Mardi Gras Eve

Mardi Gras Band by Anna Harris

So many Mardi Gras days under the bridge. It’s not a happy day for me. Maybe once it was, but I can’t remember any solid examples to lend that thought creedence. I keep wanting to turn it around, make it into a day of wildness and magick, the way it feels it should be. I want it to be a Bacchanalia, to be mad with wine and desire, but instead I keep it on an even keel. I walk around the city, maybe wear a mask and some sparkly clothes. I have a few drinks, do some people watching, then retire in the early evening to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the rest of the week. I guess that makes me old and boring.

For me, the joy of Mardi Gras stopped that morning when I woke up in your bed without you. In the kitchen, WWOZ was listing out the day’s concert information, interspersed with snippets of old time carnival songs. You’d be playing your own songs that afternoon on Frenchmen Street. The sun streamed weakly through the windows of the pink house, falling in bars across that futon mattress on the floor. I lay there, thinking that I’d already missed Zulu, and would probably miss Rex at this rate. I wondered how I’d get downtown. I felt regret, but it was bigger than a missed parade. There was distance between us that had nothing to do with carnival plans.

It rained that afternoon. But doesn’t it rain every Mardi Gras?

Music Monday: Riot Nrrrd by 2 Skinnee J’s

Music is a huge part of my life. I spend at least half of my day listening to tunes on Spotify, and I’m constantly finding myself slipping song lyrics into conversation. I’m that person who can’t help but start singing the song you just inadvertently quoted, completely destroying whatever serious point you were just trying to make. Heaven help you if you say anything that even remotely sounds like a lyric from an oldies song – I just cannot help myself. Hope you like to sing along, because it will be the only way you can make it out of this relationship with sanity intact. In fact, I knew my boyfriend was absolutely perfect when I started unconsciously humming a song to myself during a stressful moment at a card party and he joined in automatically (well, that, and the night he purposely sang a dorky Peter Cetera song for karaoke night in front of all of his friends just because he knew how much I love Chicago).

I thought it would be fun to start a Monday tradition of talking about songs that are important to me in some way, whether it’s because of a great lyric, an important memory, or just because it happens to be something I’m obsessed with that minute. I’m calling it Music Monday, because I’m not trendy enough to come up with something more clever. Or clever enough to come up with something more trendy? Meh, whatever. Today we’re going to talk about “Riot Nrrrd” by an American band called 2 Skinnee J’s.

My favorite 2SJ’s song at the moment is “Girl With The World In Her Eyes“, but “Riot Nrrrd” will always hold a special place in my heart. I was listening to it again for the millionth time the other day, and instead of using it as comforting background noise, I found myself really falling into the lyrics. One part always got me when I was a teenager, and it still gets me today:

I’m lookin’ for intelligent life.
I’m lookin’ for a blip on the screen.
So I can reach out and touch somebody –
Anybody!
Everybody!

If that doesn’t sound profound to you, imagine being the only geek/goth/pagan in a town of 2,000 born again Christians, just biding your time to GTFO and meet other people who want to talk to you about Star Wars and The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Congrats, you’ve just met me at 17. I’m slightly less intense now. Thank goodness for New Orleans.

If you’ve never heard of 2 Skinnee J’s, don’t worry. They’re a tad obscure, it turns out. Not obscure in that “gee, I’m so cool for knowing this” way, though. (Though I am, because they’re amazing.) More like “shit, I wish they hadn’t gotten screwed by record companies and fallen off the map” way. I first heard them in 1998, as a junior in high school, when “Riot Nrrrd” started getting steady play on my local alt-rock station, 99x. I have this very specific memory of being in my car at a stoplight in Washington, NC, about 30 minutes down the road from my tiny hometown of Belhaven, and hearing a commercial for an upcoming concert come on the radio. They were playing in Virginia. I had a single moment of elation, followed by a 30 minute ride back home of complete depression, since I knew that my parents would never let me drive all the way to another state just to hear some rock band play. Maybe missing that concert is why I now find it completely acceptable to drive to Austin or Atlanta (or fly to Chicago) to hear a band play whenever the mood strikes. Hmmm…

Note: I just took a 10 minute break to go and play around on the band’s Facebook page, and found this gem in their “About” section:

Underground New-Wave/Hip-Hop icons with a zealous cult following, 2SJ has more friends than fans – the divide between band and audience is destroyed on the stage at the the most fundamental level. Grassroots following combined with road-dog work ethic has carved out a niche in the annals of rock iconography as Selfless Leaders of the Peoples Movement of Rock! Organic social messages that make Occupy Wall Street/99%ers blush, combined with Party Rock over-the-top extravagance make 2SJ THE FUNNEST BAND OF ALL TIME!

I fucking love them.

Anyway, so I missed the concert my junior year, but wonder of wonders, I moved to New Orleans after graduating from high school in 1999, and not long after that, they came here to play a concert! Finally, my chance had come. What’s even better is that I was working for my college newspaper at the time, and the editor tapped me to interview the band via phone and do a writeup on their album and the concert. (It wasn’t the only “celebrity” interview I was to do that year; I also ended up interviewing one of the members of Joydrop, who hit it big in the States with a song called “Beautiful”.)

The interview went…well, it went. I don’t remember what questions I asked, only that I was extremely unprepared. Luckily, I spoke to Special J, and he was really kind to me despite my idiocy. I was 18, and the internet was still pretty new back then, so it hadn’t occurred to me to try to find out more about the band via the web. Not sure that it would have helped, either, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember him identifying himself to me as “the white rapper” (useful for me, since I knew almost nothing about them), and telling me that their costumes for the upcoming concert were going to be amazing. He invited me to the concert and told me he’d put aside a couple of tickets for me at will call. I told him I’d be there in my velvet flame pants and white go-go boots (yes, these were both things that I wore on a semi-regular basis, without irony). I hung up the phone with this feeling that I had a date with destiny.

So exciting, right?

Here’s a spoiler for you: I didn’t go. No one wanted to go with me, and I’d never left the campus before. In the end I was too chickenshit to go by myself, and I missed out on what would have been one of the most epic concerts of my life. Then they broke up in 2003. I’m still kicking myself.

Fast forward to today, 15 years later, and 2 Skinnee J’s still sees steady rotation in my playlist. Luckily, they haven’t dropped off the map entirely, so there’s still a chance for me to see them live at some point, if I’m lucky. They’ve done a few reunion shows over the years, typically in NYC (at least once it was on a party boat in the Hudson River), and they did a tour in the southern and mid-Atlantic states back in 2012. I’ve yet to have the resources to go see them, but if they do it again, and if I have enough time to save up, I’ll definitely be there. Who knows, maybe I’m the last major fan who’s never made it to one of their concerts.

What do you think my chances are that those two tickets are still waiting at will call?

The Breakfast Soundtrack

AlbumCovers-BeachBoys-EndlessSummer(1974)FullAlbumCover

I’m an introverted only child, born to an sweet, oddball mother and a studious, slightly wacky father. For my entire life until I went away to college in 1999, we operated as a pretty tight family unit with lots of unwritten, albeit strongly adhered-to, rules. One of those rules was Sunday morning breakfast.

Mum is a late riser – 10:30am at the very earliest. Daddy, on the other hand, is habitually early to rise. Like 6am early; it’s sick. I was never that great at waking up, even as a kid, but on Sundays, he’d always get me out of bed around 9am. Then we’d go downstairs and start cooking.

Breakfast started a little differently in our household. When I was very little, say 5 or so, my primary duty for Sunday breakfast prep was to pick a record for us to listen to while Daddy cooked. Almost every Sunday, I picked the same record to start the morning: The Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer”. I loved the album cover art so much, and can remember tracing the lines around their faces and hair with my chubby little fingers.

As eggs were being beaten and bacon fried, I’d take my place in the living room, doing a weird speed-walking/dance routine thing around the border of our fake Persian rug. I loved walking in circles (and turning in circles, and thinking in circles…whoops), and would literally do the same thing for the entire time Daddy was cooking – 45 minutes or more. Today I’d probably be diagnosed with some disorder, but I was zoning to the music, enjoying staying between the lines in the decorative rug border, and loving the smell of bacon and French toast that filled our house.

Once he had finished cooking, Daddy would ask me to change the record. Our special in-joke was that the “finale” of breakfast prep was always heralded by the same song. Daddy would turn the speakers so that they were pointing towards the master bedroom, where my sainted mother still slept peacefully. Then he’d turn the volume all the way up, and let me place the needle at around minute 11 of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (with Cannons). Horrible? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.

Just after Tchaikovsky had had his say, if Mum was being stubborn and staying in bed in protest (yes, I’m definitely this woman’s child), I’d get to take her breakfast up to her on a tray. Even if she was a little perturbed, she’d always be so sweet and sleepy, and happy to see both me and her breakfast. I’d crawl in bed with her and watch her eat her French toast, and hopefully get a snuggle in before it was time to go do other Sunday things, like maybe go to the movies, or to the flea market.

Eventually, our Sunday breakfasts became a little looser, and sadly less musical. When I got older, I’d help Daddy make breakfast and we’d normally watch TV while things were cooking. The record player moved into my bedroom around the time I turned 13, where it enjoyed Donovan, The Beatles, Chicago and Aretha Franklin on heavy rotation. The Beach Boys didn’t make it out to play that often, but I never forgot them.

In 2009, I ran the Chicago Marathon – 26.2 miles of streetscape winding through a decent handful of Chicago’s neighborhoods. “Endless Summer” got me through a few months of training, and a huge portion of that day’s run. I wouldn’t call it a favorite album, by any means, but it’s the perfect cadence for a plodder such as myself. More importantly, it’s perfect for zoning out as you run in a circle, dreaming of your next encounter with a huge plate of home-cooked breakfast.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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Memories

I just got reprimanded on FB, and it’s got me down. After my last post about moving to Chicago for the first time after Hurricane Katrina, I got nostalgic and started looking up my old photos. It turned out that I had a bunch of photos from 2005 that weren’t on FB yet. So I started posting them, and tagging the ones where either people looked cute (girls) or cute/funny (guys). I didn’t want to piss off any of my girlfriends by posting a photo where they thought they looked fat or weird or something. We’re such a picky, superficial lot. And I should know – The Man just posted a bunch of photos from our NYC trip and I had to hide half of them from the Timeline because he kept shooting me from really weird angles.

So when I got an email asking me to untag some of the photos I’d tagged an old friend in, at first it didn’t bother me. Then I realized that she meant every single shot, and not because she was concerned that she looked bad. She asked that I untag her because it was a time she’d rather forget. Including a couple of really pretty snapshots of just her and me and another friend.

This was undisputedly the best few months of my life to this point. It just makes me sad that not only does she hate remembering it, she hates everything about it. There were a lot of fun moments. Stress free moments. Just normal partying and being free moments. It seems a shame to cut all of it out, but it’s her choice so of course I removed her name from all of the photos. It makes me so sad that she wants to forget all of us, and the incredible closeness we shared for that short time.

I dunno. To each his or her own. But I like my messy life. I’ve had hard times. I’ve had really terribly shitty times. I’ve made choices that the majority don’t have to make, and gone on to live with the pain, and past the pain, and now over and above the pain. Still, I don’t want to forget a single thing about my life – the bad things helped shape me just as much as the good things did. How can I possibly keep improving if I don’t hold on to every last bit of it?

Sure, there are a couple of people that I could have lived without, but overall, I don’t even want to forget them. Because while they were in my life, they were mostly there for good times. It was only the endings that were bad, and then they were gone. Sometimes the good people and good memories don’t think of themselves in that light, I guess. Sometimes they want to write themselves out of the story. When it comes to that, we must let them.

But not before reminding them to update their privacy settings if they don’t want to get tagged.