May 28, 2010

Nu Metal, Just Die Already.

Nu Metal seems to be a dying art form.

Except that by "dying," I mean in the way that we are all dying: slowly and without it affecting our daily lives. (My apologies to the people who are dying more quickly than others.)

And by "art form," I mean crap.

I was a teenager when Limp Bizkit first hit the radio waves, after the release of their first album, Three Dollar Bill, Y'all. Yeah! It was so awesome! Rock and rap had merged to form the coolest musical fusion since the teaming of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

Around that time, Korn and Deftones were also making great records such as Follow the Leader and Around the Fur, respectively. And within a year, Godsmack and System of the Down! It was a good time for rock.

...but then it all started to fall apart.

We all realized simultaneously just how lousy Limp Bizkit was, after all. The airwaves were quickly saturated with Nu Metal bands which were even less original than the last, bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, and Distubed. Hell, even Insane Clown Posse jumped on the bandwagon: a clear signal to jump off and let the horses carry that wagon right over the cliff.

The genre had reached its peak and there was only one way to go from there:

Down. Like Fred Durst's career.

So enough with the history lesson. Here's why this genre needs to just hurry up and keel over:

Boys-only club.

I'm not exactly a feminist. However, I can't help but want some women rockers to represent the rest of us, to show that we can rock as hard as any guy. However, what women in the Nu Metal genre are showing is that, no, actually we cannot. The only somewhat respectable Nu Metal chick band is Kittie; yet aside from a couple misguided songs, they aren't even Nu Metal.

(If you say, "Oh, but what about Evanescence/Amy Lee...?", I swear I will bite you on the face. And I won't even use my gentle nibbly teeth.)

"We're super tough, but hurting on the inside."

These rockers get tattoos and piercings. They live on the edge, drink 'til they puke or die (whichever comes first), they head-bang and mosh, they even wear baggy pants and the t-shirts of other rock bands. They even have mohawks and/or long hair! Man, they are just wickedly tough.

Yet the songwriting trend among Nu Metal-ers--which I will shorten to Nutalers because it sounds like "noodlers" which makes me giggle--is to write about how sad they are, how no one understands them. What is this? Emo? Consider these lyrics by Papa Roach: "I never realized I was spread too thin/Till it was too late and I was empty within/Hungry, feeding on my chaos and living in sin/Downward spiral, where do I begin? "

Why don't you just cry it out, you little pansy? These songs remind me of the bitter, "I feel empty and alone" poetry I wrote at seventeen. I could post some of it here, but you probably wrote the same poem when you were an angst-ridden teenager too.

Or if inner emptiness isn't your fancy, how about masks and facades? Nutalers, like Trapt, really like to talk about how fake others are: The last time you cared about anything/The last time you allowed yourself to be seen/so pretentious your lies unrelenting disguise/Creating tears in your eyes, your mind withers and dies. Sick burn, Trapt!

(By the way, I'm ashamed that Google has witnessed all the searches I have done for the purpose of writing this post. It is thinking, "Oh yeah, Kelli is pretty cool. She always searches for neat things like the lives of scorpions, how to camp without getting eaten by a bear or a raccoon, and wickedly awesome tattoos. Oh, but what's this? 'Limp Bizkit albums'? 'Linkin Park lyrics'? 'Nu Metal that doesn't suck'? Kelli? Why have you forsaken me?!" I'm sorry, Google. But, believe me when I say I am doing this for the future of music. Not because I'm personally interested in these things, I promise.)

Monster cliches of Rock!

A characteristic of Nu Metal is the habit of using dramatic, poetic terms which one does not use in normal conversation. These words are used again and again because they are so intense and symbolic, or because they show the sheer depth of the songwriter's brooding mind, or because they simply sound prettier than their synonyms. Here are some of these words:

- Demise
- Messiah
- Unto
- Forsaken
- Decay
- Shall
- Sanctify
- Penance
- Redemption
- Stricken

And that's all from one Disturbed album, 2002's Believe. Yowza. I had to do a quick check to make sure this wasn't actually a Christian rock band, since most of these words sound like passages from the Bible. (They're not.)

Look, I get it. I like to throw around flowery language once in a while, as well. Heck, I try to find ways of using the word "moribund" on a daily basis, though I often fail at this. However, when such words are overused by every band in the genre, it becomes a cliche. Yes, these words are quickly becoming (if they haven't become already) cliches of the music world. When Jonathan Davis sang about salvation and deception, it was fine. Back in 1999. Dramatic, sure, but original. Being the fortieth guy to do something will not get your name in the history books or your handprints on the sidewalk (well, it might...Hollywood is lax about who they choose to memorialize).

Somebody think of the distortion pedals!

Listen up, Nutalers. If you are so sad and black on the inside (or to put it in Nu-speak, "consumed by this burning melancholy and swallowed by the abyss of despair"), why not write about your distortion pedal's life of abuse? You can write about how you get drunk and beat the pedal at night, ignoring its pleas to stop because you're hurting it.

When treated with respect (and used sparingly), the distortion pedal can be pleasant and even interesting. But when you rely on it to fill in the gaps that your lack of talent has created, it is too much. Step off the stage and step into your local Guitar Center. Ask where you can go for lessons. Or just sell your guitar altogether and use the money to buy a video game.

Because here's the thing:

Distortion is to guitars = Autotune is to voices

If I wanted to hear this: vrrrrrrrrVRRRRRRVrrrrvrrrrvrrrVRRRRvvrrrrrvvvrrvvrrvvvv, I would vacuum my messy apartment. Or just turn the television to Channel whatever-the-hell-channel-it-is-that-has-no-reception. If I'm at a concert, I'm there because I have heard a rumor that you know how to play music. I didn't come to listen to your little foot-robot playing the guitar. Prove me wrong and set aside the pedal for a song or two.

(Picture provided by ConcertShots...vacuum is all me, though.)

If at the end of this, you're still convinced that your band is the one to transcend the lameness of Nu Metal, at least check out this link: 101 Rules of Nu Metal.

Notes from the Future: I've been informed by Keene that the dude in the last picture is actually a bassist and is really, really good. So, uh, no offense Really, Really Good Bass-Player.

Your guitarist still sounds like he's playing a vacuum, though.

All is Fair in Love and...Work?

(Reprinted from True Love Direct)

You can’t help who you fall in love with, though it is true some types of people are better left alone. One type may include your boss or coworker. However, while workplace romances can sometimes lead colleagues to live happily ever after, it is more likely to lead them to disaster.

Before you do anything, before you even finish reading this article, pick up a copy of your company’s policy on workplace relationships. Some places turn a blind eye where colleagues of similar ranking are concerned; other places strictly prohibit these relationships. (While employees of the same position are not terribly concerning for a company, they will very rarely allow a manager to date his/her subordinate.) It is best to know where your employer stands from the very start.

If your company looks down on interoffice relationships, what comes next? As calloused as it may be, you need to evaluate your relationship. Are you in it for the long-term? Are you willing to lose or change jobs in order to sustain your relationship? Because it may come down to that. Depending on your office’s environment, it can be very difficult to keep this hidden. You must assume coworkers will find out in some way. If you decide that you will still pursue the relationship, you should sit down together and discuss who should be the one to find a new job—in the event that such a step becomes necessary.

If your work is okay with the situation and you are both committed to staying together, be open with your manager/s right away. Reveal the nature of your relationship and explain your plan or ideas to not let this affect your work. That is the main thing managers worry about: how will this dalliance negatively impact the company? Nip their concerns in the bud by being proactive. They will appreciate your show of professionalism amidst the new development of your personal life.

First comes love, then comes the no-brainers of any interoffice relationship. Just because everyone now knows about your liaison doesn’t mean you are in the clear now. There are some things you need to know about what not to do:

1. Do not bring your arguments to work. Not only is it unprofessional, it is also the fastest way to alienate both coworkers and each other.

2. Do not miss work together. I get it, sometimes you like to play hooky and spend the day at home together. But when you work together, this is a big no-no. Your manager will see right through your giddy “I really am sick! Honest!” call.

3. Do not share juicy details with coworkers. Trust me, they don’t want to hear about how you seduced their colleague with a strip-tease.

4. Finally, do not fool around at work. This is never a good idea. Sexy, sure. But with employees milling around (not to mention the possibility of surveillance cameras), it is far too easy to get caught, and this is one offense your manager will not let slide.

May 27, 2010

Willie Nelson cuts his hair, maintains our deep connection.

I just learned that Willie Nelson cut off his waist-length braids. When I heard the news, I gasped and thought, "How will affect my blog post's cred? No one will believe we're twins now!"

But then I realized: I too have cut my hair. In fact, Willie is just making the connection deeper, by also taking the plunge.

Don't you guys worry about us. We're tight.

Tips for Better Writing...You're Welcome.

I'm a beaucoup fancy writer, you know. I think it is my job—nee my reason for being on this planet—to teach others how to write better, to write…like me. Here are some tips on how to write more like me.

1. Get in the right mindset. To do this, I like to pluck my eyebrows or another equally challenging task. I find that by exerting a vast amount of energy right away, I can release all other thoughts from my head. In fact, I plucked them so hard today, I actually broke the tweezers. That's how pumped I get about writing.

2. Establish a calm environment. The best way I have found to relax my atmosphere is to watch a movie, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I sit on the couch, dim the lights, and let the calming influence of Ferris' school-skipping antics wash over me.

3. Don't write with an empty stomach. After watching a movie, I like to nosh on some grindage. Maybe Doritos or leftover casserole. I may even have some dessert. If there aren’t any sweets around the house, I’ll whip some up, because a growling stomach can interrupt your work.

4. Now it's time to let that creative spirit flow. I like to open my iTunes, sort through the music, maybe scroll down the list of songs and rate them accordingly. And if I don't find the right mood-setting mix of music to listen to, I go to the iTunes store and download some more. I find that YouTube is also a good source for finding new music. Many times, I will head over there and watch videos for a while.

5. Another way to create inspiration for your piece is to read the work of others. For me, I like to flip through an issue of Rolling Stone, either after YouTube or maybe even at the same time. A true writer can multi-task, you know. If I don't have a magazine handy, I will harness that creativity by reading random blogs. Many times, I find myself so interested in one blog, I read it in its entirety, starting at the beginning.

6. Then, if I'm not yet ready to unleash my creativity, I may watch another movie. Because it's all about centering your thoughts, focusing on the task at hand.

7. A writer needs all the support she can get, so that is why I may take some time to instant message with a friend for a while.

8. Let your mind wander. That is when the inspiration can really seep in. By taking the time to listen to Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" several times in order to make up words for the chorus—by the way, I decided he is singing "don't flush the blood or MacGuyver's shades, oh no!"—I am allowing my mind to fully open itself to the possibilities which may enter.

9. A good writer must stay in the loop. That is why I like to check my email a few times throughout the hour. Sometimes I even send some emails, read older messages, or clean out my inbox. Because a good writer must also stay organized.

10. Get some rest. At this point, you may be feeling exhausted from your long day. Writing is hard work! Even if you didn't get around to actually writing today, you spent a lot of time honing your imagination and communicating with your muse. So, get some rest and start all over tomorrow.

Notes from the Future: apparently, this post has become a haven for spam. Every time I receive a notification that there is a spam in the comment section, it has been here. If I were an insecure person, I would think that it meant this post is crap.

May 25, 2010

Music and Band Ezine, Volume 2, Edition 18

Music and Band eZine

Scroll down to see my article about Big Motif and A Reliable Source!

Chewy Chunks of Bite-Sized Tidbits

Unfortunately, I'm too busy dying of tuberculosis to create a full blog post. Instead, here are about eight blog posts, mashed into one extrabloganza!

This is my go-to funny face. I never understood why it always made children cry until I saw this picture. Great googly-moogly! It's like my face is melting into a pile of clownish goo!


On Saturday night, Keene and I went to see a hypnotist show at University of Denver, organized by my friend, Dan. Because it was also a food drive, we got in for three cans of tuna and one can of beans. Can't beat that price. The hypnotist, Brian Randolph, was hilarious and rowdy. Being the attention-whore he is, Keene (in the white shirt) offered to be hypnotized.

And Mr. Randolph prompty got Keene drunk. On tap water.

To speed the entertainment along, the hypnotist suggested, "You've had like eight shots...and a pound of heroin."

Apparently, Keene cannot hold his heroin.

Later, Mr. Randolph suggested to Keene that he was missing, well, his penis. Yup, it was gone!

And like a typical guy who finds he is missing something, who does he ask to help him find it?

His girlfriend.


Maia gets in touch with nature:

(It's a mushroom, people. Don't be so crude.)

When I was nineteen and even more unrefined than now, I went to a job interview. It was for an office position, maybe file clerk or receptionist. The interview was going well, though I was massively tired from working a night job.

The lady interviewing me asked her next question, "What would you consider to be a weakness of yours?"

I thought for a moment and, in a flash of brilliance, I answered, "I tend to start workplace revolutions." When the confused woman didn't answer, I helpfully followed up with, "I don't think employers like that."

I didn't get the job.

This is an old homework assignment from back in the day (school day, that is). I'm bringing it up now because I just found the photo that I had created on Photoshop to accompany the piece.

Plus, it's kind of blasphemous and the Internet really goes for that kind of thing.

God Smites AAP, Becomes Leading Authority on Childcare

I found this short clip on Planet Dan, which is one of the funniest blogs on the Internet. It's true. I did the research and everything.

Mean Monkey

I've been wondering how to work this into a post, but can't think of anything.

Actually, that's not true. I had forgotten about this until Keene brought it up the other day. I said, "Oh, I should put that on my blog."

Then I forgot about it again until today.

Way back when Gap polos were in style...

(Were they ever in style? I don't know. I don't think I have actually purchased anything at the Gap, although I have been there a couple times, though. I have stood by the door and waited for friends to do their Gap-shopping. And while standing at the door and looking far too cool to shop there, I'll glance around, see a t-shirt I kind of like, look at the tag, and jump back in a state of shock, while gasping, "Fifteen dollars for a shirt?!")

...Kortney asked me to Photoshop Gap polos onto a picture of prarie dogs.

And that's it. That's all the build-up I have for this:


But while I'm at it, here's another Photoshop project:

Look at all that makeup. Dodo is a hussy.

Notes from the Future: Keene says he wasn't really hypnotized. Hmm...

May 21, 2010

Thongs for Men, Or My Battle with Google

There comes a time in every young blog's life when it becomes a curiosity as to how viewers find it. And what that blogger discovers often leads to a post about these findings. So I went to my fancy Webmaster tools area and perused the list of search terms. And found these:

"thongs for men"

I had to see this for myself. Would my blog really pop up when a viewer googled "thongs for men"? I sifted through pages and pages of ads for man-thongs, instructions on how to wear them comfortably, why they may be harmful to scrotums, offended posters tentatively asking why they are considered taboo, and even links to pictures of male "whale tails." Around page 35, I started to worry about coworkers coming into my office unexpectedly or a virus suddenly freezing my computer screen right when I had scrolled over the link for "Topless Men in Thongs!" Maybe this was a post best left for when I get home...? But by then, I was determined. I had to figure out why my blog would be linked to this particular search query.

Finally, I found it. A link to my Pushy Books and Moratoriums post last month. Wha? I didn't remember writing about thongs, let alone thongs for men. I re-read the post to be sure. Then I realized what was happening: Google was mocking Keene.

I had written about how he makes jewelry, and how he "also crochets, knits, and sews." I couldn't believe it. Google was making fun of him, implying that because he has some traditionally feminine hobbies, he should be wearing a thong.

"Oh!" Google was saying, "Look at ze girly man!" Yeah, I get it. But I'm not happy about it. Not happy at all. Way to push negative stereotypes, Google. I would have expected this from MSN, but not from such a forward-thinking company as yourself. Frankly, I'm disappointed.

Which is why I did this:

Oh! What's that I see, Google?! Are those...thongs you're wearing? And a bra? Only girls wear bras, Google. And is your G playing with a Fun in the Sun Barbie? Oh my, that's not very manly at all, now is it?

See? How do you like it? Bet that doesn't feel too good. Please think twice before making fun of my boyfriend next time, mmkay?

"bad eyebrows"

This search term led to my DIY Hairdo post. Yeah, I get it. It's time for an eyebrow wax. I'm about to change my home page back to Yahoo, FYI. Yahoo may be ditzy and way too excited about its daily horoscopes, but at least it never made fun of my eyebrows.

"wet shorts"

Strangely, this search term also leads to the DIY Hairdo post.

(In fact, most of the search terms for my blog led to this post. "Short bangs," "razor bangs," "dreadlocks with bangs," "boho hair"...)

So I have decided Google redeemed itself at least a little bit. I kind of think it is just sucking up at this point, if not a tad crudely. But I'll accept the apology, anyways.

"короткие стрижки"

I was impressed to see a search term in Russian. I assumed at first that this meant my fluency in the language has become so fantastic that I was now seeing in English words in Cyrillic letters. But apparently, the part of my brain that is randomly turning English words into Russian is more advanced that the part necessary for translating it back.

So I Googled.

"Short hairstyles."

Apparently, the blog has gone and made a niche for itself on a global scale without even consulting me. Didn't you stop to think how I would feel, blog? Do you think I want to be known as the girl with the hair blog?

"scorpions life is too short"

When I read this sad query, I thought, "I agree. Scorpions' lives are too short! Poor, little guys..." But then I wondered exactly how short their lifespans were to warrant such internet curiosity. According to Wikipedia, the scorpion lives for between 4-25 years. Wha? Twenty-five years? Dogs don't even live that long! That seems like plenty of time on Earth for some little creepy-crawlies!

Feeling more betrayed than sad now, I googled the full phrase and got this:

Scorpions - "Life is Too Short"

I'm pretty sure I just failed the "Child of the '80s" test. I will promptly turn in my leg warmers and Corey Hart button.

"time for drunken horses"

Yep, that's what I always say.

"What time is it, Kelli?"

"Why, it's time for drunken horses, right? High-five!"

I wasn't able to find a picture of a drunk horse to accompany this portion of the post. So instead, here is my brother, feeling up his horse.

Yeah, Jeremy! Hit that!

A side note about my brother. I went to a high school in Wyoming five years after he left. Five years. He didn't even live in the area anymore. Nevertheless, on my first day as the new kid, I was immediately bombarded by girls, from Freshmen to Seniors, giddily asking, "You're Jeremy's sister, aren't you? How is he?!" They tittered and giggled and blushed and tried to hint at how they knew him. "Lalalala" my brain would shout, as I figuratively stuck my fingers in my ears. "Well," each girl continued, just like the last, "Tell him Sunny/Jennifer/Summer/Jennifer/April/Jennifer/Autumn said hi!"

For two full months at that school, I was known as "Jeremy's little sister," and only when I made a name for myself (i.e. "bitchy new girl") did the horde of girls finally leave me alone.

Notes from the Future: I found a drunk horse! Thank you, Google!

Are You Ready for Marriage?

(Reposted from Ask Dan and Jennifer)

Marriage is about taking a relationship to the next—and final—step. From here on, you will need to take another person into consideration with every major decision (and many minor ones, too). If you want to move, leave your job, go back to school, buy a couch, take a vacation…on all of these things, you will need to consult and compromise. It is not just about committing yourself to another person and declaring your ever-lasting love. Rather, it is also about creating a life together—one which absorb your current way of living and thinking. So, are you ready for it?

Are You Okay With Supporting Her If Something Happened?
Right now, you only need to worry about yourself. However, after getting married, what if she lost her job? Are you willing to financially support her, take care of her until she is back on her feet? You cannot be greedy with your money when another person is depending on you. More important than money, though, what if she were in an accident and could no longer feed herself or use the bathroom alone? Are you up for the possibility of really having to tend for another person in the event of a life-changing event?

Do You Agree About Major Topics?
Some things simply cannot be negotiated. You may want kids, but she does not. How do you compromise on such a huge issue? Simply put, you don’t. While minor stuff, like who does what chore, can be discussed and argued. But make sure you are on the same track about such issues as children, finances, religion, or sex.

Do You Communicate And Solve Problems Well?
Again and again, good communication is slated as the way to make a marriage last. Do you feel like you can talk about anything together, like you can handle anything when you work together? You must be willing to confide in this person, to share what is bothering you. Otherwise, the drift between you will grow with each year that passes and more words go unspoken.

Does She Know All Of Your Secrets?
It can be hard to take that step in revealing all the embarrassing things they may do when alone or dastardly events in your past about which few people may know. Even simple admissions like how much debt you owe. Are you comfortable sharing this information with her? Is there anything she isn’t comfortable telling you, in return?

Do You Think It Will Last?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, I have heard many people say something along these lines: “everyone needs a starter marriage,” usually followed by a shrug. If you don’t plan to have this relationship last forever, why bother at all? Put that time and energy towards finding the one with whom you do see yourself growing old.

May 20, 2010

The boy astounds me.

A few Sundays ago, we went to the park to let the kids ride bikes and look for snakes. Once there, I answered a call from my dad, so Keene took the kids riding on without me.

About an hour later, we went to the grocery store. While I was paying, I gave Kayden a quarter to get a gumball and Maia a penny so she could ride the mechanical horse. I sent Keene along with Maia to keep an eye on her.

While walking out to the car, Kayden said:

"I worry that nobody pays attention to you."

I asked what he meant. He replied: "Well, it's just that you're left alone a lot, like at the park and at the store. I worry that you'll feel left out, like no one pays attention to you. So I try to pay extra attention to you."

I reassured him that it doesn't bother me, that I like being alone at times just like he does, and other times, I send Keene and Maia away because they can get annoying in the store.

(No, this isn't just me being calloused. Anyone who has ever shopped with them can attest to this. Like the time at Toys R Us when Keene picked up a balloon toy and started to blow it up. An employee walked by and glared at him, but happy with this toy which he wasn't planning to buy, Keene didn't notice.)

(Parents, please be sure to properly clean your children's new toys before letting them put their mouths on it. You never know who handled it while it sat on the shelf.)

Back to Kayden, I gave him a big hug and told him how considerate and sweet he is.

It shocks me to hear these kinds of things from a 9-year-old boy.

Last night, while I was slowly dying of the flu, shivering under a pile of blankets in the dark, I heard from the doorway, "Mommy? I brought you some cold water."

Out of the blue. With no one to tell him to do that.

As I mentioned to friends later:

"This is one guy that will never make a girl cry."

May 19, 2010

City Solve Urban Race

Last week, I volunteered at the City Solve Urban Race downtown. This was basically a city-wide scavenger hunt/race, with proceeds going to Colorado Youth At Risk. Immediately upon arriving at the Ginn Mill, I was put to work stuffing 300 goody bags.

Let me tell you: when a fun event like this is going on, you want to be a part of it in any way...even if that means stuffing goody bags. The bubbling excitement in the atmosphere made it worth waking up early on a Saturday.

After the event started, I was handed a bag full of envelopes with a clue inside. Along with two other volunteers, we headed to the first secret location, making sure none of the participants were trailing us.

We waited eagerly for the rushing crowd to find us. However, an angry homeless guy found us first.

He asked if we had money. Seeing as how none of us had anything--except the 300 envelopes--we apologized and said no. I won't relay exactly what he said then, suffice to say it was a steady stream of "fuck" in nearly every possible form.

One thing he said that actually offended me was when he started yelling, "That's right...just keep using your momma's credit card to get by." If I were feeling friskier and thought my words might actually have an impact, I would have explained that I haven't relied on "my momma's credit card" since I was 16 years old. And then I would have kicked him in the crotch. But not really, because at that point, I'm just beating up a crazy old man.

Though it peeved me, I couldn't blame him. Obviously, this guy had just as many preconceived notions and assumptions about us as we did about him.

When he asked who was making money off of this event and we explained it was for charity, that just made him madder. "So, what? You are all doing this for free?!" Nods all around. "Fuck that. I don't believe it."

And when the hopeful but naive, young volunteer offered him a granola bar, I thought he might actually attack us. Nevertheless, while she was near tears and wishing to help the angry old man, I was callously taking pictures for my blog. The difference between us...

So, aside from the intermittent verbal attacks by the man, it was a fun moment: watching hundreds of costumed folks rushing toward us, handing out the envelopes, observing while they all pulled out their phones to Google for answers...

After the crowd dispersed, I headed back to the Ginn Mill for my next task: folding 300 t-shirts and manning the front door. After a total race time of between 1.5 to 3.5 hours, the races began trickling back in, where I jotted down their times.

FYI: tall photographers make me look like a little person.

Overall, a very fun and exciting event, and one I hope to participate in this coming September.

Oh, and a quick mention. Aside from the two crappy, low-quality photos that I took with my phone, all the pictures I've posted were taken by Stu Kennedy. He's a very talented local photographer who also works with Colorado Music Buzz. Click on his name to check out the rest of the photos from that day. Lots of great costumes!

May 18, 2010

Faux-Homeless Encounters

(I thought long and hard about naming this post "Fauxmeless" or "Fhauxmeless" rather than "Faux-Homeless," but I didn't think anyone would understand that. But just know that the desire for cleverness was there.)

(That being said, the title doesn't really make any sense because neither of the two people I am writing about are "faux-homeless." One is genuinely homeless, the other didn't even claim to be homeless. So frankly, I don't know why I didn't choose a different title altogether.)

While homeless people kind of scare me, beggars and panhandlers piss me off.

I think this anger stems from my days as a single teen mother, going to school full-time, working two jobs, living on about $10,000 per year, and trying like hell just to feed my kid every day. Every day, on my way to work or school, I would be asked by 3-4 panhandlers for money. This infuriated me because I was trying so hard to make it on my own, yet they expected me to just hand over my money to them?

Throw in the countless stories I have heard over the years about the man leaving his large home in a business suit, changing into dirty clothes, then heading to his "real" job as a panhandler. Sure, many of these stories sound like urban legends. But what about my friend's former student who made about $35,000 per year by panhandling. That was most certainly not just a story.

Nevertheless, on Friday night, I wavered in my decision to never fork over money to a beggar. I had just gotten off work and sped across town so I could pay an important bill before the store closed. I pulled into the parking lot with about five minutes to spare. As I was sitting in my parked car, fumbling with my wallet, a woman approached me. And by approached, I mean she practically stuck her head through my open window.

She said, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you. It's just that I'm in town from Colorado Springs. I'm here visiting my grandbaby who is in family services' care. The starter in my car went out and all I need is $15 so I can get a hotel room for the night. It's cold and raining and I can't make it out here all night!" (It was lightly sprinkling.)

This is where I wavered. My line of thinking went like this: "Ugh, seriously? Well, she isn't exactly a panhandler. I know all of the panhandlers around here. Maybe she does just need some help. Hmm...I'll give her a couple dollars."

So, I hurriedly got out of my car and opened my wallet. Immediately, I realized I was in a bit of a pickle. For one, I had just cashed my paycheck and had a big wad of cash in my wallet. There was no way to pull out a couple dollars without waving a roll of cash in front of her. I subtly turned just a bit so as to hide the money. I had just pulled off one dollar from the roll, when she looked over my shoulder.

I felt embarrassed and said, "I know this looks like a lot, but I have a bunch of bills to pay and..." I don't know why I felt the need to explain myself, but I did. I was worried that I looked like some privileged, snot-nosed kid with the fancy old-man car and my work laptop in the front seat.

Rushed, but apologetic, I extended the dollar to her.

"A dollar?! That's it?! You can give me more than a dollar!" is what she said.

I stared in awe for about two seconds. Then I said, "Seriously? You should be grateful I'm giving you anything at all."

"I am grateful, but I'm going to need more than a dollar. I can't sleep outside. It's raining, you know!"

At this point, I took the dollar, stuck it back in my wallet, and stomped off.

The other close encounter with the needy kind was awfully similar. But so as to not come off looking like an outright bully, I'll post that in a different (and more charity-focused post).

Oh, and because I think this post needs a photo, but I didn't get a stealth shot during the above incident, here is, instead, Kayden in the pool.

May 17, 2010

The talking vacuum is keeping me awake.

Two things have never changed from when I was a child: I still pout and I still hate to clean my room. I'll help the kids clean their rooms. I'll tidy up the kitchen, wash the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum...but cleaning my own room is somehow 300% worse.

Keene is just as bad about cleaning the room. Even worse than me, actually, because he's much taller. Plus, he has bad eyesight. From his height, he doesn't realize that he is stepping on three-foot-tall piles of dirty clothes, six guitar cases, two photo albums, twelve books, and a partridge in a pear tree when he walks to the closet.

Last Sunday, we decided to buckle down and clean the damn room already. We spent hours and hours working on it, while the children blissfully played without the parents nagging them to clean their rooms. We even vacuumed. That's how serious we were about getting the room clean.

Despite taking so long to clean, we are those special kinds of people who leave the vacuum sitting out after using it. We clean and clean and clean. And once we have vacuumed, we prop the vacuum in the middle of the spotless floor, the way a kid will proudly display a trophy on his or her shelf. "See? We did it! We mastered our bedroom."

And because it is us, the vacuum remained there. And after a couple days, it became a sort of coat rack for our discarded clothes. Because, gosh, we don't want to throw clean-ish clothes on the floor, but the closet is waaaaaaaaaaay over there.

This wouldn't normally be a problem. Heck, given a couple of weeks, the vacuum would have disappeared under a pile of clothes and towels altogether.

However, it began affecting my sleep.

If you've made it back far enough in the blog, you may have read about my problem with hallucinations. The closest self-diagnosis I have discovered (thank you, Internet!) is called a hypnopompic hallucination. What this means is that I am happily dreaming (or not so happily, as most of these take the form of nightmares), but then I wake up and still see whatever I was just dreaming about. I'm lucid enough to see my surroundings, to know I'm awake, but there is just a twelve-foot-long snake on my ceiling, getting ready to eat me and my sleeping boyfriend.

I attribute these awesome experiences to a previously-hidden insanity proudly making itself known.

So, back to the vacuum. The machine alone is innocuous enough. However, once the clothes were thrown onto it, this:

...became this:

The first night I was troubled by the vacuum because I kept thinking it was the usual make-believe shadow standing on our patio. Last year, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a surprisingly loud and angry Keene running a bike-thief off of our patio. (Imagine that, a bike thief, and we don't even live in the ghetto or France!)

That ensured at least a year of funky nightmares for me.

Now, one would assume I put away the vacuum after the first restless night, but no. That's far too ambitious for me. I forgot about it by the time I got home from work the next day.

However, the second night was more memorable. All night, I kept waking up because of the vacuum monster moving around. "Settle down, vacuum monster! You'll wake the kids!"

Over and over, I awoke. In a daze, I would stare at it for a minute, then fall back asleep. At some point, I even got out of bed to touch it, confirming that it was indeed just a vacuum with a pair of shorts draped over it. Satisfied that it wasn't anything more curious, I climbed back into bed.

Then, I awoke to it talking to me. The vacuum had decided that its previous tactics at keeping me awake were not working, so it pulled out the big guns: it became Maia. I tried to wake Keene to make him take the vacuum to the potty, because I figured that's why Maia was in our bedroom. Keene, sick with a fever, didn't stir.

"Kelli, I want breakfast," said the vacuum.

"It's too early," I explained. "Go back to bed."

When Maia wouldn't leave the room, I got out of bed to help her back to room. But when I touched her head, I felt a plastic handle instead.

Foiled! Pretty sneaky, vacuum!

(Looking back, however, I'm glad I realized it was a hallucination right away. Could you imagine the horror Maia would feel if she were to wake up in the morning with a vacuum lying next to her in bed? She would never watch Brave Little Toaster again.)

The next morning, I said to Keene, "I talked with the vacuum last night." He replied, "I know." I said, "You didn't think that was strange?" He replied, "It was no stranger than usual so I just fell back asleep."

Despite his lack of concern over his girlfriend talking to an appliance, before going to bed that night, he exclaimed, "Off with its head!" and removed the swim trunks from the vacuum.

And I got a full night of sleep.

May 14, 2010

The Benefits of "Friends with Benefits"

(Reprinted from True Love Direct)

Everyone has likely heard the term, “friend with benefit” (or FWB, for short). This is simply the politically-correct term for someone you sleep with, without being in an actual relationship. But are there other benefits involved with this situation? What about drawbacks?

The most obvious advantage to this situation is that you will be having some sex. Congratulations! However, this can work in your favor in more than one way. Assuming you are still actively dating and/or looking for “that special someone,” the fact that you are getting some physical relief at the same time means you will be more relaxed and less likely to appear desperate. In fact, you will be less desperate, which leads to the next positive…

Your self-esteem will be boosted. If you have been in the dating world without any luck for months or years, your confidence will likely have taken a bit of downturn. Why is no one interested?! However, with a FWB-situation, you know that at least one person finds you attractive and desirable. That may be just the boost you need to approach someone in your sights.

The third reason a friend with benefits may be desirable is this: no strings attached. You can come and go as you please. Your “friend” gives you your space and privacy. If you are not quite ready for the huge commitment a relationship entails, this sort of “relationship-lite” situation may be for you. It is a bond of convenience for both parties: you take what you need without giving anything back.

But that in itself can become a drawback. You cannot expect anything in return from your friend. You can be dumped without a moment’s notice when that friend meets someone new, or without good cause when he or she simply grows tired of the routine. They could even be sleeping with other people on the side; but, as per your agreement, you cannot stop this. This can be not only bothersome to your state of mind, but also potentially dangerous to your health.

That superficiality of the relationship can extend to your emotions, as well. What if you develop romantic feelings for this person (as many people might, when sex is involved)…but the feelings are not reciprocated? Or, suppose you are not the one suddenly experiencing these feelings. After sleeping with a woman for weeks or months, she could get attached to you and feel very upset if you “break up”. Imagine trying to explain that to your new girlfriend!

Even if neither person feels romantically-inclined, it can still be a lonely situation. You never share your dreams or hopes with this person. You don’t introduce this person to your parents at Christmas. Heck, you may not even spend time with him or her outside of the bedroom. You may feel you’re back at square-one: looking for a relationship that fulfills what you want and need. You may find that this convenient setup is so convenient that it loses the appeal altogether.

May 13, 2010

I have lofty goals.

I love sloths for their dopey smiles and chill attitudes. One of my goals (look over to the right column...down a little) is to see a sloth in its natural habitat.

Anyhow, this picture inspired me to change that goal. Go look. It's now at the bottom of the list.

Look at that face. Doesn't it just scream, "Take me home with you! I will be your pet. You can feed me and care for me and pet me and shove me in the closet when a social worker from Family Services comes by to investigate a complaint lodged by the neighbors who think that you are mistreating your deformed, hairy child by never letting him go outside and forcing him to eat leaves! It'll be the tops, guys!"

Stupid Cat.

I talk on occasion about Scar Cat, the legendary and ferocious beast who lives with me. I talk about him because he's a cool cat and because he thinks he's a dog. He has stories to tell, but is way too cool to tell them to either you or me.

However, we actually have another cat. A cat I don't really talk about. She's not a cat. She's the kind of cat that attacks her tail when she catches it twitching. And she's not just lovably dumb. She is annoyingly dumb. She screams (yes, screams) if she thinks you might step on her tail. When Scar Cat chases her because she's a cat, she howls like 6-year-old girl. I know this because I've compared her screams to those of Maia's.

She's dumb, she screams, she's dramatic. I don't really talk about her. It's no secret that I favor Scar Cat. I let him sleep on my face all night, but push her off the bed as soon as she tries to jump up. This makes Keene sad, so he goes out of his way to favor her, even though she really hasn't earned it.

So, I wouldn't normally post something as silly as pictures of a cat with some silly commentary to make it look like a legitimate blog post. But I have some business to attend to which keeps me from posting the usual long, drawn-out introspective sprinkled with witty one-liners and portmanteaus.*

Instead, here is Dodo vs. the wind-up Bunny.

After watching Dodo battle the bunny for an embarrassingly long time, Scar Cat finally got up and handled business in a swift and brutal manner.

*I don't know if I've ever fully shared my love of portmanteaus on here before. I love them so much, I'd be willing to change my name to Natalie Portmanteau. (See what I did there? Thank you, English degree!) That will have to change. I will think of and post a full list of the amazing portmanteaus I have created over the years.

May 12, 2010

Oh, Mother's Day. I hate you.

I hate Mother's Day.

It makes me feel like a bad daughter, sister, granddaughter, and friend because I can't/don't do more for the mother-figures in my life. It reminds me that I don't call them enough, that I only see them maybe once or twice a year. It forces me stop ignoring my mom and her problems. And it makes me jealous and resentful of those who do not appreciate their own mothers more.

I don't really talk about my mom to anyone. Not because I'm ashamed of her or because I don't love her. I am just not affected on a daily basis by her and, therefore, don't have a reason to bring her up in everyday conversation. Not like the mom who may live right down the street and who is always up in your business. Besides, when I do talk about her, people give me weird looks that linger somewhere between pity and shock.

Like this.

See? I always manage to squeeze in a photo or two.

I thought for a long time whether I even wanted to blog about her. In the end, I decided to because, well, this is my outlet. And hey, who knows? Maybe someone will read this and see a bit of him/herself and choose to change the lifestyle they are leading. Maybe she will even read this and see the situation as I see it. I doubt that, though. Let's be realistic.

To make a nearly 20-year-long story short, my mom got into some serious drugs and drinking when I was a kid. To be fair, her wild nature made her the fun mom among my friends. I have fond memories of watching movies and drinking with her after school let out. I watched as she tripped on 'shrooms with my sister or rapped the words to Warren G's "Regulator" with surprising accuracy. She was a cool mom. However, when paired with her bipolar outbursts, she could become viciously scary. But that's a potential blog post (or a book, hey!) for another day.

Over the last, mmm, ten years, she's bounced from detox to jail to rehab to hospitals to homelessness and back to detox. The combination of time, substances, and a hard life have eroded her mind and her body.

Fast-forward to the present. I called her a couple days before Mother's Day. This day and her birthday tend to be the only times of the year that I remember to call her. And that makes me ashamed, because I could do much more for her than I do, even if I live 500 miles away (and happy for the distance).

Anyhow, as is usual for when I do try to call, her phone now belongs to some strange man who cannot tell me what has become of her. Strangely, she calls me back the next night. She sounds gleeful, like a giddy teenage girl in love. This is also not unusual. I listen as she tells me all about the latest man in her life, how they go to church together, how good he treats her, how she spent the last two months in detox, and is now nine days sober. I congratulate her, tell her I'm proud of her. We talk ever-so-briefly about my life, squeezing the last six months' worth of life events into a two-minute segment before she confides that she and her boyfriend are not having sex yet.

Overall it's a good conversation.

But then she calls this afternoon. Since I'm at work, I do not answer. She leaves a voicemail (which, anyone who knows me are aware that I don't actually listen to my voicemails). She then calls again. And again. Finally, I answer.

I can tell she's drunk even before she admits it, halfway through the conversation. Immediately, I know she needs money. She tells me, in slurred chaotic words, that my brother is being "a butt" but forgets that line of thinking before elaborating more on why that is. She says my sister's husband owes her money, but he won't answer his phone, and would I call him for her?

In a serious tone she reserves for trying to convince me that she's sober and rational, she explains that she needs $200 to pay her rent by tomorrow. She asks if I would send money to her. I say no, I'm broke until I get paid on Friday. She asks if I will put the money on a credit card. I tell her I don't have a credit card. She talks about random people who have the money to pay me back. "Sherry has $1,200 she's gettin' on Thursday. She can pay you back, I swear!" I don't know who Sherry is. I reiterate that I don't have money, with the implication being, "I would not hand over cash to you, even if I did. You need groceries? I'll send a gift card. Clothing? I'll buy it myself and send it. Cash? Hell, no."

After stumbling a bit, calling me by my sister's name repeatedly (which seems to be happening a lot lately), she finally accepts that she will have to get her rent money from someone else. I tell her I'm at work and need to hang up. She says, "Oh, but Kelli, what do you say?!"

What she wants me to say is "I'm my mommy's little, pretty girl," which is an affirmation she used to make me say when, as a child, I suffered from a very low self-esteem. It was one of the few sweet, sentimental tidbits from my childhood...which she has since cheapened over the years, by making me say it to her whenever she feels like a bad mother--or whenever she wants me to perform for yet another new boyfriend who will put her into the hospital within a month's time.

"Tell me what you say, Kelli!"

I hang up.

So You Think You Can Start a Business?

I mentioned a few days ago that I had a new business idea. I haven't posted about it because I've been too busy actually working on that idea to write about the idea.

As long as I can remember--which, admittedly, is not long with this shoddy memory of mine--I have wanted to own a bookstore/coffeeshop. The only job I've ever loved was my college-aged stint at a bookstore. (I tried to find some fun pictures from this time, preferrably one of me dressed up in a storybook costume or painting childrens' faces, but no dice.)

Unfortunately, I had to leave that job because they pay you in stickers and pocket lint. I gave up a fun job for one higher-paying-yet-boring job after another. My goal was to go full-circle and eventually wind up back at the fun job. When I grew up, that was.

I waited and waited to grow up. Twenty-one came and went. Twenty-five came and went. I kept saying the words, "someday" and "goal". My best friend even jumped on board and together we daydreamed about our "five-year-plan".

But life happens, along with bills and debts and divorces and layoffs. Throughout all of this, I stayed committed to the idea of someday owning a business and working for myself. But I just didn't feel I was ready.

Until now.

I believe everything happens for a reason. Some people believe in a god. I believe in fate.

When my last employer suddenly decided to stop paying me, I took a comparable position doing exactly the same thing across town. That was good, but it was no longer enough. After working for one deadbeat boss after another, getting laid off over and over, I found myself unwilling to go through it all again.

Why should my livelihood depend on another person, namely, the boss?

Why do I need to pretend to work for eight hours, when there is only two hours' worth of work to be done?

Do I really want to spend my life hating half of each day?

While I was bored at my job, Kortney was down the road, bored at her own job too. Because of this shared career-focused apathy, we started brainstorming. We went on hour-long walks a couple times a week. We came up with small money-making ideas, always with the ultimate plan of working for ourselves.

(Here is a picture from one of these many walks. Because pictures always make posts more entertaining, right?)

We were nowhere near being in a position to open a bookstore. We had no expendable income, no collateral to offer a bank, no previous history of operating a business. Therefore, a $100,000 loan was out of the question.

Now, the reason I say everything happens for a reason is this: if we hadn't been working at soul-melting jobs, we wouldn't have started brainstorming. We would have kept on procrastinating and waiting for that sense of elusive adulthood to hit us, to tell us it was time. Instead, we were thrust into a situation in which we either created something for ourselves or died a slow, monotonous death.

Then one day, I saw the light.

I mean metaphorically. Although I was happy to see the light at the end of this creepy, urine-smelling tunnel too.

"This may sound weird," I asked Kort hesitantly, "but what about...a coffee cart?"

She stared at me, her mouth in an O, for a minute. "That's it!" she exclaimed. "That would work!"

Now, here's another reason why I believe fate led us to this idea. We spent much of Mysterious 2008 downtown, at all hours of the day and night, desperately wishing coffee shops stayed open past 9p.m. It turns out, that wasn't an out-of-control, alcohol-induced bender: it was market research all along! Huzzah! Because of our recent experiences, we distinctly knew where there was a need not being fulfilled and how we could sweep in and take advantage.

Our usual one-hour walk turned into 2.5 hours that day, as we came up with a very real and very grown-up plan.

At this point, we are about two weeks into the planning and have made tangible progress toward our goal. And since anything worth doing is worth blogging about, I will be writing about the process along the way.

Stay tuned for the next exciting edition: sales taxes, health department requirements, and financial projections...oh my!

May 11, 2010

Very funny, Office.

I slack at work sometimes.

I'm not proud of this. But I still do it.

Part of the reason is because I am so terribly bored. I finish all of my work quickly and praise-worthy-ing-ly. Because it's kind of like my super-power.

I create work for myself. I ask for work.

But I just zip through it all, then find myself bored again. It's a problem.

So, I slack.

Normally this isn't really a problem. I mean, as long as my work is getting done, right?

Well, my office doesn't think so.

Here are some things you should know about my office:

1. It faces to the south, but has such a big window that I get a good view of both the west and east. (No, I'm not just bragging here...this is important information.)

2. The outer windows are apparently tinted because of #1, to prevent insane sun glare.

3. When it is dark and cloudy outside (which is rare in Colorado...and yes, I am now bragging), this window becomes a mirror. A very handy mirror, I might add, when I need to fix my hair or check my teeth for leftover bits of food.

4. This mirror/window sits right next to my desk.

5. When I decide to slack, I open the internet browser on my second monitor (conveniently facing away from the door). My laptop's screen is used solely for work.

I could continue ticking out numbers, explaining about how a person (say, my boss) walking through my office door could glance at my mirror/window on a rainy day like today, and easily catch sight of my second monitor displaying The Bloggess.

But I think I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Damn you and your morals too, Office.

Gabrielle Louise’s Homecoming Show at Dazzle

(Reposted from Colorado Music Buzz, May Issue)

It was easy to develop preconceived notions about Gabrielle Louise. Based solely on the information I had received prior to attending her show (as well as some knowledge about the swanky venue in which she was performing), I assumed she would be a poised Diana Krall-esque Jazz singer, with upbeat songs that bordered on being chaotic. However, I was in for a surprise.

Dazzle, itself, turned out to be a bit of a culture shock to me. As the waitress led us to a table, I glanced around and noticed the presence of many neckties, buttoned-down shirts, and dresses. Being seated for a concert was strange enough for me, but was there actually a dress code in effect, too? I whispered to my friend, “It’s okay: I’m wearing my best thrift-store jacket.” Whew, that was a close one!

We sat down at a candlelit, white linen-covered table and ordered drinks. For all its showiness, though, Dazzle has the credibility to back up such a posh atmosphere. Being one of the premiere clubs in the city, it has become renowned for its share of visits from bona fide Jazz artists, both locally and nationally known.

The lights dimmed as Gabrielle Louise climbed onto the stage. While her flowing, red evening gown matched the swanky décor of Dazzle – as though she and the drapes in the background coordinated outfits prior to the show – her acoustic guitar stood in stark contrast. (In fact, the whole evening turned out to be a lesson in elegance meeting simplicity.) With a humble introduction, the self-proclaimed folksinger began her two-part set of slow, heartfelt music. Her voice was deep and sultry like many classic Jazz vocalists, yet her minimal guitar accompaniment and earnest lyrics kept the songs squarely in the Folk genre. In between each song, Louise gave a background story while tuning her guitar, giving off of a vibe that was more personable than performer – which I can appreciate.

However, throughout her set, I kept thinking of how she seemed to be holding back. Her voice sounded capable of much more powerful and more complicated songs. Even her quiet guitar plucking seemed timid, whereas she could have thrived with a full instrumental accompaniment or even just faster, jazzier beats. At times, she seemed to tiptoe that line, such as while singing classic tango songs in Spanish, including one by the legendary Carlos Gardel. Her emotion was raw, her voice wavered perfectly, and her guitar playing picked up speed. It was during these moments that her true talent shone through brilliantly.

Nevertheless, her abilities are undeniable and unflappable. Given the confidence to really belt it out, both vocally and instrumentally, this intriguing young singer will only get better and better.

(And for a side note, check out Kortney's review of this night at Simple Denver Life. She has the dirt you won't find in the Buzz.)

Slow Adult at Work

One winter morning, the kids and I walked out to my car. We had had a snow storm the night before and the car was covered in ice. In fact, the ice was so thick, we had to yank hard on the doors just to open them.

Yet all the windows and the windshield were completely clear. No ice, no snow.

I dropped off the kids, then headed off to work. As I was driving, I couldn't stop wondering how the weather could have layered the whole car with thick ice, but skipped the windows. Could it have been some kind of scientific reaction of ice-meeting-glass which was beyond my comprehension? I was amazed at my good luck.

Twenty minutes later, I realized Keene had scraped the windows before he left that morning.

May 10, 2010

For Keene.

Because you say there is nothing good on the internet anymore.

Brooding and Kite-Flying

Lately, I've been feeling a bit of the monotony kicking in. I can usually tell when this is happening because I get moodier and moodier. I also find myself saying, "Blah! I don't want to go to bed yet, because that means it'll be time to start a new day."

My mind is bursting at the seams lately. There are so many things to plan for and to work on, yet when I get to my day job, I'm forced to slow down and zone out. boring.

Because my brain is fried and I have nothing to give to this blog today, here are some happy pictures of kite-flying.