mention that trying something like that would mean that the guy who tried to help us — and probably myself as well — would go down too for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and all that jazz.  Not a great move for the career of a lawyer.

A law firm I know put a program a few weeks ago called “Immigration Options for Same-Sex Couples.”  I wanted to go because at this point, it seems like our best “immigration option” is for me to move to Australia.  And I want to move to Australia, just not right this moment… the plan was for her to live here for a few years and then for me to go live there for a few years.  It made sense — she’s lived in Brisbane, and with her parents, for a long time and is ready to try something new.  I’ve just started my first real, permanent job out of law school, which actually pays well and would let me put her on my health insurance.  Her parents typically visit the U.S. every year and could come see her, while my parents couldn’t do the same.  Not to mention that with an American law degree, moving to Australia for me would mean at least another year of school in order to practice there, which would come with a price tag of at least $23,000 just for tuition.

People ask me all the time whether it would be easier for me to go there.  Hell yes.  Unlike the U.S., Australia isn’t completely retarded, and even though same-sex marriage isn’t legal there, all you need to do is to be in a relationship with an Australian citizen for over a year in order for them to sponsor you as their de-facto partner.  You don’t even have to have been living together.  How is that for a step in the direction of equality, and not just for same-sex couples??  Quite apart from that, as an attorney, I could probably quite easily get a work visa, even if I couldn’t practice, and of course a student visa wouldn’t be difficult either… except for the aforementioned $23,000 (and I’m not even going to tell you how much debt I already have in the way of student loans).

So here we are, our options next to none, and our hopes of getting her here anytime soon pretty much smashed.  Again, I can’t say enough times how ridiculous it is that you could have a perfectly fine job offer here, and have no visa that would allow you to come and take it.  That your only options would be ones that wouldn’t allow you to financially support yourself.  What kind of system is that?  I agree with Obama on that one: A broken one.  People wonder why there are so many “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented workers” in this country, but I’ll tell you why: Because it’s fucking impossible to do it the right way, and after spending months of trying to do it the right way, you’re ready to opt out of a system that pretty much encourages you to do so (and to say “fuck you” on your way out the door).

And I think of the marriage debates and I think of the immigration debates and I look at the picture of me and Kirsty that I have on my desk, and wonder why something as simple as us could be so impossible.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

So, several weeks ago, I stumbled across this website while trying to build a map for a project at work.  I had (way too much) fun making what I needed to make (which is here, if you’re interested… I’m actually quite proud of it!) and when I was done with it, my mind instantly went to what else I could make maps of!  I made a few of places I’ve lived, places I  liked in DC and Atlanta, and then I couldn’t avoid the thought:  one of all of the Tegan and Sara concerts I’ve been to.

My co-workers called me a total nerd for my complete enjoyment of making the maps, although I more attribute it to my obsessive love of detail (if only my life could be as organized as my YouTube channel…), my preference for having everything where I can see it all at once (hello law school finals flow charts…), my affinity for rainbow colors (my bedroom WAS done in rainbows when I was born), and about 30 free hours with nothing to do while my girlfriend was on a plane back to Australia via Korea.

So.  I’ve never summed up everything quite like this, and I wasn’t even entirely sure exactly how many shows I’d really been to.  Luckily my YouTube channel *IS* the most organized thing in my life (apart from my Flickr page), so that helped tremendously.  I also dug back into the Flickr pics for the first few shows I didn’t take video of, and, as for the very first show, where I don’t even have pictures, well, I had to dig into the online archives for that one.

And so here we have it.  I never meant to publicly admit to exactly how many shows I’ve been to, but after holding on to this for a few weeks I decided that I had too much fun making it not to share.  (Plus, everyone is forever asking me how many shows I have been to, so here, all of you, there you go!)

When you open the map it will at first show just tour routes and the markers for the first shows I went to in 2004.  If you click on the boxes next to the little colored markers on the top right hand side, you can add the markers for 2005, 2007 (nope, no 2006 shows, that would have been the “making of The Con” hibernation…), 2008, etc.  I already had the one show I was hoping to hit so far for 2011 up there, however, my cousin just put her wedding on that weekend, so we shall see.  I may soon be posting hoping someone needs an extra ticket to that one.  😦

Second, go to the “Tour Routes” tab on the bottom left, and you can click on the boxes next to them to make the lines on the map disappear… or you can check out the details of which shows I went to on that tour, the order of the tour, how far apart the shows were, all that good stuff.  🙂

Third, go back to the “Concert Locations” tab, and if you click on the name of each venue, it will bring up a bubble with the details of the venue, links to my YouTube videos and Flickr pictures from that show, and a picture from that show (would have added more pictures, but damn I could have gone on forever).  Also in that venue bubble, you can comment on that particular show (there’s an “Add Comment” link!) or you can comment on the map in general at the bottom of the map.  (I like comments.)

Finally, you can zoom way in on the map to see all of the different venues in each city (think I’ve been to six or seven different ones in NYC, for example).  FUN THING: bring up just the green 2009 markers, click on “Hollywood Bowl” on the left, zoom in until you’re like three bars from all the way in, and click on “Satellite” in the upper right hand corner.  Wicked.




{August 23, 2010}   Cancun: Almost In Iowa

Well hello hello everyone… I know it’s been a while!  To be honest, I loved my last post so much that I was actually a little intimidated to try to write another just as good…ha.  At this point, however, I’m trying to get over that and move forward in *some* direction (better than not moving, right?!)

In any case, on Tuesday night, Tegan and Sara played a special two-set show in Des Moines, Iowa.  In a strange twist of fate (namely, that my family had actually moved our annual stress-inducing, hair-pulling family vacation from May to August because I was going to Australia in May, thus trapping me into the vacation in August), I was instead in Cancun, Mexico.  (Not a terrible place to be, but you haven’t met my family!)  So many people have asked whether I was going to the Iowa show that I decided I should account for my whereabouts on this day.  So instead of seeing Tegan and Sara in the Land of Corn on Tuesday, here’s where I was.  😉

My family arrived in hot, humid, hectic Cancun, Mexico (state of Quintana Roo, hahaha…) on Saturday, August 14th.  After two days of hanging around the pool at our hotel, my super hyperactive best friend from high school, Erin (yes, the one from my Portland post), who for some insane reason is still willing to weather my family for weeks at a time, bless her heart, wanted to get out of the resort and DO something.  Thus, the plan of the day was to trek to the nearby Isla Mujeres.  Unlike more intelligent Americans, I decided to study French for most of my life instead of Spanish, so I didn’t right away know that this literally means “Island of Women.”  This makes the island sound much more exotic than it actually was, but it was still very beautiful!  After a cramped ferry ride over to the island with small flickering TV screens showing frenetic Mexican versions of QVC and morning talk shows, we rented a golf cart to get around the island.

Amusingly, our golf cart was kind of gimpy, and we embarrassingly got passed by most other golf carts as we got lost searching for an inexpensive (yes, you had to pay for them) beach where we could go snorkeling and were not terribly likely to get eaten by sharks.  (Snorkeling by boat docks is apparently not preferable… it seems fishermen stop there to clean their catch of the day, leading predators to learn that this is a good place to find a meal.  Lesson of the day.)

A glimpse of our golf cart adventure here:

Finally, we found a suitable beach.

Once we set down our stuff, Erin began to drag me out for the reason we had come to the island: snorkeling.  Let me begin by saying that I am fucking terrified of snorkeling.  Erin has done multiple deep sea scuba dives with various encounters with sharks and STILL keeps diving, but I can’t put on flippers and a face mask and float on top of the water without freaking out.  I can’t really explain it.  Snorkeling is about the tamest beach activity there is apart from just sitting on it.  And it’s not that I can’t swim, I was on a swim team for 11 years.  But something about so clearly seeing all of the things around me — that, worst of all, might TOUCH me — is panic inducing.  Like seriously… I panicked snorkeling through the teeny little fake coral reef pool they had at Wet “N’ Wild in Orlando when I was younger.  Like hyperventilating, get-me-out-of-the-pool-this-instant kind of panic.  It’s pretty sad.

So it was in this pathetic state that, in trying to be a good friend to Erin, I found myself nervously tripping over my flippers into the water.  Erin swam in to guide me until the water was deep enough for me to swim, and the panic subsided a little bit.  Who knew there were so many fish in water so shallow?  You look out into the blue ocean and know that out there there are all kinds of things swimming around, but you think they are wayyyy out there, and not so close.  At least I do.  But here they were suddenly appearing right in front of my face mask, giving me the unpleasant realization that they had probably been swimming right next to my legs as I had stumbled into the water.  Ew.

I’m not afraid of fish, honestly… as I explained before, it’s just that I don’t want them – or anything else in the water – to touch me.  As I surfaced and took off my face mask to defog the lenses, however, I noticed that a small school of fish was assembling around me.  I started to back away, treading water, growing slightly more panicked as they followed me!  Erin began laughing at my mild hysteria as the fish swam back towards me every time I tried to splash them away.  “What the hell??  Why are they following me?!?”  Big bulging eyes and gaping mouths were coming at me from all directions!  I was surrounded.  “They’re probably used to people feeding them around here!” Erin laughed as she poked out her finger, trying to touch the fish closest to her.  “It’s actually really good they’re not afraid of us!” she said.  “What?  Why???” I squeaked, still backing away, splashing and frantically trying to fend off the pursuers.  “Because that means there isn’t anything as big as us around here for them to be afraid of!”  “Oh great, very comforting!” I squealed as I kicked more frantically.  “Jaim, look out!” Erin yelled.  My left hip slammed into something hard and sharp and I screamed, jumping about a mile in the opposite direction and inhaling about half the ocean.  “You ran into the coral, it’s okay!” Erin explained as she guided me away, still coughing and flailing.  “You’re gonna be fine!”

It took me a while to calm down enough to put my mask back on and snorkel after that, but I eventually did.  I followed Erin around so closely that I kept swimming into her as we looked at fish, sea grass, and broken, sunken wooden beams.  Every now and then seaweed would brush against me and I would jump and scream like a little girl again, and Erin would turn around and laugh.  I kept thinking I felt little stings on my arms and legs.  Seeing nothing, however, I convinced myself that my paranoia was getting ridiculous.  I warily kept one eye on the chunk of coral that had attacked me (the ONLY chunk of coral in the entire area we were in that was anywhere near the surface of the water, I might add).  Eventually my brother cautiously joined us as well… having suffered an asthma attack the last time he went snorkeling, he had panicked when we got to the beach when he realized he had forgotten his inhaler this time too.  (For as different as me and my brother are from each other, it’s pretty entertaining how afraid we are of a lot of the same things: ending relationships, dissecting things in biology class, snorkeling…)

The three of us swam around for a while longer, and I finally started to get used to the small fish constantly tailing me.  I followed Erin’s lead and tried to touch some of the fish around me, which quickly darted away.  (Funny how it’s a hell of a lot easier to touch them when you’re NOT trying.)  Eventually we swam towards shore and began to wade out of the water when we saw a girl standing knee-deep, feeding pellets of food to a writhing orange and silver mass swimming around her.  “Ha!  I knew it!” said Erin.  It’s bastards like that that caused this! I thought to myself, still noting the few persistent swimmers around my knees.  We watched as the girl tossed pellets a few feet away and a chunk of the mass of fish darted after them each time.  Still swimming in, my brother watched at the fish underwater as the girl playfully threw a few pellets his way.  We heard him squeal and laugh through his snorkel as the fish bumped into his face mask in their scramble to get the food pellets.  It looked so hilarious that even I tried it, startling and jumping out of the water as all the teeny mouths snapped frantically an inch from my face.  Seriously, even if they’re not going to eat me, seeing that is still a little unnerving!

Upon wading out of the water, however, I realized that my run-in with the coral had done more damage than I had thought.  A large scrape on my left hip was starting to bleed again.  “Wow, lucky there wasn’t anything bigger than us in there,” Erin said.  Great, I thought, I’d been swimming around as shark bait for forty-five minutes.  I went to find First Aid, but there didn’t seem to be any.  Finally someone working at the beach noticed me wandering around.  I gestured to my bleeding leg (not much English spoken in this area, I’d noticed), and he returned with a bottle of liquid that burned when he poured it on the scrape.  “What is that?” I asked.  “Vinegar,” he said, showing me the bottle.  I realized that he must have thought I’d been stung by a jellyfish since jellyfish stings can be helped by that, and worried about whether vinegar did anything bad to cuts and scrapes.  My mom reassured me my leg wouldn’t fall off and that we’d go to a drug store when we got back near our hotel.  “I scraped into coral once and it didn’t heal for months because the organisms in coral apparently liked living in my skin better,” said Erin helpfully.  “Oh, thanks,” I said sarcastically.  “You’re welcome!” she chirped with a smile.

After another fun-filled golf cart excursion and crowded ferry ride, we were back at the hotel.  Looking in the mirror, I realized that Erin had put sunscreen on my back while I was wearing my board shorts.  My swimsuit bottoms, it seemed, were cut a bit lower than my shorts.  As a result, I had a perfect two-inch stripe of bright pink sunburn across my lower back.  Erin had fared even worse.  I had put sunscreen on her back when it was hot and humid, and reapplied it to the small of her back when she had asked.  As a result, most of the original coat had sweated off to leave her back almost completely red, save for the triangular small of her back.  Hilarious!  Okay, so it kind of was.  And we took pictures.  Sunscreen FAIL!  (Did I mention Erin is a bridesmaid in a wedding this weekend?  Even better!)

Showing off our sunburns and my scraped up leg to my dad and sister, Erin rubbed her arm, and, examining it more closely, said, “I think I got stung by a jellyfish.”  I suddenly remembered.  All the little stings!  “I thought those were all in my head!” I said.  “Nope,” she said.  Looking where I remembered feeling stings, I saw little bumps clustered in each spot.  Brilliant!  We looked at each other.  “FAIL!”

While I did not survive the day unscathed, I believe this was a relatively successful snorkeling attempt since I didn’t get eaten by a shark and was only touched by several fish and one very violent coral.  At the very least, it convinced me that I should perhaps consider another time if I ever want to try scuba diving.  I really don’t think my nerves could handle it just now!  But it was hard to deny that our misfortunes weren’t collectively pretty entertaining.  Not sure whether they rival my worst T&S-related injuries (a black eye and several fingers numb for a month, all in one trip!) and though I’m sure Iowa is awesome, this experience instead was pretty worth it.  😉

Coral Bite:

Awesome Sunburn:

Erin’s Burn

Jellyfish Stings 😦

So anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge proponent of the “Better Late Than Never” camp… and even though I’ve got a million things to do before going to Australia (and even though it is possible everyone has already forgotten about the last few months with the speed that things seem to happen around here), it didn’t seem right for me to move on to Australia without some comments on this past tour.

For starters, I would like to put this past tour into the category of BEST. TOUR. EVER.  Every tour is fun and different and so is every show, but I have never before so looked forward to each and every single show… which is quite a feat, considering that I think I saw more shows on this tour than I have any other single tour they’ve done (yayyy unemployment… if nothing else, you have a LOT of free time.  Especially to wonder about what you’re doing with your life and how you’re going to pay for it.)  I think there were… 16 shows?  Jesus, I don’t even think I’d counted them before then.  Holy cow.  To recap, they were: Northampton-Boston-Brooklyn-UpperDarby/Philadelphia-D.C.-Richmond-Atlanta-New Orleans-Austin-Houston-Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago-Royal Oak/Detroit-Lakewood/Cleveland-Portland.  Umm, yes.  Wow.

Right.  So.  Back to my point.  I’ve always loved Tegan and Sara’s live shows, and for the most part, I’ve usually loved their openers too.  But there was just something about the stage presence and chemistry of and between these three bands that just made every show insanely good.  It was like every night I wasn’t just going to see Tegan and Sara, I was going to see three bands I really really enjoyed, and who clearly really enjoyed each other.  As @JanayS_Kinney said at the Royal Oak show, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen three bands so obsessed with each other.  I love it.”  I loved it too.  After the brief break in the tour in March, Jack from Steel Train commented on how weird it had been to go off on their own for a few weeks.  They got to do some really cool shows in the interim, he said, like SXSW, but that it was almost like “when your mom drops you off at a sleepover, and even though you wanted to go, you’re really totally miserable and just want to go home the whole time and don’t feel better until your mom picks you up and you’re home again.  Well, we’re home and one big happy family again.”  Such an awesome analogy.  Watching the arc of them all meeting for the first time in Northampton evolve into saying emotional goodbyes to each other at the last show in Portland, was just so cool, and really sweet to witness.

What was so great about them all, you might ask?  Holly Miranda’s absolutely beautiful voice.  The poignant lyrics and haunting, ethereal sound of her music.  Steel Train’s energy and enthusiasm.  Their careful balance of upbeat-depressing that is just completely fun to rock out to then and ponder later.  The way that each band gradually incorporated the other into their acts (see Holly Miranda’s “Pelican Rapids” and “Sleep on Fire” and Steel Train’s “SOG Burning in Hell”), making things more interesting and more powerful.  If there were anything I could have wished for, it would have been that Tegan and Sara could still join their openers onstage to make everything even more integrated and amazing (see Tegan accompanying Rachel Cantu and Vivek Shraya during their sets in 2005, or Communique coming back onstage during T&S’s set to do backing vocals for “Time Running,” also in 2005).  I wish, at least, that they could have found a way to incorporate Steel Train and Holly Miranda into just one song of their set.  It could have been amazing.  (Any suggestions on how/which song?)

As for Tegan and Sara, well, they just get better and better all the time.  The more they sink into this album, the more they nail everything (with the usual exception of Tegan and some lyrics) like a well-oiled machine.  Since I couldn’t quite narrow it down to 10 (underinclusive is not my style), I’m picking my Top 20 moments from all of the shows this past tour.

#20 Performance of Alligator – Portland

My favorite of all the shows, as far as music went, had to have been Portland… though every show before that was tight and together, there was something about the *conviction* they played with in Portland that just made it a more intense, high-powered show than any of the others.  It’s hard to describe exactly what was different, but everyone I talked to afterward seemed to feel it too.  I felt like Tegan and Sara performed all of the songs, but this one in particular, more emphatically than I thought was even possible.  Sara on the bridge here – especially convincing.

#19 “Unsolicited Boobies” – Washington, D.C.

This was a fun show for me because it was my home, my town, and even my former office building right across the street.  Even though it’s always slightly anticlimactic not to GO anywhere for a show (I know, it’s got to be difficult to be exciting, right?) it was really fun (and kind of surreal) to introduce my best friends and roommates in D.C. to a little bit of my world.  Though I think this resulted in them thinking I’m even crazier than they already thought I was, they all seemed to have a really good time, and still laugh about Tegan’s “unsolicited boobies” tangent (and especially about her covering her eyes later when a group of girls started yelling her name).  Good job, guys.  😉

#18 The Ceiling at the Aragon – Chicago

Once I got over my anxiety attacks about being up in the balcony for a change, it was actually kind of cool.  The venue was surreal, and watching the swirling mob of a crowd below was a hell of a lot better than being IN it.  Plus, a lot of you seemed to like the different view.  Still not sure whether I could do it again, though.  😉

#17 Sara Jumped Rope – Milwaukee

Before we had a visual of Sara jumping rope, we had to try to picture it.  Which was actually pretty hard.

#16 Steel Train & Holly Miranda Cover “Under Pressure” – Chicago

They must not have thought it went well because they didn’t try it again, but it was so cool that they tried!  We all got so excited when they started playing the intro… it was either going to be “Under Pressure” or “Ice Ice Baby,” and pretty much either one would have been awesome… for distinctly different reasons.  Heh.

#15 Sara Raps Bone Thugs – Minneapolis

Sara, you never cease to surprise us.  Bone Thugs n Harmony was one of your favorite bands?  Wow… but then again, they were also the favorite band of my ex-girlfriend who dragged me to the first Tegan and Sara show I ever saw.  Go figure.

#14 Tegan Slow Dancing – Royal Oak

Did everyone else notice Tegan taking the lead role?  I thought so.

#13 Steel Train Covering “Dancing in the Dark” – Portland

Dude, this song was MADE for these guys to cover it!  Not that I don’t love Tegan and Sara’s cover of it, I do… but man, Steel Train KILLED it.  The video doesn’t even do justice to the energy and awesomeness this performance had.

#12 Revisiting the Variety Playhouse – Atlanta

Even though I didn’t originally plan on going to this show, I couldn’t resist.  I haven’t missed a Tegan and Sara show in Atlanta since my first show in 2004 (when I was still living in Atlanta)… and seeing as how the first show of theirs I ever saw was at the Variety Playhouse (opening for Melissa Ferrick at the time), it had just a little bit of sentimental value for me.  I don’t remember much about my first T&S show at all, and I have never been able to find video of it.  The only thing I specifically remember is being captivated by “Where Does the Good Go.”  The world comes full circle yet again.

#11 Tegan’s Manicure Trauma – Brooklyn

If picturing Tegan getting a manicure isn’t funny, I don’t know what is.  Except maybe watching her hyperventilate while retelling the story.

#10 Meeting Really Awesome People – Everywhere

This would be no fun at all if it weren’t for the people.  Live twittercasting with @winkedinkie and @JulieIsntMyName as we drove from Austin to Houston.  Trying to figure out how to start a Prius with @runnerup in New Orleans.  Freezing outside in the snow with @njmisfit, @JoeYTeacups, @LBoogie_, @alovesickbruise, @sansei3, @inaccuratemap, @hoosierforlife and even @bethofalltrades in Brooklyn.  Sleeping on @bastiannarten’s couch in Atlanta and @MrRory’s parents’ living room floor in Detroit with @MrTubes, @WeaselWarrior, and @HammyCamey.  It is the friends I’ve made doing this over the years that make this fun and worth it.  Not to mention that this time around I finally got to meet my awesome and ridiculously committed YouTube bitch assistant @JanayS_Kinney, and accompany her to her first ever Tegan and Sara show!  (After watching and labeling about a billion of my concert videos, I thought she’d pass out finally seeing them in 3D.  But she did fine. 😉  Much thanks to Janay’s friends who allowed me to drag her all of the way to the front railing… it just wouldn’t have been the same without her.  🙂

In addition, there were just so many others… sharing a show with @austinaustin13 in Austin… meeting @Heather_D_ when she and I BOTH had awesomely special nights in Richmond (and she forgot to give me my birthday present ;)… chatting with @britt49 outside in Royal Oak… EVERYONE who was so awesome to us in Houston… all of the people who were so caring when I was in the hospital before Portland, and not to mention this time getting COOKIES (!!!!!!!) including homemade ones from @turtleturd6736 in Minneapolis and Oreos and fudge cookies from @rachelrjones in Cleveland!  AMAZING.  (Actually, if I met you on this last tour and you’re reading this, give me a shout out in the comments to say hi.  You all are so much fun.)

#9 Inviting the Audience to the Encore – Houston

After dealing with some loud and difficult audiences (east coast, wtf?  New Orleans… WTF??) it was bittersweet to see Sara especially getting so emotional about having an enthusiastic, respectful crowd.  Sometimes I see people posting things like, “oh they didn’t talk that much, they must not have liked us, it must not have been a very good show…” and I think, no… when they audience is on the same page as them, they enjoy being onstage, and you can tell… and to me, *that’s* what makes a good show.

#8 Tegan Smiling During Alligator – Houston

One of my favorite pictures from the tour.  Tegan was jamming in her own little world and playing the tiny keyboard solo in Alligator when the audience actually cheered for her.  I took this right as she looked up when she heard them.  I think it says it all.

#7 “Should Sara Sex It Up?” – Boston

Because I’ve retold this story too many times… oh Sara… LOL.

#6 Reinterpretation of Monday – Lakewood/Cleveland

SO excited to see hear this song make a comeback in the setlist!  I hadn’t heard it live since 2007, I think, and I definitely didn’t have any good recordings of it (though I appear to have a number of bad sound quality clips from my old camera… woo hoo!  If you’re interested, this is the longest: – New Orleans HOB, 2007).  In any case… this remake of the song is simpler, darker and more dramatic.  Who would have thought you could take a song with a music video involving a cartoon monkey and turn it into something so haunting?  And how about Ted’s guitar part, huh??  Love it.

#5 Steel Train w/Holly Miranda & Gorilla –  Portland

This song was one of the ones I most looked forward to every night because the drum breakdown at the end was what one review called “an absolute stunner.”  Four people drumming at once, amazing.  When more of Holly Miranda’s band joined in later shows, even more amazing.  This last night, Holly Miranda herself joined in, accompanied by… a gorilla.  Now this I can say for sure has never happened at a Tegan and Sara show before.  The audience was so stunned that I don’t think anyone even noticed Tegan practically standing on the stage filming and laughing her ass off.  Hilarious.

#4 Taking Requests – Brooklyn

I never thought I would see the day where Tegan and Sara would take requests from the audience again.  Both of them are such perfectionists and control freaks that seeing them try to play something they honestly weren’t sure they could play was fascinating.  They rarely vary their set list very much night to night, let alone make it up on the fly.  I feel like this is especially true for Sara (since Tegan often *does* have to make up words on the fly, actually…) and so I was so proud of her stubborn attempts to try to play “Dancing in the Dark,” merely to refute Tegan’s assumption that she wouldn’t be able to do it.  She didn’t get too far, but man, was I proud of her for trying.  🙂  (Also, can’t lie, “Light Up” live was a very close second.)

#3 “Mark My Words,” Holly Miranda – Cleveland

LOVE. THIS. SONG.  Love love love love love.  Everything about it.  If you don’t fall in love with her voice when she sings “for you” for the fourth time in the bridge, there is no hope for you.  Now if only we could figure out that one word in the refrain.

#2 “This Is Everything” – Brooklyn

I actually got giddy when I heard them start to soundcheck this song.  GIDDY.  What was one song I would have killed to have my own live recording of?  THIS ONE.  (My only clip of it, with my old camera with lousy sound, was this one:  I remember the same giddy feeling the first time I heard them play it live in 2005, when I was thrilled they were pulling out such an old song, such a good one, and one of my favorites, then and now.  It’s so emotional, so powerful, and for me, so true.  Having that moment where you tell the person you love more than anything in the world that they have to leave your life forever… I struggled to put that experience into words.  Until I heard this song.

And Finally, #1… (Richmond)

Um, I mean, yeah.  Just… yeah.  Was there anything else I could have put??

And with that I will finish, because I tend to get carried away by these kinds of things and just need to accept the fact that there is always a ton of stuff I’ve missed or forgotten, and that it’s okay.  If nothing else, this has for sure been a crazy reflection exercise/challenge for ME, and it was actually kind of cool to think of all I got to see and do (although my brain hurts just a little).  BUT, please, tell me, what were YOUR favorite moments from the tour?  Remind me of what I’ve forgotten and bitch at me for what I didn’t include.  I’d really like to hear what was most special to you.  Go for it.  😉  See you in Australia!

{April 18, 2010}   Recap: PDX!

Well, despite the two cross-country flights from hell and the most pain I’ve ever been in at a T&S show (it really wasn’t that bad since I got to sit the whole time… thank god it wasn’t a standing show and they didn’t bug the front row about standing up for once!)  I actually did get to rest and recoup (yes, yes, to all of you to whom I promised I would take it easy!) and to enjoy Portland!  I’d never been there before, so I was really glad to get to go.

Erin (one of my best friends since we were 13) took me around some of the city… we ate at a quirky diner named Roxy after the show that was so good we went back two days later to have a repeat on the “Too Snooty to Even Look at You French Toast,” eggs, and bacon.  We went to Voodoo Doughnuts (since apparently everyone says you have to) and got a delicious peanut butter and Oreo doughnut, though halfway through my second one I started to feel like I was going to be sick if I finished it (I mean seriously.  Think about how far YOU would get through two peanut butter and Oreo doughnuts).  We also spent hours in Powell’s Bookstore, which must be the most ginormous independent bookstore on the planet.  Since I’ve been into reading about trans/intersex/gender issues these days (Middlesex, As Nature Made Him), I got a copy of Dress Codes by Noelle Howey (full title – “Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods — My Mother’s, My Father’s, and My Own.”) Looking forward to reading!  Also, since Erin and I played soccer together from the time we were 13 all the way through high school (and both still play now), we lived out our high school dream of hitting the Adidas headquarters mecca with a 50% off coupon.  Jesus, talk about self-restraint (or lack thereof?)  I walked out with a pair of blue suede Sambas (just like the pair I had in high school that I wore TO DEATH, as Erin reminded me.  Like for real, I wore holes on both the insides and outsides of the soles that eventually met.  I still don’t know where they disappeared to.  I try not to think about the fact that my first ex probably chucked them.) a pair of really cushy flip-flops, a cute-but-practical pair of slip-ons (I don’t do trendy… so we’ll see how this goes), a pair of yoga/running pants (so comfy!) and a super cool, really cute light jacket that was probably way too expensive even at 50% off.  But I don’t have a light jacket.  And it had a number 24 on the sleeve.  Which was my soccer AND basketball number all through high school and college.  I mean, come on.  I had to.  Even though I still haven’t been brave enough to take off the tags.

My favorite, FAVORITE part of the trip, however… a day trip to Bagby Hot Springs!

I was in so much pain my second day in Portland that I called my neurologist to ask if it was normal.  He assured me that I was okay, and advised lots of very hot soaks to ease the pain in my back and neck.  I told Erin this, who came back with an awesome idea… a very hot soak in natural springs!  I thought that sounded really cool… so the next day, after packing enough to probably last us a week in the wilderness, we were off.

The place was a two-hour drive and then one-mile hike through the woods away (during which Erin carried all of our stuff and I felt like a pathetic loser), but it was SO worth it.  It was free, with long, canoe-like baths that filled up from the SUPER hot springs (they had a cold water cistern where you could get buckets of cold water to bring down the temperature… and OH YES we did.  Putting toes that have just been on cold, wet wood into steaming hot water?  OWWW.  Luckily Erin carried the buckets too.)  We sat there for hours, letting the hot water run into our bath, chatting, and watching someone’s little pug dog occasionally run into our stall and sniff at our food.  My back and shoulders were so happy.  It was heavenly.

Hot Springs

Another room full of baths, and a big hot tub that was, sadly, leaking that day…

Channeling water to us…

Just as awesome as the hot spring baths were, though, was the hike to get to them.  BEAUTIFUL.  As someone who has lived on the East Coast her whole life, the Pacific Northwest still has a mystical quality to it to me (which I didn’t quite enjoy the first time I saw it, which was driving from Seattle to Vancouver for the Back In Your Head video shoot, during which time I was too busy panicking about how I’d lost my mind to have flown across the country to do this).  The mountains, the evergreens, everything… even the fact that there was — as we had not quite anticipated — snow!  (It had somehow not occurred to us that there would be snow, despite the fact that we were driving up into the mountains.  It was April and 60 degrees and lovely in Portland, why would there be snow?!)  Despite this, it was warm enough to hike with just a jacket, and all of the snow was melting and things that weren’t already green were turning green, just adding to this wonderful ethereal mist of spring.  Did I mention that I love hiking?  I love hiking.  Especially hiking that does not involve a tent and bugs.

Stream in the Woods


I loved the moss hanging off of everything, especially backlit by the sun…

Moss and Sun

Wood Bridge

Why I love traveling with Erin: she is the one person who will never get mad at me for stopping to take too many pictures.

Present left in a tree stump?

Heading home.  😦

All in all, a really awesome, relaxing day, and a really good trip.  The hot water (and the painkillers) helped a ton, and by the time I left I was feeling a lot better and sad to go.  But I’ll leave you with this clip of us driving home, since I feel like pictures can’t quite capture it all sometime… (and if my YouTube channel gets flagged for the music we have playing in the background, by god, I might kill someone…)

{April 8, 2010}   This is Why I’m Crazy…

…because I am in Portland two days after being released from the hospital.  Well, the flight was already paid for, and I was also coming to visit my best friend from high school who just moved here from Hawaii (“no shows ever go there,” she says, “and now I’m here… and Tegan and Sara are here… and I’M here… and you’re not going to come?!??”)  The doctors also seemed to think it was okay, “as long as I felt better.”  Sooo…

Two connecting cross-country flights later, I am happy to have spent the whole day in my bed at my friend’s house.  By the end of the flights yesterday I felt like I’d been beaten all across my back and neck… even my ribs and abs were sore!  SUCH a relief to lie down!  I was really worried I would hurt something further, but my doctor reassured me that muscular-skeletal soreness and stiffness  was normal after a spinal procedure like that (I should have remembered from the last time I had needles stuck in my NECK… ugh) so I think I’m okay.  Still happy to be in a reclining bed with cats all day.

Major challenge tonight: Holding up a camera!  Since the aching has spread from my lower back to my shoulders and neck, this ought to be fun.  No guarantees.  At least it’s a seated show.  Wish me luck!

{April 5, 2010}   Hello from Room C6207A

Hello lovelies, I return.  Well, I expected my next post to come from the comfort of my living room and not from a hospital bed, but sometimes you just don’t know where the Good Lord’s gonna throw you (I don’t know why I had the urge to temporarily channel Sarah Palin.  We’ll end that now.)  After 3 days of semi-consciousness I am now sleeped-out and wide awake (although, let’s face it, I’d probably be wide awake anyway) and sitting here eating an Easter cookie from my hospital food dinner.  I appreciate their efforts.  These sugar sprinkles are actually really good.  Anyway, before this past Friday I had never been to the ER, never stayed overnight in the hospital (except maybe for being born??), never had a CAT scan, a spinal tap, an MRI, or been on IVs for more than a few hours.  Tonight I got up to walk to the bathroom and tried to drag my IV pole with me before realizing that for the first time I wasn’t connected.  Freedom!!!  Anyway, chalk those all up to my new learning experiences.  I think I’m good now.

Before you get too worried, I’m okay and going home tomorrow (hopefully).  It seems I had a monster migraine that just wouldn’t stop for two days, and along with fever/chills and all that good stuff I ended up in the ER because the doctors thought it might be meningitis (that and because by that point I couldn’t walk or eat and was curled up in a ball crying).  I’ve since been cleared of not having meningitis (thank god) but was put on a 48-hour IV migraine treatment and have had awful headaches from the spinal tap (they choose the moment I’m lying curled in a ball with a migraine to tell me that this procedure is known to cause headaches, do I consent?  I mean, is that a cruel question or what?  What can you say??)

It’s all been quite an alarming and worrisome experience, and during those hours when I sat in my bed yesterday, staring at the wall because I had no books and nothing to do and my blackberry had died, I contemplated what kind of morons are seriously opposed to health care reform.  At this point, it’s personal!  I feel almost attacked by their attitude.  I’m like a young, healthy, unemployed woman whose brain just suddenly decides to try to escape her skull.  How is this my fault?  And I’m one of the lucky ones… I still have health insurance coverage from my last employer under COBRA (Continued… something something something…) and get help paying for 65% of my premiums as a direct result of last year’s stimulus bill (all those in Congress who opposed the stimulus package can just suck it).  But these premiums aren’t *cheap*… I could buy a few plane tickets with what I pay each month.  And not to mention that that’s not all: I’ll still have to pay for the co-pays and deductibles that will come with 3 nights taking up a hospital bed, a 12-hour ER visit, over 72 hours of IVs, seeing a neurologist, and a spinal tap, chest x-rays, an MRI and a CAT scan.  At the moment I’m trying to avoid thinking how much that is going to be and telling myself that my health is worth it (I know, I know) but it’s still scary.

How many people could be so brainwashed and misinformed that they could seriously be rioting the Capitol against their own self-interest??  I’m sure there aren’t too many people in this country that have a cakewalk with their health insurance company.  If they understood even half of what’s happening they’d be morons to miss how it could be good for them, or at least how it could not possibly be worse than what they already have!!!  (My favorite is the woman resolutely holding her “Keep the government out of my Medicare!”  sign.  Wow lady… I don’t know how much more stupid you could possibly look on national TV.)  And all this junk about “socialized medicine” and raising taxes?  Please.  See above, where I reference just how much I pay per month paying only *35%* of my health care premiums.  And if the taxes I’d have to pay would be more than that?  Cool, it would cover the awesome co-pays and deductibles I’m going to pay ANYWAY.

I remember spending HOURS in a hospital waiting room with the same group of people waiting to be triaged (triaged! Emergency intake!  Key word being *emergency!*  As in people losing it all around us!) and one of them looking up and saying with a straight face and a voice dripping with irony, “Good thing we’re not in Canada, I hear they have like, ridiculously long lines and you have to wait forever to see a doctor………..”  I think we all laughed the driest, most bitter laugh possible in the situation.

So my question is, my Canadian friends, are these frantically-cited woes of red-tape, inefficient, government-run health care at all true?  Or are they, as I suspect, completely imaginary and sponsored by insurance companies?  I really want to know, so that I can have a response to all of the idiocy people over here try to feed you about how much worse it is in Canada.

As for my American friends, if you feel like it, I’d love to hear your worst health care nightmares.  I tend to like hearing about other people’s nightmares.  They make me feel less alone about mine.  Plus people usually seem to actually enjoy being asked.  😉

As for me, I’m going to go to sleep for what is hopefully my last night in this bed that I am paying god-knows-what to stay in, and look forward to returning to my free (that I already pay rent on) bed at home tomorrow.  At least there aren’t knocks on your door every four hours for a vitals check.

Sleep tights.

{March 24, 2010}   Packing

Packing.  I’m no good at packing.  I never have been.  I pack too much.  I forget the actual important things.  I put it off until I’m… hey, look at that… up at 2AM contemplating how I should start packing.  At some points I start to think that I’ve gotten better at it, but then I realize that no, I’ve actually just gotten so exasperated by the whole process that I now just throw stuff in there and hope for the best.  Or – better yet – why not combine the equally unpleasant tasks of packing and unpacking by just taking everything out of your last suitcase, throwing it in the washer, and then repacking it?  NOW we’re onto something.  Load two in the washer as we speak.  Although the weather might be different than the last place I was packing for.  Where *was* the last place I was packing for?  Hmm…

As I’m scanning my bedroom and realizing that I have BOTH a suitcase lying open from January’s Canadian trip AND an entirely different one from February’s Atlanta/New Orleans/Austin/Houston trip, however, it occurs to me that the impossibility of this particular packing seems particularly overwhelming because down the hall one of my best friends and roommate of almost three years is finishing packing up her life in this house.  Tomorrow, she’s getting on a plane to head to her mom’s in Florida for a few days, and then, Colombia (as in the *country*) for a year.  So many things keep flashing through my mind.  Standing on the roof of my apartment building in Atlanta talking with her on the phone for hours after we had just found each other on craigslist and decided we’d be perfect roommates.  Interviewing countless other potential roommates to fill the other two spaces in the house the first year (when we barely knew what we were doing) to the third year (where we didn’t even bother cleaning up or preparing questions for people anymore).  Showing up together at parties at the beginning where we were the new kids in town and didn’t know anyone else.  Hosting our own parties two years later once we got too lazy to leave the house to be social most of the time.  Getting pitted against each other in Jello wrestling.  Bundling up to battle freezing temperatures to watch Obama be inaugurated.  Laughing until we were crying over stupid pictures of cats when we’d both had a bad day.  Going to concerts, speakers, forums, town halls, parties, poetry slams, Pride, yoga… being the tour guide to visiting friends… being the tourists ourselves at the Cherry Blossom Festival… having “accountability cleanings” where one of us would sit in the other’s room while she cleaned to make sure she didn’t get distracted or decide to take a nap instead of cleaning… going grocery shopping together and trying to figure out what the hell was IN the fridge, and tossing it all so we could actually fit in the food we’d just bought.   Staying up way too late night after night chatting, wasting time, and watching Rachel Maddow at 9PM, 11PM, and sometimes, for good measure, 1AM.  Running into each other rushing around in the hallway at 10:30 in the morning when both of us were supposed to be at work at 9.  Being there for her when she found out her ex had been cheating on her with her best friend.  Her being there for me when my job left me crying on my desk every other day.  And yes, her being there every time I got back from New York, London, Vancouver, L.A., or wherever the hell I’d been, full of stories that she’d patiently listen to no matter how crazy I’m sure I was driving her half the time.

So tomorrow, when she’s getting on a flight to Florida, I’ll be busy getting on my own plane to Minneapolis, focused on getting where I need to go and miraculously remembering all of the things I forgot to pack.  But when I come back in a few days from my next trip across some part of some country, she’s not going to be here.  And I’m not quite sure what is going to be able to fill that space.  Soon enough there will be another roommate, but those aren’t that hard to find around here.  What is hard to find — next to impossible to find — is a best friend.  She’ll be back in a year… I know this.  But what I also know is that you can never know all of the ways in which you and circumstances are going to change in that time.  A year goes by so quickly, everyone says… but looking back on just how much has been crammed into the two and a half years we’ve lived here together, I know that it’ll also be an awful lot to miss.

Anyway, my laundry is done now.  And I should probably go put it back into one of the suitcases on my floor and print out my boarding pass.  Usually I stay up too late because I’m dreading going to work the next day.  Tonight, though, I might be up a while… because I don’t want to wake up to the time where I have to say goodbye.

et cetera