Such Garbage

Last week at this time I was doing everything in my power to prepare and not be nervous for my performance at “The Great Cover Up.” I watched YouTube videos of live performances, looked at photos of the lead singer, rolled on therapy balls to get the kinks out of my back and tried to do everything possible to not forget a single detail.

We covered the band Garbage, who are a pivotal fixture from my adolescence. As the final step, I had my hair professionally dyed an almost-too-bright shade of red. Sometimes a musician is known more as a caricature of themselves than their actual selves. As luck would have it, Shirley Manson is most often remembered for her red hair and mod style, so the extreme worked. I also wore an A-line dress with a built-in cape. I wasn’t fond of the color, but with the harsh stage lighting and satiny fabric, it worked perfectly.

In Cori’s hair chair

Backstage was like the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Instruments in and out of their cases stacked like dominoes and local musicians I’d never seen…people rustling about, muscling for a tiny space to be until their time onstage drew near. I staked my claim on the Green Room sofa, headphones in, trying to listen to the 20 minute set at least once. My attempts were all but futile. Friends who had never been were flummoxed by the long line and unwillingness of the venue to let them in even after it had reached full capacity. They’d been warned prior to coming, but I still felt responsible for getting them in the door to see us.

Since my hair color was a very noticeable shade of red and I was running around in my boyfriend’s tee shirt, glittery fishnets, spanky pants and combat boots, I hung out backstage, anxiously awaiting the time to kick all the boys out of the Green Room and put on my dress (It wrinkled if you looked at it hard, so I’d steamed it 3 times before covering it and taking it to the venue. I wasn’t about to drive or sit around in it).

There were so many people. And they would cycle in and out in waves. A sax player warmed up and prepared his instrument right next to me while I sat there in my solitude. A hairdresser fluffed a bad mullet wig. Guys quickly grabbed PBRs from the mini fridge and disappeared just as quickly. The waters disappeared by the fifth band, but the PBRs kept getting replenished as quickly as they left. A girl sat on the corner table, plucking the strings of her guitar almost silently. 3 of us were attached by headphones to our phones. It was crunch time. It was as if we were all cramming for a final exam in the library.

The first band was early-era Genesis. Although I didn’t know a single song, I appreciated the theatrical elements. The musicians were older and nicer than some of the younger more self-centered ones. It seemed like they were just a group of old friends who enjoyed playing music by bands they idolized. When I really think about it, that’s probably what my current band is as well. It’s nice to have such a talented group of friends to jam with. I’m lucky.

Every so often someone would look at the lineup on the door and ask me which act I was in. The lineup was simply the time slot and the contact person’s name for each act. No one discussed which band they would be performing. The other performers were kept just as much in the dark as the attendees. I just kept telling everyone we were fourth.

And the time could not have passed slower.

Before I knew it, I had a set of two assistants wrangling me into my dress, fluffing my hair, giving me all sorts of positivity and pep talks… if only it was like this on the daily. Heather and Cori had run backstage between bands just to put me at ease. Both Heather and Jennifer stood in front of me (at different times), took my hands and just said “Wow.” When I accidentally spilled water on my breast, both Heather and Cori rubbed it until the stain disappeared. I honestly don’t know what I would do without such an amazing inner circle.

It seems as if I waited an eternity to step onstage, but as soon as I did it was as if my entire body went into autopilot. It was as if muscle memory and my brain said, “Relax. We got this.”

I remember only a few things about that 20 minutes. A few small mistakes (which I continually punish myself for because I’m a perfectionist) although it’s likely that no one noticed but me. I saw Erika, Bryan and Jennifer, which made me smile so big I broke character a few times. There were people I’d never seen before dancing and singing back at me. In the front row there was a girl I recognized from a very long time ago. She had pink hair and was singing all the songs back at me, even the ones we didn’t think many people would recognize. I also remember smiling at my bandmates because I couldn’t help but smile.

I think it’s the duty of every musician to reach at least one person in their audience through the power of their performance. If I can do that, I consider my efforts a success. Things like that you see through the blur.

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The Great Cover Up and Me

If you told me 10+ years ago that I’d be playing the Great Cover Up this Friday night, I would never have believed you. Back then I was struggling to form a band, keep it together, keep the gigs coming, stay relevant… I had a conniving best friend who contributed to my delinquency every chance she got… I hadn’t figured out how quickly rumors spread and how cruel being in the public eye could be… yet. By the time I did, I’d taken a temporary break from music and a permanent break from her… but all of that took quite some time.

Although there was a lot going on, there was one thing that stood out in my mind. Each year I’d hear about this event. It was veiled in the appropriate amount of mystery and I even assumed it may have been a “popup concert”
that only a chosen few knew about. Since only my seasoned musician friends and various “In Crowd” social types seemed to know about it, I knew it had to be something special. And I wanted so badly to be a part of it.

One year, a few years before his tragic passing, my friend Kelly was talking to me on the phone. We were solving the problems of the world, I was probably talking him through a girl problem or several. He was extolling the virtues of a good camel toe and I was trying not to give any of his absurd arguments credence.

He asked me if I wanted to go to The Great Cover Up. I said “WHAT IS THAT?” He explained that local musicians masqueraded as famous acts for one short set. This event occurred one weekend a year. There were a handful of acts each night, but no one knew what they would be until they hit the stage. Unfortunately, what he didn’t tell me was that this event was so wildly popular that in order to get in, you needed to arrive at least an hour beforehand.

The subject didn’t come up in our conversation until 9pm. We would never have made it in, although he was hard-pressed to prove otherwise.

I needed a shower and a good makeupping, so I passed. And each year, the event seemed to sneak up on me and leave before I could get myself there.

Finally, 2 years ago, my friend Jason’s wife contacted me about getting him ready to be both Anthony Kiedis and Michael Hutchence. I jumped at the chance. Since then, I’ve attended at least one night each year… usually when a friend or two is playing.

Cut to present day

I remember the night I got the text. Jason sent an enthusiastic “You’re IN!” I remember I was fighting to recover from a cold. My father was in rehab after suffering a brain bleed. Mom was bed-ridden. I was doing everything. But instead of being overwhelmed, I quickly picked 5 of my favorite well-known songs from the band we would imitate and contacted my band mates. Within a few hours the band was formed and the initial set list chosen. I’d even contacted my hairdresser to see what we could do to avoid the seemingly inevitable “bad wig” scenario.

We rehearsed every Sunday in December (excepting holidays) and one in January. After a few online orders, mail-in returns and shopping trips, I’d put together my stage outfit.

It’s Wednesday and I’ve been going over music in my car non-stop. I went home with a migraine Monday. Tuesday my back was so tight I had to make an emergency chiropractic appointment. Last night my friend Allison stayed with me because she had a call-back audition for an IBM commercial. Today has been the first chance I’ve had to refresh my memory. We beat them to death on Sunday, so the break was welcome, although I would have rather not had so many health issues.

So now you know why this event means so much to me. It reminds me of those days when I used to picture myself beyond the great wall that kept me out. You cannot imagine the feeling of hearing those words that began this journey… YOU’RE IN!

TWO DAYS…

I can’t wait!

The Art of Letting Go

Nothing will sabotage the present more than a preconceived notion of what your future should look like.

This is exactly what torpedoed my last relationship. He was still holding onto the idea of the future he’d created in his mind with his most recent ex wife. This revolved around the big house out in the middle of nowhere that was purchased in order to create a comfortable life for 5. It didn’t hit him until after he began the process of selling and moving that he was still living in the past. The wife left, one kid had been at an out-of-state school for a few years, one graduated high school this year, so he was left with 2 people, a lot of space, a lot of house, and a lot of memories.

Attempting not to make the same mistakes again, he held himself back from any sort of emotional connection or growth. I kept going as if everything was normal until I couldn’t.

Mistakes aren’t all bad if we can learn from them, and luckily, I was in the position to learn from his as well as my own. It was as if a light switched on in my brain. Just like that, I decided to let go of any and all preconceived notions I had about my future and just started LIVING. Sure I’ve led quite an interesting and exciting life thus far, but there were a few ideals in my subconscious that I still clung to. I’d wanted kids. I’d wanted to be married. And even though I watched a lot of my friends suffer through a failed marriage or 3, I still found myself seeking out the big endgame, sometimes in spite of where the relationship should have gone. Too many times I used the power of sheer will to make things work long after they should have ended. I saw things in people that simply weren’t there. And this led to mistake after mistake.

The square peg will never fit the round hole.

I never knew what it truly felt like to JUST LET GO. And now, there are still some times that I have to quiet the inner voice that reminds me of what I thought my own life would look like when I got to this point. But they are fewer and farther between.

A few weeks passed and I started talking to a guy I’d met who lived 3-hours away. Although the sparks flew when we met, we attempted to ignore them because of the distance.

Now he’s my boyfriend. And I couldn’t be happier. We’ve made vacation plans through September, and that’s the only future I see. No preconceived notions. Just fun. Every 3 or 4 days, he drives here to see me… because we can’t stay away from each other any longer than that. It’s a feeling I’ve missed. When you’re no longer forcing or trying to control things, the best things can happen. They just need the space to do so.

We’re taking my dog to the beach in August because he’s never seen the waves and sand. I honestly just wanted to see his reaction, but I know that whatever happens, I’ll love every minute.

It’s a great place to be… in the moment. And it’s something that has always seemed so simple, yet has always eluded me.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can tell you one thing… I’m going to enjoy every moment that I’m given. That’s a promise.

Our first weekend together. He didn’t flinch when I said “Let’s do mud masks!”

Even my dog loves him

Your Best Self

Recently I started working out with a personal trainer. I first met him over 10 years ago when I made the decision to learn a little something about fitness. Working out with him has been the only thing that has really worked for me, so after 10 years of denial, I’m back in the gym building muscle again.

In the interim, I tried every “quick fix” I could get my hands on. From Herbalife to Plexus to It Works! I tried it all. I was a Lululemon-wearing, green juice-guzzling Barre snob for a little longer than I should have been. I even went to a “weight loss doctor” who discovered that I was hypothyroid. After that she did nothing more than require bi-weekly visits that consisted of a tiny bit of small talk, a weigh-in, and a shot in my butt that was supposed to boost my metabolism. I left each visit $180 poorer with a pocket full of pills that made me hungry, irritable, and anxious. And then I quit.

I had all the excuses: No time, no money… blah, blah, blah. But when I compared all the time, effort and money I’d wasted possibly making myself even more unhealthy, there was no contest. Sure, personal trainers are expensive, but so is everything else. And nothing can equal the satisfaction of accomplishing goals and breaking through barriers.

Before I met Wade I’d never set foot in a gym. As a girl who had grown up never having to worry about her weight, I knew nothing about diet and even less about exercise. Instead of sports, I chose art and music. I had no active hobbies. My mother didn’t cook, so I learned how to survive on fast food and junk food. And it caught up to me. It took its sweet time about it, but it finally did.

When you need something fixed, you consult an expert. Wade has always been that for me. He knows I lack motivation and discipline, so he works to counteract that. He prevents me from sabotaging my progress. He keeps me out of my own way.

As you may have guessed, I’ve decided to move this whole “Year of Yes” thing in an even more positive direction. I’m definitely not missing any opportunities, but I’ve also decided to incorporate being my “best self” as well. I’m not a fan of stagnation or negativity, so these concepts have been an ongoing theme.

Undelivered

Years ago Alanis Morissette penned a song called “Unsent.” It was a musical nod to a handful of her ex-boyfriends, based on the premise that if she could say anything she wanted to them, what would it be? I related to it then just as much as I relate to it now.

When a relationship ends, no one ever really gets the last word… and why would they want to? But sometimes, after the smoke has cleared and the ashes have settled you’re left with a few things you’d like to say, but never will.

For instance, I saw that fool who broke things off by sending me a photo of the belongings I’d left behind last night. I was with my best friend and the guy I’m seeing at a concert. He was across the room. I’m sure if he saw me, he probably beat feet out of there as fast as his legs could carry him.

If I could say anything to him, it would probably go something like this:

You didn’t break me.

Despite your best efforts to the contrary, I’m fine… great in fact.

I did see you last night at the Dorothy concert. You were alone without a drink in your hand. I was most surprised by the latter.

I may never know the real reason behind what happened, but each day I care less and less. Just as you threw me away, you too will soon be erased from my memory and none of this will matter.

But most of all I’m grateful that you ended things the way you did. It was awful and you were a complete dick, but I’m glad I got to see it earlier rather than later. You did me a favor. If you hadn’t, I might still be there… fooling myself.

I hope you do resolve whatever internal struggle caused you to blindside me that day, not because I have any interest in what happens to you, but because everyone deserves to be happy.

I’ve written my fair share of letters to people who didn’t appreciate them. At the time, I thought all those things needed to be said. I was probably dead wrong about that, but I did it anyway.

I once wrote a poem and left it on a guy’s car in an effort to woo him back after he broke up with me. I have no idea what happened to that guy… or the poem for that matter. At the time I thought I was a GENIUS!

I’ve also had poems written for me. I can remember this one stanza verbatim:

You’re beautiful, you’re funny.
You make every day bright and sunny.

It was terrible. And I’m pretty sure I made fun of it with my friends. I was kind of an asshole. Of course, this didn’t make his writing any less terrible.

Skylar Grey wrote a song called “Words.” It’s an open letter to her grandfather who passed away before she could say goodbye. If you get the chance, give it a listen. It’s one of the most beautifully-written songs I’ve ever heard.

I’m fortunate to still have both parents, but this song makes me think of a few things I want to tell them before it’s too late.

Mom & Dad,

Words cannot express how much I love you and how grateful I am to be loved by you. You put everything you were into raising me and I need you to know that your efforts have never gone unnoticed.

I’m your child… equal parts of both. I got it all, the good, the bad… everything. You taught me to be honest and fair… the difference between right and wrong… I inherited your even temperament and charisma. You gave me the courage to start over time and time again. You were always there to pick me up whenever I fell and most of all, you taught me how to love because you provided an environment where there was so much of it.

I know I’ve leaned on you more than I probably should, but one day you’ll see that I can take care of myself as well as you’ve taken care of me. As scary as it is, I’m finally growing up.

Thank you Mom, for marrying such a good man. He’s raised the bar so high that I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who can compare.

And Mom, you lived vicariously through me. You always wanted me to have the best of everything, even it required sacrifice. You wanted me to have everything you didn’t. Your love was selfless and unconditional. I’ve learned a lot from you.

We’ve surprised each other, disappointed each other, laughed with each other and were always there for each other. But most of all, I just wanted to make you proud.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. I’m grateful for each day I get to have you in my life, even if I don’t always show it. I get carried away with the daily minutia and don’t tell you these things enough. We all do. That’s why I wanted to take this moment to thank you. I hope you’re as proud of the person I’ve become as I am to be your daughter.

I love you,

Ann

525,600 Minutes

A lot can happen in a year. It’s funny to think that I started off the year recovering from a relationship that made me feel like a prisoner. I took the necessary time to put it behind me, then made 2017 my Year Of Yes. I spent most of my time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I went to a TON of concerts. I hired a contractor to transform my house into a place I could thrive in, instead of the place where I keep all my stuff. I spent time with so many friends, made new ones and caught up with old ones.

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I opened myself up to the thought of another actual romantic relationship, which was a terrible idea, but I’m only wiser as a result. I fielded crazy texts from crazy boys, but they were well outnumbered by the pleasant interactions. I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy. I said “YES” to a musical project that my guitarist from Cherry (a band I formed in 2008 that had a successful 4.5 year run before I went to esthetician school) put together for the purpose of playing a HUGE venue with Biz Markie the day after Thanksgiving. Now we’re playing again and have someone opening FOR US! For our second show ever, this is monumental. Especially since our opening act is the talented Chris Hendricks, currently of Castle Wild.

Sure, this year had a lot of ups and downs. Without them what would life be?

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t have hired a matchmaker. When it comes down to it, no one knows you as well as you do. Expecting someone to be able to find a match for you based only on information you provide is illogical. We all put our “best selves” out there when we are trying to get selected for anything in life. The guys my matchmaker selected had done just that. She had found them in a database based on my criteria. They were the best in the bunch in her opinion. (Of course, it’s also possible that they were the only guys within a 50-mile radius of me as well.)

I could have done the same thing myself. There are plenty of apps bursting with people looking for “Mrs. Right,” but most are looking for enough “Miss Right Nows” to fill the gaps in their schedule. It takes time and effort to actually get to know someone. Eventually, they will show you everything. It’s just a matter of whether or not you choose to stick around for the whole show. Sometimes you see enough in the previews to know that the movie will be a complete flop.

“Show me your crazy, so I can avoid it”
– Me

I’m also learning a lot about the home renovation process. (I painted my cabinets TWICE before I saw that Lowe’s carries paint specifically for cabinet refinishing… Duh) I hired and fired some excellent (albeit overpriced) lawn people. I also purchased a lawnmower. (It’s still in the box because my shed is full of contractor tools) The whole process has made me feel more in control of my surroundings, even though there were certainly parts of the process that no one seemed to have control over. At least I’m ending the year on my own terms with a clear idea of how I want this project to be completed. Yes, it’s been ongoing since May. No, I haven’t killed anyone yet, but I’ve gotten more than a handful of people fired.

I choose to end this year on a high note. Looking back, was 2017 everything I wanted it to be? Yes, except for a few minor hiccups, it absolutely was. I’m a little older, a LOT wiser, and perhaps a little worse for the wear… but I made some amazing memories with the people I care most about in this world. That part, I’m going to keep. And to be honest, I think I’ll continue this “Year of Yes” thing (with discretion) right through 2018 as well. I did, in fact, get a late start this year after all.

The Best Advice I Can Give All My Single Friends

“I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted! Where is he?”
– Charlotte, Sex and the City

Ever since I was a little girl, I had imagined myself married with at least one child by now. This is definitely not my reality. Although my parents chose to have me a little later in life, they married in their twenties. My twenties were spent being optimistically cautious through college while dating a cornucopia of guys who were totally wrong for me.

Back then, finding a guy to date was the easiest thing I did. What I didn’t understand was that in order to accomplish the ultimate goal of this dating party, I needed to find someone who was actually compatible with me. At the time, I think I was just looking for someone attractive to be my date for sorority functions. But time and time again, I found that their attractiveness didn’t get them very far. I would fixate on someone and then convince myself that we should be together. Then, when their third eye would appear, I put on my track shoes and bolted for the door.

It wasn’t until my thirties that I began to see I was doing this all wrong. I was laid off from MCI WorldCom, had split from ex-fiancé number 4, and was about to move to Charlotte for the first job opportunity in my field that had come up since the layoffs. The night before my big move, I was out with my friends celebrating and met someone. We dated 3.5 years even though we lived in different cities for at least a year and a half. I was crazy about him. He was charming and handsome, but he never actually saw me. As a result of being charming and handsome, he never saw anyone else for anything more than their outward appearance. When I moved home, he started to become more dominant. We fought a lot. The relationship revolved around what he wanted. He started belittling me to make himself feel larger. I ended it, thinking I’d get better results. I thought that if he lost me, he’d appreciate me more. Instead, he used the opportunity to start dating other women. A few days after our split, I ran into him… on a date. I was crushed, but eventually got over it.

At that point, the general atmosphere of dating shifted. People were dating online . This added instant gratification to the act of dating. People started not to appreciate one another. Everyone was replaceable. Pictures held a higher importance than text. No one cared what was on the inside if all your angles were flattering. Everything was superficial.

I spent years getting lost in the online dating quagmire. Then I did the best thing I could possibly have done for myself. I adopted a dog.

In this digital age, where we all swipe right to get what we want, unconditional love is a precious commodity. When you adopt a dog, you gain what most dating relationships lack. Respect, comfort and unconditional love. When I adopted Quincy, my focus shifted more toward taking care of myself, him, my parents, and my house. I didn’t need to be with anyone. I was fine all by myself. I found myself turning down dates and other social events based on this scale: If I would rather be home with my dog, my RSVP is No.

Quincy gave me back everything I’d wasted on the guys who didn’t deserve me. He’s always there for me. He makes me laugh. And he’s far and away the best at snuggling. Instead of focusing on the next guy to come along, I put my effort into my friendships, my house and my hobbies. I decided that if I were to spend another minute with a guy, he needed to add to my life, not complicate it or hold me back.

So my advice is this:

If you’re single and frustrated because so far dating has shown you all of what you don’t want and none of what you do… adopt a pet. It will change your perspective in brilliant ways. Treasure your alone time, because if you don’t like spending time with yourself, no one else will either.