Clearly, Dance Gavin Dance is one of my favorite bands in the whole entire world, so when they offered an extremely limited edition mega-bundle pre-order that included hand-written lyrics, my brain was like DO NOT EVEN LOOK AT THE PRICE JUST FUCKING PURCHASE! So I did and Henry was like, “That’s fine. I didn’t need to buy groceries this week.” Except that he kept those surly sentiments in his head because he knows better than to get lippy with me when it comes to band stuff.
I got my pre-order in the mail last week, and a day later, the lyrics were sent directly from Tilian Pearson! (I was very happy with the song that was chosen for me, too! Although, I would have been happy with any of them, to be honest, because this new album is perfection.) I couldn’t wait to go out and buy a frame for the lyrics, but then I was like, “HENRY CAN YOU MAKE ME A MAT OUT OF THE INSTANT GRATIFICATION ALBUM ART?!” and he did it because he is the fucking best in the whole entire world and I love him.
(I only love him when he’s doing shit for me, FYI. I haven’t turned soft on you.)
And now it’s on the wall, right next to the DGD painting I made back in 2008 out of the DGD t-shirt that Christina bought for me that fit too awkwardly.
I’m so happy right now. It’s the little things, guys.
And a big shout out to Mattias Adolfsson, the phenomenal artist who designed most of the DGD’s album covers. I am infatuated with him.
Grief is such a fucked up emotion. My first taste of it was when my Pappap died in 1996 and I honestly felt like there was an icy fist squeezing my heart—for months. It was this sickening, cold sensation inside my ribs, a constant reminder of loss. But even though I was grieving, and crying, and puking, and wallowing…I wanted to talk about it. I needed to, really. But my family isn’t like that. No one wanted to talk about it, but luckily I had friends…and the high school social worker.
It always made me wonder how I turned out differently. Talking about it has always been how I process, make sense, cope, and heal. I will talk about the same thing over and over until I’m blue in the face, and maybe it’s annoying for everyone else (i.e. Henry), but it helps me understand and heal so that I can go back to living my life.
On my 21st birthday, I went to visit my grandma. It had been 5 and a half years since my Pappap’s death at that point, and this particular birthday was difficult for me. I sat with my grandma on her bed and tried to talk about it. She shot me down immediately and became visibly upset at my audacity to speak of such verboten subjects. I explained that I really needed to talk about it, though, that his death had really affected me too.
She looked at me and said, “You were just the granddaughter.”
I don’t know what I thought was going to happen. Those people are just absolutely allergic to feelings, and here I am, the emo black sheep.
Am I completely over my Pappap’s death? FUCK NO. Maybe I’m not curled up in the fetal position, sobbing about it every night, but I do have those moments every now and then, on my birthday, on his birthday, at a damn Mike + the Mechanics show. But mostly, I smile when I see pictures of him, or hear songs that remind me of pool parties at his house, or post-church grilled cheese at Blue Flame. I like to talk about him and write about him because it keeps his memory alive. I try to honor him any chance I get, because he was the greatest man I have ever known. There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of him.
I have been grieving Marcy in this same fashion. It fucking hurts. I cry a lot when I’m alone, because that’s when her absence feels the heaviest. But…I am also able to tell stories about her at work (Glenn and Todd* are thrilled about this) while SMILING. I’m not 100% ready to let go yet. There are still some things I need to do, like the dinner we’re having with some of our friends tonight in her memory, the actual burial next month (the pet cemetery doesn’t start burying pets until May), and the tattoo that is already being drawn up. And then on Monday, Amber1
*(Yesterday, I thrust my phone in Todd’s face and said LOOK AT THIS PICTURE OF MARCY FROM ONE DAY LAST SUMMER WHEN I WAS LOCKED OUT OF THE HOUSE AND SHE DIDN’T CARE. Todd was like, “OK. Wow.” Also, Todd is terrified of cats, so my Marcy stories don’t really do much for him.)
Completely befitting of Marcy’s volatile nature, it was thunder storming pretty savagely on Thursday evening when we arrived at Animal Friends. I half-expected to be struck down by lightning, one last act of Marcy-controlled physical infliction.
We were a little bit early, so we spent some time looking at the shelter animals. Mistake, mistake, mistake. I was crying before the vigil even started.
At 7, we gathered in a small room with seven others. Two were the volunteers in charge of the vigil, and one was a Methodist minister who was there to provide the spiritual portion of the evening. There was an older woman who lost her dog, an older couple who lost their dog, and an old lady who lost her rabbit. (And when I say “older,” I mean “older than Henry.”) To start off the vigil, one of the volunteers stood up and read the Rainbow Bridge poem, and I just sat there, box of Kleenex on my lap, openly weeping. It was OK — the older woman who lost her dog was sobbing too so that was comforting. Kind of.
The minister told us a story about her childhood dog, and I briefly considered converting to Methodist and joining her church, because she was pretty awesome. I started to feel better listening to her homily. She talked a lot about grief and how losing a pet hurts just as much as losing a person, and the worst thing that anyone can say to us during this time is, “Get over it” or “It’s just an animal.” She made me feel less crazy.
After the homily, the main volunteer—Jannie—read each story that we were asked to submit ahead of time, and as she read for each pet, the other volunteer lit a candle and presented us with a rose, a copy of the Rainbow Bridge rolled up like a scroll and tied with ribbon. Attached to the ribbon was a paper heart with a seed inside of it, for us to plant in our pet’s honor. I cried so hard listening to the story’s of the other pets being read. Everyone else there wrote about their pet’s death, but I didn’t include that part in Marcy’s story. I just wrote about what she was like, and Jannie interrupted herself when reading it to say, “Geez, she sounds like Grumpy Cat!” It was nice to laugh with everyone. But at the end of the story, Speck was mentioned and Chooch started crying when he heard her name. He is still so upset about her death, three years later, and it breaks my heart. When we came home from putting Marcy to sleep, Chooch took a picture of Speck off the wall and carried it around with him the rest of the day. Totally heartbreaking.
After the vigil, Jannie invited everyone to stick around and share more stories about their pets. “You know who I’m dying to hear from? Riley!”
I kind of thought he was going to pass, but he sat up straight and said thoughtfully, “Well…Marcy only ever scratched me twice, but she didn’t have her claws out so it didn’t hurt. I guess she was just warning me. Um…every time Mommy’s friend Janna came over, Marcy would attack her and then Mommy would laugh and post about it on her blog.” Everyone was laughing, and I thought that was all he was going to say, but then he burst into tears and, a la Chunk being interrogated by the Fratellis, went on to say, “I liked Marcy, but I was the most upset when Speck died. She was my favorite cat.” And you guys, he was crying so hard that he was shuddering in his seat. I felt so terrible and kept squeezing his knee and patting his back, and the volunteers and the minister were so quick to offer wisdom and words of comfort to him.
But it was good for him to cry and important for him to know that it was OK to cry. It was good for all of us to cry together, with strangers who are going through the same thing, rather than keep it all bottled up and act like nothing happened, like my family always does. I honestly believe that not properly dealing with their father’s death is what made my mom and aunt crazy.
My favorite part though was when I got to show everyone a picture of Marcy. Everyone was like, “Oh wow! Those eyes! What a beauty!” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s how she got you! She lured you in with her looks and then attacked.” That was the funniest thing about her: for as much as she “hated” humans, she was ALWAYS FRONT AND CENTER. Any time I had a party, and I used to have a lot of crazy parties back in the day, she was always present, stalking around the floors or glaring down from tabletops, just waiting for some idiot to stick their hand out. She was fucking smart as shit. Scary smart, really.
Before we left, one of the volunteers said, “I just want to tell Riley that I think it’s awesome he loves cats. Men who love cats are so rare and special. One day, you’re going to meet a girl, and she’s going to say, ‘Here, meet my cat!’ and when she sees that you’re a cat lover, she’s never going to want to let you go!” Chooch was still quietly crying, but this made him smile (and blush) a little.
I felt OK when we left. A little less heart-achey. Not completely “cured,” but I think that was a really helpful and important part in the process for me. I’m the type of person who needs to DO SOMETHING about it. I can only lay in bed and cry for so long. I need to talk and be with people and laugh and remember. (If Barb was there, she would have for sure quoted the “laughter through tears” line from Steel Magnolias*. I think it’s her favorite thing to quote.) And this night of grieving with strangers helped put some light back into me.
And, I think it helped Chooch even more than any of us imagined.
Thankfully, being snap-happy runs in my family, so my bro Corey was always taking Polaroids when he was 8. The day after she died, he texted me this photo he took right after I brought her home in 1998. I’m so glad that he did, even though it made me cry, because it also brought back good memories.
I know I told this story before, but IDGAF. I was working at Olan Mills when I was 18, and one day the proof consultant mentioned that her neighbor’s cat had kittens, and there was one left that they were trying to place. My family was NOT into cats. I had barely ever even been around any cats, so the whole time I’m like, “Erin don’t do it—” but it was too late — my hand had already shot in the air, and I had claimed this kitten.
The next day, this tiny, weeks-old fur ball was waiting for me in a box near my work station. You guys, this is no joke: this might have been the first time I ever got heart-eyes. My boss Gladys wanted me to name her Shaniqua or something equally as dumb, but I knew right away that she was going to be Marcy. I was really into alternative rock back then, and Marcy’s Playground was the shit, y’all. It was Marcy or GTFO.
Though I did have a wide array of “a/k/a”s for her, such as: Mitch, MadgeOla, Smidge, Maybe It’s Maybelline, Pretty Rainbow Sparkles, Jock Strap (???), Plumey (because of her big, full tail), YoYo Berry, Girly SueSue, and Shark Attack. But her full, God-given name was Marciples von Schlugenhusen.
I couldn’t believe that she was the last one in the litter. How was she not the first one adopted?! I feel sorry for the people who opted for the other kittens, because they have no idea that they passed over the sassiest, bossiest, most motherfucking regal feline in all of the land. Their loss, my gain.
My rocky relationship with Psycho Mike was ending around this time, and there’s no way I could have known how much I needed her. Marcy was like a 24-hour therapy session, with bright blue eyes, soft fur, and a propensity for stealing my food right off my plate and taking up most of my pillow space. The healing process started as soon as she stormed her way into my life.
Janna and I used to take her for drives around town, because I had always had dogs as pets and thought that this was a normal thing. Turns out, nope. She wasn’t really down with that, so we eventually gave up.
Marcy accumulated an eclectic array of interests and disinterests in her 17 years.
She hated: me, laughter, Janna, children, the other cats, the mailman, the gas man (notably the one who called her “that dog”), bubbles, having her tail touched, being pointed at (she would come at you), being tic-tac’d (I would tap her on the back and then turn and pretend it wasn’t me), having yacht rock dance parties, when I would hold her up to the mirror and cry MOMMY AND MITCH IN THE MIRRORRRRR, God.
She loved: Henry, Satan, Frostys, Cool Ranch Doritos, the taste of blood, the smell of fear, destroying puzzles, game board-blocking, going outside with Henry’s mom, yelling at birds through the window, when I would rub an ice cube on her in the summer and say OOOOH, NICE N’ COO! (OK, maybe not the last part), having a reputation, generally being left alone.
It occurred to me the other day that Marcy was in my life longer than my Pappap was. This utterly blew my mind. If you have never had a pet, maybe this seems absurd, but she had as much impact on me as he did. They were both strong, positive constants in my life; two very different beings from which I felt comfort and familiarity. He was my entire childhood; she was my entire adulthood up to this point. And it’s pretty ironic, because my Pappap hated cats with a passion. No one in my family ever even THOUGHT about getting a cat while he was around. So it’s giving me a little bit of peace to think of them together right now, my Pappap trying hard to pretend that he doesn’t like her. You know, like she did with me. <3
Thank the fucking Good Sweet Brown that it is Friday. This week was a….weird one. Let’s bullet it out.
I mentioned in passing earlier this week that BARB is leaving the Law Firm. Words cannot express the emotional paralysis I’m experiencing because of this. WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF ME?!?! I suggested that she train Glenn and we all had a good laugh. Who will post passive-aggressive signs in the kitchen when someone leaves their dirty shit in the sink for more than 5 minutes, or send snippy emails to all the right people when our printer gives up the ghost for the 87th time this week or there is an alarming stench emanating from the restroom!?BAAR-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-ARRRRRB, DON’T GO!!!!
SPEAKING OF, we were out of plastic spoons in the kitchen for a few days and I kept having to go to a different floor to get some. Then I would come back to my desk and fill Glenn in on my latest quest, because he lives for these updates. When I came to work the other day, this was sitting on my desk, because Glenn apparently IStryingto be New Barb! I t old Amber-with-Child that this means Glenn andIarebasicallyBFFs now. A few minutes later, she asked me where he was and I was like, “I don’t know. We’re not THAT good of friends.”
But back to the spoons: to use them or nah? THEY MIGHT BE LACED.
Several of my friends postedthatJNCO is coming back! I was like OMG memories because I used to wear the shit outofJNCO,Stussy,KarlKani (that was my SHIT), and Cross Colours. I started Googling the other brands and was so stoked to see that they’re all still around, but theKarlKani hoodies especially made me catch my breath. I kept shoving my phone in Henry’s face so he could really marvel overtheKani signature name plate on the shirts. Henry was like, “Nope. Still don’t remember.” HE WAS THE GODFATHER OF URBAN FASHION,forTupac’s sake! I was really going hard down memory lane at this point and asked Henry if he remembered the clothing store Merry Go Round. He said yes, probably just to placate me, and I went on to tell him that’s where I bought all of yo-girl threads. “Cross Colours in particular had an entire girls’ line of clothes, but I always wanted the boy stuff. Because I was a THUG,Henry.” Henry sighed and murmured, “Yeah. I keep forgetting.”
Ugh, why didn’t I keep all those old clothes?! Now I feel sick over this.
OMG THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER HAPPENED. The other day, Barb was all, “Yo, how far into Breaking Bad are you?” and I was all, “Blahblah blah Jane and Jesse” and Barb was all, “DID YOU NOTICEWHOJANE’S DAD IS!?” And I was like, “Whatno who?!” and she was like, “He was on some soap opera years ago, I can’t remember if it was Another World or Days of Our Lives, and for some reason all I can remember is that he had a girlfriend named Calliope—-” I cut her off to cry, “EUGENE!?!?!?!? AND HE WAS AN INVENTOR! AND WHEN HEANDCALLIOPE GOT MARRIED HER DRESS LIT UP!!!” and then I had to run back to my desk and YouTube it before my head exploded because if there is one thing I fucking go bananas over, itis1980s-era Days of Our Lives, people. So then that night, I was so excited to tell Henry, but apparently my lead-inwastoo over-the-top because he thought it wasgoingto be something more amazing, and I’m like MORE amazing? What more could you want? Eugene fucking Bradford is on Breaking Bad!
The next day, I told Barb that I watched another episode of Breaking Bad the night before and was so excited to see that it really is him, and I even cried out JOHNDELANCIE! when his name popped up in the opening credits. Then we were talking about Calliope and I mentioned that Arlene Sorkin was like, my style icon as a kid and Barb was like, “Oh I didn’t know that was her nameinreal life.” I told her that of course I knew her name, because I kept a Days of Our Lives scrapbook when I was in elementary school. Don’t be jealous.
Eugene was last seen in Salem in 1989, after which he disappeared in his time machine.
Yesterday, Glenn was telling campfire tales about the OLDEN DAYS when it was unheard of for school’s to have 2-hour delays due to weather. “Except for that one time in the 70s when the rivers froze and the barges couldn’t get through.Schoolswere closed that day.” Then he and Patrick launched into some sordid conversation about gas fireplaces and I was like, “Where am I? Is this Hell?”
Also, Glenn lectured meonnot watering my stupid spider plant often enough. “Look at it, it’s all desiccated,”hemonotoned. “MAYBE THAT’S HOW I LIKE MY THINGS!” I cried defensively. Glenn must have just learned the word “desiccate” because he seemed excited to use it. Why couldn’t he have been this active when I was live-blogging our terrible late shift?
Barb would never lecture me. Whenever she tries to teach me to do something new (like, use an apple corer or find my way around town), she always swaddles her words in baby’s breath and whatever material the gloves that handle the Stanley Cup are made from, and punctuates it with a reminder that I am a special, special star.
OK, girl talk: Pretty much have spent all week obsessing over Lynn Gunn’s (singer of PVRIS) relationship with Love, Robot vocalist Alexa San Roman. And thank god, too, because I am so over Whitney and Sada. All they doonInstagram is post club flyers and pictures of their post-workout smoothies!! So I’ve officially hopped on the fast train to Lynn & Alexa Town. Of course, this obsession is salt/wound, but I don’t care. Last night, I was babbling on to Henry about something that I read about them. “I saw it on the Lynn & Alexatumblr,” I excitedly explained. Henry responded with a stretch of intensely disappointed frowns. “WHAT HENRY?! HASHTAG RELATIONSHIP GOALS, OK?!” Seriously. I wish I could go back to my early 20s and bag a hot lesbian singer in a beanie and then hold hands at Warped Tour. I clearly chose the wrong path. #LESBICORE
Thank god Henry is so goddamn patient with me.
Today I’m wearing a shirt that I forgot bought in the junior department of JCPenney’s and apparently it’s a “great color on me.” Sometimes coming to work is a real feel-good experience. And while I really appreciate the compliment, I’mma pretend it was really coming from my figmented girlfriend who sings in a make-believe post-hardcore band.
Me in my nice-colored shirt.
The security guard just tromped past my desk with a new security guard who looks like a 1980s serial killer….or Henry in the 90s. I feel considerably less safe.
Wednesday, February 11th, fuck yeah! That was the night of the Pierce the Veil/Sleeping with Sirens World Tour here in Pittsburgh. They played here for two nights because Pittsburgh goes HARD for PTV; I wanted to go both nights but Henry was like YEAH RIGHT PICK ONE so we went the second night because everyone knows that the second night is the best. (That’s a thing, isn’t it?)
We went to Rivertown first for a quick pizza dinner and drinks, passing the ever-growing line of kids outside of Stage AE. Worried about not getting a good spot, I lied and said that the show started at 6. “An early show tonight, I guess,” I shrugged, and Henry didn’t question me. I rushed him out of Rivertown around 5 so we could get in line.
“Are you kidding me?!” Henry cried, double-checking his ticket once we were already firmly planted in the snaking row of scene kids. “It says DOORS at 6, not SHOW at 6!” And I just laughed, because duh. So we stood outside in the cold for the next hour while crackheads tried to get us to buy their black market PTV t-shirts (my favorite was when one of them dropped one on the ground, accidentally stepped on it, and then waved it around in the air, hollering about how great the quality was). The wait in line was mostly OK, the group of kids in front of us were relatively tame, but the one had her mom with her and she got increasingly more showboat-y as the wait progressed. She kept trying to be all self-deprecating about her age (39) but then tried to make up for it by bragging relentlessly about all the shows she’s been to. (BLACK SABBATH. BREAKING BENJAMIN. THE VERY FIRST WARPED TOUR EVER OMG.) And then she was like, “CLUTCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE COMING HERE SOON I WOULD LIKE TO GO SEE CLUTCH I THINK THEY’RE PLAYING HERE NEXT WEEK CLUTCH CLUTCH CLUTCH” and it was like, “OK WE GET IT YOU LIKE CLUTCH.” Personally, I don’t like Clutch, and this bitch was making me dislike them even more. She just kept going on and on about all these old concerts and how she was probably dating herself, because you know, being “old” means you have to go to great lengths to prove that you still like music.
So I kept trying to raise Henry’s arm in the air while obnoxiously crying out, “Judas Priest! Ted Nugent! CHEAP TRICK!” For some reason, this just put Henry in an even worse mood and then he looked like this:
I was going to launch into a rant here about age versus music and why does it even have to be a factor, but I’m trying to live a stress-free life and that topic just makes me angry. I’m sure Henry could offer up a transcript of the rant he had to listen to before the show at Rivertown, if anyone is interested. (Kidding. Henry doesn’t listen to me when I speak.)
Bottom line is you’re never “too old” to be a fan of a band. If I didn’t go to a show because I was afraid of being the oldest one there, or having people mistake me for a chaperone/mom, that would just be a shame. And also, I would probably not go to a LOT of shows then since most bands I like have a young fan base.
Once the doors opened, the line moved relatively quickly. Henry and I got separated at the security checkpoint, and he was extremely dismayed to learn that I made it in first and claimed a prime spot against a railing. I thought this was a Good Thing since he didn’t want to go all the way onto the floor with the children (plus, I wanted to be able to see while still being in the midst of things, so this spot was seriously the best of both worlds because we were raised up just high enough that no one could stand in front of me on the floor and block my view); apparently though Henry had hoped that we could go upstairs with the parents in the balcony. I just laughed, because no. I told him he was welcome to go up there alone, but he always gets scared when I get faux-courteous. Who knows if he’ll get castrated later for taking me up on my trick offer.
Now is the part where I type words about the bands that were there, so you are welcome to peace out.
I am notoriously snobby when it comes to girl singers. I always have to laugh when Scene Fems get all up in arms that there are “never enough” females on Warped Tour because why flood the tour with mediocre music? PVRIS is one of the few bands with a female lead that has actually gotten my attention in awhile. I hesitate to describe them as dark electro-pop, because that usually calls to mind something of a more Goth nature, but to me they sound like a glorious collision of synthpop and post-hardcore. They are SO YOUNG and started making waves in the scene before they even had an album out. I like that they’re bringing some estrogen to Rise Records, and I also like that they have essentially been groomed by Blake and Sierra from Versa. It shows. Lynn’s voice is just what this scene has been missing. Ugh, they are wonderful. This is why I can’t write about music for a living, because it’s all HEART EYES and UGH YOU GUYS THEY PENETRATE MY SOUL. Can’t turn off how I feel, ever.
This is basically the same way I felt when I first heard Paramore back in the day. “Fuck yes, a singer-broad who doesn’t annoy me!” I can’t wait to go see them 934790374 more times. They remind me a little of The Flir, and I fucking loved The Flir so much but then they just kind of….stopped.
Henry said they were “OK” but that “the singing needs worked on.” You can catch Henry on the next season of The Voice, by the way.
I think I’ve posted about them on here before, but here is an acoustic video in case you felt the urge to put something in your hearing orifices.
II. Mallory Knox
They’re from England and this was their first time on tour in the States. So that was cool. I don’t know what else to say. It’s not that I didn’t like them, but my attention was definitely elsewhere during their set. The Penguin game had started and I was frantically checking my phone for updates, etc. and then I saw on Instagram that EMAROSA announced they’re playing Warped Tour this summer so I was basically peaced out of Mallory Knox’s set from that moment on….until I heard what I was sure was about to be a Whitesnake cover and then realized that the singer just kind of sounded like David Coverdale. I shared this observation with Henry, who just frowned and shook his head no.
Maybe I need to listen to them some more, I don’t know.
III. Sleeping With Sirens
Sleeping with Sirens is kind of THE BOY BAND of this scene. Their opening video montage even spoofed off of that, actually. So when Mallory Knox was over and the SWS backdrop slowly began to rise, the girls in the crowd went ballistic. “Take it easy!” Henry spat disgustedly into the general area. “They’re not even coming out yet!”
Truth: I was disappointed when this tour was initially announced and I saw that Pierce the Veil was co-headlining with SWS. My feelings toward SWS have really run the gamut over the years. When I first heard If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn back in 2010, I was all a-smit with Kellin Quinn. Granted, he looked like a little scene fetus, but that didn’t change the fact that this was going to be The Song that Henry and I fake-danced together at our imaginary never-wedding. I even considered having it choreographed. I used to walk the high school track by my house after work some times and I would listen to that song on repeat, with complete and utter disregard to the rest of the album.
But then I saw them live and was like, “Oh.” At first I thought it was just because it was Warped Tour. Sometimes bands just sound better inside grimy venues at night, than on some tiny stage in a parking lot, you know?
But then I saw them several more times, in a variety of settings.
He cannot sing live, you guys. I don’t know what it is. Acoustic, he’s not too bad. But with a full band, up on a stage, it’s like, “No, go home.”
However, I was shocked this time around because he didn’t sound as terrible as he normally does! But then Henry pointed out it was because they turned up everything else. And then I was like, “Oh. That makes sense. Never mind.”
Ew, agreeing with Henry makes me feel itchy.
But this is not to say that the rest of the band sucks! They are actually pretty wonderful have always saved the show every time I’ve seen them. They’ve definitely jumped on the fast track to fame, so their shows are pretty spectacular on the ol’ eyeballs nowadays. It’s all kind of lights and videos and streamers — you know, things to distract you from the vocal flaws!
OK FINE, I totally wear Kellin’s clothing line and keep a picture of him on desk.
The one huge highlight for me was seeing Nick Martin, who assumed the role as their guitarist after Jesse Lawson left in 2013. I LOVE NICK MARTIN SO MUCH! Back in the day, I used to play one of his old Underminded songs over and over in the car and sigh dreamily to Henry, “Isn’t he the best screamer ever?” Of course Henry answered with a frown.
I met Nick in 2009 when he was on Craig Owens’ solo tour. He is such a fucking great guy. He was also in Isles and Glaciers and then Craig Owens post-Chiodos “I’LL JUST START MY OWN BAND!” band D.R.U.G.S. But then Craig went back with Chiodos and basically left the rest of D.R.U.G.S. hanging. So it’s nice to see that Nick got himself a gig with a successful band, playing for bigger than crowds that he was with D.R.U.G.S.
They played “…James Dean” and I was trying to get Henry into it but he had the “Not enough beer in the world” expression on his face.
IV. Pierce the Veil
I don’t even know what to say about Pierce the Veil that I haven’t already. They have been firmly planted inside my heart for the last eight years and they inspire me so much. I can honestly say that I have never been to a bad PTV show (except maybe the one in Buffalo but that wasn’t their fault) and it’s pretty expected at this point that I am going to be emotionally ravaged for the next few weeks after. So I’m going to be really blunt and say that I don’t think I can write much about it, other than to say it was an amazing night that made me want to paint and write and potentially send an email that maybe I shouldn’t.
They played “Caraphernalia” and I almost chewed off my lip because THAT SONG. So much meaning. What’s so good about picking up the pieces, indeed.
JAIME!!!!!!! Henry was pissed that he missed this because he was off buying me a shirt, LOLforever.
“One of these days, that will be me up there, having my face sung to by Vic Fuentes,” Henry dreams.
Kellin Quinn came out to close out the show by singing “King For a Day” with PTV, which was expected. And good. I’m so happy to see Pierce the Veil playing for so many people now, but I selfishly long for the days when I was standing right in front of the speakers at a skate park in Buffalo with only about 100 kids behind me.
LOOK AT WHAT A LITTLE BABE HE WAS IN 2008!
Really, what I miss the most is hearing the old stuff. One of the last times I saw them, they played “Yeah Boy” but it seems like it’s so rare. I would kill to hear some stuff from “A Flair for the Dramatic” because to me, that is their best. I was whining about it to Terri (thank god for Terri!) and she said maybe they’ll do a 10th anniversary tour for it like so many other bands have been doing lately. I would fucking die if that happened.
After the show, we were briskly walking through the frigid night to the trolley station, when Henry said, “Tony cut his hair, didn’t he?”
“I don’t know!” I cried, because sorry, bro, I’m there for the music not the looks.
“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. He cut his hair, definitely.”
Oh OK, Henry. For someone who doesn’t care about this shit, he sure has a thing for the post-hardcore coif scene. If Craig Owens from Chiodos even uses the tiniest spritz of Sun-In, Henry is all over that shit.
“Craig’s hair is lighter,” he’s been known to scream in the middle of shows.
So now I’m convinced that Henry dreams about being some kind of Scene Barber, snipping Vic Fuentes’s split ends, pomading Andy Biersack’s pompadour, freshening Jonny Craig’s fade and “accidentally” nicking his jugular. OMG we can call him Scene-y Todd!
Apologies for the shitty ‘shopping on this but I did this quickly on my lunch break at work and had to use PAINT. Ugh!
In collecting old photos of my Pappap’s house, I found several that reminded me of how much music has always been a part of my life, and why so much of it naturally reminds me of that house.
I got my first damn cassette player from my grandparents for my third (fourth?) birthday. A year or two later, I upgraded to a Fisher Price tape recorder—it was taupe in color like all electronics were in the early 80s and came with a microphone, which I would hold up to TV speakers in my Pappap’s den, in order to record shit from Friday Night Videos. Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” was on my very first mixtape. That song came on in the car a few weeks ago and I tried to get Chooch stoked on it but he only thought it was just ok.
The above picture was taken on the porch of my Pappap’s house, and anytime I hear the song “Under the Boardwalk,” my mind automatically beams me back to that porch, sitting at the glass table, playing Monopoly and listening to the Bruce Willis version of that song over and over while my grandma babysat me and my brother Ryan in the late 80s. AND THAT WAS MY FUCKING JAM.
Here we have my grandma holding me in the kitchen, and you can just barely see a stereo system on a shelf to the left. This is how I grew to love Phil Collins, Kenny Rogers, and Gino Vanelli and also grilled cheese sandwiches. SOFT ROCK 4 LYFE. NO SHAME.
(I made my Pappap order me the Time Life “Body Talk” CD collection, and literally every song reminds me of either sitting in that kitchen or my favorite childhood restaurant–the Blue Flame.)
This is my aunt Susie and me in the clown room. Inside the desk behind us was a record player, and this is how I heard Frank Zappa for the first time ever.
There was always music playing in that house back then. And today, there is always music playing in my house. Sometimes different music is playing in multiple rooms at once (soft rock radio in the bedroom, Spotify on the computer downstairs, music videos on TV); this drives Henry nuts. Especially if we’re watching something on TV and then I scream something unintelligible and clamber up the steps because some cherished song is playing on the bedroom radio and I want to pretend like this is a serendipitous moment, like I can’t just queue it up on my phone, and so I’ll flip down on the bed and listen to “In the Air Tonight” or “Eye in the Sky” like I haven’t heard it in 20 years, while Henry is downstairs mumbling, “How did you even HEAR that from down here?”
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some soft rock to Spotify.
I met up with Kara on Saturday for lunch at one of our favorite joints in Pittsburgh, The Zenith. We’ve been lunching there since 2008 and I honestly can’t think of a single bad visit. Between the never disappointing all-vegetarian menu, the crazy tea list, the eccentric owner and waitstaff, and the collection of (definitely haunted) antiques and weird shit to peruse after you eat, it’s definitely an adventure every time.
Needless to say, Henry positively cringes when I tell him I’m going there.
On this particularly prosperous visit, we sat at a table across from the most handsome clown painting hanging on the brick wall.
“That’s really horrifying,” Kara critiqued, fanning herself with her invisible art history degree.
“I want it,” I said dreamily, flagging down Elaine, the owner. She wasn’t sure offhand how much it was selling for, and said she was going to call her daughter to find out. In the meantime, some dumb hipster couple came slowly skulking through the dining room, presumably in search of vintage mason jars. I didn’t like how long they lingered near my clown, so I started to grip the sides of the table in the anger, preparing to use the Chinese stars I keep tucked into my Tom wedges at all times.
Kara, god bless her, just sat there and laughed but I know what she was thinking: No one else wants that nightmare in a frame, don’t worry.
Elaine came back and said it was $25, which was a lot less than I expected for that prime slab of circus hunk. I had the cash whipped out of my wallet with a swiftness, thanks to my gospel aerobics-spawned flexibility.
And this is how Abaddon (of course I named him!) wound up joining us for lunch. I had the Seitan Burgandy and Kara had a Malkin Melt, which she gushed about being the best sandwich she’s ever had in her life, and now I regret not ordering that myself. It was my back-up choice! We both got a pot of tea, of course (mocha double chocolate for Kara; mocha orange for myself) and vegan cake, which Paul Eugene and a brisk walk around Brookline helped me burn off later, DON’T WORRY LAW FIRM BIGGEST LOSER TEAM.
Meanwhile, Kara posted a picture of Abaddon on Facebook, which got Henry’s attention:
Henry came to pick me up and was leaving that comment right as Abaddon and I were walking down the sidewalk toward him. The exhausted smirk on his face when I opened the car door was priceless. And it got even better when I said, “We’re done eating, but not shopping. BRB.” Chooch wanted to come back in with me and I let him, but the whole way back down the sidewalk I kept Army-chanting, “WHAT AREN’T WE GOING TO DO??” to which he would respond, “Touch anything.”
He spotted about 278476 cat things that he wanted, right away. Then he found some old tin yo-yo that Elaine let him have for free, probably because it’s cursed.
I tried SO HARD to get Kara to buy this dress. She promised that if I set up a photo shoot, she will come back and buy it.
I feel like the one thing my house is missing is a rusty saw collection.
I was happy that they still had some Christmas decorations up, especially this army of Nutcrackers, which I immediately took a picture of for my friend Kristy, who is terrified of Nutcrackers. That’s just me, being a good friend, is all.
I wish the walls were still blue, but this is still one of the best bathrooms ever, no matter what.
Fake-pooping with cursed yo-yo in hand.
I want everything on this wall so much that it hurts.
Chooch’s first ever Zenith purchase:
On the walk back to the car, Chooch dragged the yo-yo along the sidewalk, which made a terrible scraping sound.
That was probably some kid’s only toy during the Great Depression, and now look at it.
Kara vehemently suggested that Abaddon should be hung in the basement, but I made Henry hang him on a wall adjacent to the basement door. Close enough.
In other majestic clown acquisitions, I purchased this hand-drawn plate on Etsy a few weeks ago, which made Henry sigh because he told me to wait to buy it but I was like, “Oops, too late.” I didn’t want some other asshole to get to it first, OK?!
I showed Kara a picture of it when we were still at lunch and she was like, “OMG NO! I’m on Team Poor Henry with this one. That’s just terrifying.” So then I sent her this picture that night, which she mistakenly looked at right before she went to sleep:
Next on my list is a holy water font for the bathroom. I haven’t found one that speaks to me yet. OK, that’s not true. There was one…but it was $600. IT WAS ITALIAN, OK?!
It was approximately -87 degrees last Thursday morning, which found me working from home and Chooch staying home from school.
God made this happen.
Because God wanted me to discover the greatest thing in the whole entire world: Gospel aerobics.
Let me tell you how it happened: It was approximately 3PM last Thursday and I was about to take my lunch break. (I was working late shift that day.) I had already exercised that morning, but it was bothering me that Chooch has basically been lounging around all day watching videos on his phone. So I put YouTube on the TV and announced that it was time for him to exercise. I typed in “kids exercise workouts” or something equally as generic, and one of the first ones that came up was some kids dance workout.
It looked like it was from the 90s, and it was hosted by a black man with a huge smile who definitely seemed to be having more fun than the kids behind him. Chooch and I became instantly obsessed and were falling all over each other in our feeble, giddy attempt to follow along with the routine. By the end, we were straight exhausted just from all the laughing. The host likes to make lots of thrusting motions while grunting “Uh! Uh!” and it’s just too much for assholes like us to handle.
Later that night, I looked at Chooch and asked, “Do you want to do another one?” And that is how our lust for birthday party videos on YouTube was replaced by HIP HOP WORKOUTS FOR KIDS FROM THE 90s!
We found one and Henry was not amused. Not even the sight of us lumbering through the Running Man made Henry crack a smile.
The next day at work, I was excited to talk about my new obsession.
“What makes a person purposely look for hip hop workouts from the 90s?” Glenn asked, because he is stupid and just doesn’t get it. But then I decided to Google the host of the first routine Chooch and I did to see if he has other videos out there, and what I found was something I like to call THE MOTHERFUCKING JACKPOT.
Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Gospel aerobics! Paul Eugene is my hero! I excitedly shared this with several co-workers and said, “Well, I know what I’m doing all weekend!”
“Poor Henry” was the general response to that.
Then I signed Glenn up for the newsletter (Paul uses MAIL CHIMP! All of my fellow Serial fanatics will appreciate that), but then a few minutes later I heard him mumble, “I’m not confirming this.”
A few hours later, I broke the Friday afternoon silence to giddily shout, “AND he danced on Soul Train!”
“You’re still on that guy’s website?” Glenn asked incredulously, and then almost immediately realized what a dumb question that was. I have a very low threshold for obsession resistance.
I absolutely could not wait to get home work and put on some gospel aerobics.
After dinner, Chooch and I chose a workout from Paul’s YouTube channel and Henry mumbled, “Goodbye.” He was off the couch and upstairs before the CHECK WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN warning had left the screen.
And then it was just complete mayhem. Chooch puked at one point from laughing so hard (at least he cleans it up himself now) and then I accidentally stepped on his foot when we were trying to shuffle to the left. I can only imagine what it sounded like to outsiders, because we were laughing so hard, we were SCREAMING, like two drunk, mentally challenged cartoon characters who just had a piano and anvil dropped on their respective heads. Basically, we are the Toon Patrol and Henry is Eddie Valiant.
And apparently, all of these videos are from 2004-present; they only LOOK like they’re from the 90s.
Afterward, Chooch ran upstairs to weigh himself and claims that he lost a pound. Yeah, because he PUKED.
Later that night, Henry was horrified when he found out that there was a strength-training segment and that Chooch and I were unsupervised, having violent laughing attacks with weights in our hands. Then after Chooch went to bed, I made Henry sit there while I fell down the gospel aerobics rabbit hole. I found one called Faithful Fitness but it was just a bunch of prudish white people who quite possibly had less rhythm than me and did very little to inspire me to get off my fat ass.
So I went back to PEugene. And then I made him my profile picture on Facebook.
“Do you think Kristy will do gospel aerobics when she comes over tomorrow night?” I asked Henry.
“I hope not,” he mumbled. BUT SHE DID! And by “do gospel aerobics” I mean that we sat on the couch, drinking alcohol and watching the best of Paul Eugene.
“Why does it look like he’s in Hell?” Kristy asked.
Because he’s dancing away the demons!
(This song is pretty much in my head all of the fucking time now.)
While Henry was making dinner on Sunday, Chooch and I mutually agreed that it was Paul Eugene time. Chooch doesn’t like the gospel ones as much as I do though (he said they scare him), so we put on several of the lame kid workouts and by the time we made it to the part where Paul forgets how to count during jumping jacks, Chooch and I simultaneously peed our pants. (Sometimes Paul holds up the wrong number of fingers when he’s counting down, too.)
These workouts make us scream with laughter….oh my god, almost like we are being EXORCISED how haven’t I made this connection before!? It’s like, literally a douche for our douchiness. The only thing missing is Paul hosing us down with Holy water at the end, making us smoke and sizzle like a Gremlin in a Jersey Shore hot tub.
Our levels of hysteria rose so high that night that Henry stormed over and turned the TV down in a huff. And when that wasn’t enough, he came back from the bedroom with HEADPHONES FOR HIS PHONE. Obviously this just made us laugh even harder.
Last night, I did two more PE workouts and before I knew it, my heart rate was up like a cross-carrying Simon of Cyrene. One had a move that Chooch insisted was called “Strangle the devil” (it really did sound like that’s what Paul was saying through his gritted smile) and the second one was a riveting routine called the Victory Dance, set to an uplifting jam about a new day, and even though I tripped over my right foot and felt something snap in my back, Paul told me that I’m a winner no matter what and it occurred to me that while I started working out to gospel aerobics ironically, I THINK I HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY ALL OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL CALISTHENICS. Paul’s positivism and exuberance for evangelical exercise has made me religious. I’m going to make a shirt this weekend that says Paul Eugene is my Co-Pilot and there is nothing that Henry can do about it, except for maybe not show me how to make a shirt that says Paul Eugene is my Co-Pilot.
Paul’s workouts are soundtracked by holy house music to give some rhythm to his churchy chacha. Somewhere during the routine, Paul will interject some liturgy while sweat drips from his temples and I have found myself actually paying attention to what he’s saying. It’s not uncommon for Paul to interrupt his own two-step preaching in order to sing, “I see the Kingdom!” in time with whatever uplifting worship tune has him toe-tapping and then remind us that it is A NEW DAY. Fuck all that bullshit that happened yesterday. It’s time to do the Sanctified Line.
The grapevine has never felt more pious, jumping jacks so Jesus-y, squats so sacrosanct. You guys. This totally started out as a joke, but now I think I RESPECT PAUL*. He makes me happy. Even today, when the trolley was late and then I sat near someone who smelled like a bagful of curly fry seasoning, I felt totally OK with life.
Oh Christ. I think I need to procure me some Pontius Pilates.
On the way home from Chooch’s piano lesson on Saturday, some Queen song came on the radio (it was probably “Another One Bites the Dust,” but I can’t remember exactly right now). Chooch is oddly interested in Queen. Not in a “LET’S BUY THEIR WHOLE DISCOGRAPHY!” sense. But, he does like to ask questions about them. Once, I played him the “Radio Gaga” video, because I was OBSESSED with that song when I was around his age (there’s even a video of me dancing to with curlers in my hair years later—I think jerk Lisa filmed it in my mom’s family room when I wasn’t paying attention) and he was fascinated.
This time, he started asking us questions about Queen’s popularity and seemed kind of surprised when Henry and I told him that they had lots of big radio hits. We started naming some of them and I had a quick audio flashback of senior year of high school. I had never been a super big Queen fan, so I never really sunk into their deep cuts. But then I started dating Psycho Mike, and the one good quality about Psycho Mike among the layers of shitty attitude, rage disorders, and fiery jealousy was that he really loved music. None of my prior boyfriends really seemed to give a shit about music, let alone that all-important relationship token: The Mixtape. I would make them for people all the time: friends, penpals, unworthy boyfriends—but it wasn’t until I started dating Mike that I ever got one back from a boy.
And it was fucking legit.
It was through Mike that I learned about Billy Bragg (whom I finally got to see live at Riot Fest last September!), Neutral Milk Hotel, Syd Barrett, and Radiohead (Mike was going to see them back when they were opening for bands at tiny Pittsburgh clubs like Metropol), some of which were included on the mixtape he made for me during the winter of 1997. I spent so many nights laying on the beanbag in my bedroom, lit only by a ridiculous collection of neon water sculptures and Christmas lights bouncing off of my foiled wallpaper…it was just a few nudie posters short of being a home-version of Spencer’s, a headshop without the bongs and nose-pinching stench of patchouli. And this is how Mike’s mixtape was best experienced: half-devoured by a giant bag of beans, awash in psychedelic lights, absolutely nothing distracting from the words and music seeping into the system like some supreme cocktail of opiates.
During our Queen conversation on Saturday, I pulled up “You Don’t Fool Me” on my phone and, before it started playing, I explained that it was my favorite Queen song of all time. “It was on this mixtape that Psycho Mike made me,” I mumbled.
I hadn’t listened to this song in at least 15 years, and as soon as I heard those opening notes, I was back in my old bedroom again, and I felt so calm and peaceful, even with Chooch’s mouth chattering away in the backseat of the car. Over the weekend, I listened to some more songs that I remembered from that tape, “Marooned” by Pink Floyd, “Bad As They Seem” by Hayden, even Pachelbel’s “Canon” was on there. Side B ended with a 10-second recording of one of our phone calls, unbeknownst to me at the time; I thought was incredibly adorable and romantic back then, me sounding all sleepy and him teasing me with a deranged lilt to his voice.
Listening to these songs made me feel warm, safe, comfortable: none of the things Psycho Mike ever made me feel.
I think out of everything under the Christmas tree, the gift that elicited the most reaction from Chooch was the framed picture of Creepy Basement Grandma/#CookiePizza. He was like, “WHERE DID YOU GET THIS!?” and then I was all “I WENT THERE” and then we were both all, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAA” and basically puking into our hands, because we are that obsessed with this stupid thing. Henry just sat there and tried to fit in but we were like, “Shut up, you don’t know.” DON’T ACT LIKE IT’S FUNNY NOW WHEN YOU REFUSED TO GET OUT OF BED TO WATCH THIS WITH US WHEN WE FIRST FOUND IT LAST MONTH.
God, can you imagine being in that house with all that weird doll reviewing going on?
This gift cost $1. It’s the simple things in life, you guys:
We had some people over on Friday and the fact that we have a framed picture of some random grandma just chilling on an end table for no reason made for a great conversation starter. And then over the weekend, I got the best text ever from my brother:
#CookiePizza never gets old. Never. I might get it tattooed inside my lip. But for now, I’ll just keep it as my Facebook profile picture a little longer.
There were numerous reasons why I HAD to go to Philly to see Circa Survive:
They just released a new album
This was the first tour they were doing in support of that album, and it wasn’t coming to Pittsburgh
The guys in Circa Survive are from Philly (or nearby), so this would a hometown show and everyone knows hometown shows are the best shows
It’s Circa fucking Survive
I would get to go with Terri and Christian!
So I did that thing that I do when I really want something, which is tell Henry that it’s all I want for “x holiday.” This time, Christmas was the next holiday coming up, which is good because Christmas works better than Flag Day. So I was like, “OH PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, HENRY CLAUS, I’LL DO ANYTHING!” I think he liked the idea that all he had to do was get me to Philly, and not have to go to the show.
Plus, we all got to hang out beforehand and the next morning, so it just made sense for us to all go and make a weekend of it. At least, that’s how I tried to sell my case. “We can have group hangs! Then you and Chooch can dick around town doing fuck all while I go to the show with Christian and Terri!” I cried excitedly, and Henry didn’t really say anything, which is better than when he gets all huffy and starts yelling at me about money. Not that that happens a lot.
The show was at Union Transfer, and it was a fantastic venue even before the show started. The line to get in was super quick, the staff was friendly, and there were numerous ciders to choose from at the bar. This is really all I ask for. Terri and I each got some cider and hung out at a table near the window, and I know this is cheesy, but we text pretty much every day so it was super nice to actually talk like real people. Eventually, we could hear the opening notes of Pianos Become the Teeth so we ditched the bar and made our way to the stage. Christian was already in there with one of his friends, but I needed to be closer for Pianos so we were like, “Peace out” and wormed our way through the crowd.
Meanwhile, Henry and Chooch were going to hit up some diner down the street from the hotel and then go get ice cream.
Pianos Become the Teeth is a hard band for me to describe, for some reason. I had a moderate affinity for them for awhile, but when I saw United Nations last summer, my appreciation for them grew (two of them are in United Nations: the drummer and bassist) and I knew I had to see Pianos live sooner rather than later. Luckily, they were at Riot Fest and their short set in the rain on one of the smallest stages in Humboldt Park turned out to be one of the highlights for me, which probably doesn’t mean much since that entire weekend was one big, obese highlight.
Their music is akin to post-rock, think Mogwai. But with anguished vocals that aren’t quite a scream so you can’t call this screamo, but more like a cry: a gravel-throated anguished cry over top of beautiful music that ebbs and flows with intensity.
Henry dislikes them because he’s a moron.
But OK, OK, this isn’t a music blog. So I’ll just say that when they played “Repine,” my eyeballs burned with tears. Jesus, that song.
Next up was Title Fight, which was exciting because the first time I ever saw them was the first time I met Terri and Christian at the AP Show in Cleveland almost exactly three years ago! We were all there as guests of our mutual friend Jason from Alternative Press, and spent the whole day together, record shopping, grilled cheese eating, and AP back issue rummaging. Jason had to do some obligatory networking during the after party that night and was so afraid to leave us alone together, for fear of one of us instigating a fistfight (we are hockey fan rivals—Pens vs. Flyers). I had a feeling that night that we were going to stay in touch and likely become good friends. You can just sometimes tell these things! It didn’t feel awkward hanging out with them and we had a lot to talk about, too.
Title Fight is one of those bands that I am a casual fan of, but seeing them live is a whole new ballgame. Terri has definitely gotten me way more into this genre, and I’m so thankful for that because I need all the help I can get to keep me away from stupid Jonny Craig and his stupid music. Ugh.
And then finally, it was time for Circa Survive. This time, Terri and I secured a prime spot near the side of the stage and, with the exception of the couple behind us who talked the whole time (GO STAND IN THE BACK IF ALL YOU’RE GOING TO DO IS TALK), it was a nearly flawless show, crowd-wise. Although Terri had some weird experience with some guy’s butt that I might try and talk her into guest-posting about.
Over the weekend, I went back in my blog and read about other Circa Survive shows I’ve gone to and really….what more can I say other than they are really something special. Even Henry, who doesn’t necessarily like their music, has admitted that they are entertaining. I’ve seen them in several different cities now: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati….but I have to say that this Philly show was hands down the best Circa show I’ve seen to date. There was so much energy in the room that it was impossible to stand still, especially during “Child of the Desert,” when Anthony ordered everyone to stand as still as they could, holding all their wiggles in. “I’ll let you know when it’s time to let the wiggles out,” he promised. And when that time came, I grabbed Terri’s arm and we started jumping around like idiots because WHO CARES, WE’RE AT A CIRCA SHOW!? No offense to Henry, but it was like, next level amazingness. You have to understand that I don’t often go to shows with other people who love it as much as me! With Terri, it was like, “Fuck yes, let’s sing, high five our neighbors, and let our fucking wiggles out!”
THANK YOU, ANTHONY GREEN.
They played The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is the Dose, which ends with Anthony yelling, “Did you ever wish you were somebody else?!” After which, Anthony said to the crowd, “I used to wish I was somebody else. You know who I wished I was? James Brown! James motherfucking Brown!” and we all screamed of course because, James Brown. But the girl I hated behind me yelled to her boyfriend, “WHO’S JAMES BROWN?”
Later, I would find out that while we were having religious experiences at Union Transfer, Henry and Chooch ended up just going to McDonald’s (Chooch’s choice) and Chooch spilled his drink in the car (“Daddy was pissed off,” Chooch wants me to tell you) and then they went back to the hotel because the ice cream place apparently sells Christmas trees in December instead of frozen treats. So essentially, a pretty typical Henry and Chooch evening.
I’ve said this before, but there is something about Anthony Green that reminds me of Chooch. I honestly think that if Chooch was the frontman of a band, he’d have that same cult-like charisma and charm, and I was really excited when, after the show, Christian said that he was thinking the same thing. And again, I just know that Chooch is going to grow up and become something stupid just to spite me. Something stupid like a doctor. Ugh!
I bought this sick limited edition show poster (only 100 were made for this show!!) and treated it like a fucking Faberge egg until I finally got it home the next night. Still waiting for dumb Henry to frame it.
After we left the venue, I chimed in from the backseat to point out how happy I was to leave a show and have friends with me to completely analyze and dissect the night. I love Henry and I appreciated that he accompanies me to pretty much every single show I want to go to, but he doesn’t give a shit. And I wouldn’t want him to change. It’s our thing: I’m all hyper and wistful at once, and he’s just….”deep sigh.” It was just really fun and game-changing to be at this one, of all shows, with two people who are just as passionate about Circa Survive and music in general. It was such a great night and you know I don’t ever take these experiences for granted, but this one really made me extra appreciative.
Before taking me back to the hotel, Christian drove around the city for a little bit while we talked excitedly about the show and how on point all three bands were, and Terri pointed out noteworthy things and we saw a sick fight that briefly spilled out into the street. And, and, and! Even two weeks later, my mind is churning with minutiae that I don’t want to let go of. I’ve watched YouTube videos of this show countless times since that night and Henry is like, “HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU WATCH THESE.”
Chooch was wide awake when I got back to the hotel after midnight, watching trashy TV and filling out MadLibs, but Henry was mostly asleep. I shook him violently and, in my teenager vocal cadence, rapidly recounted all of the highlights for him and then shoved my phone in his face so he could see my Instagram videos.
“I know what Anthony looks like,” he mumbled, rolling over in bed and going back to sleep.
Ugh, shows like these make me feel better than a day at the spa.
We listened to Circa Survive for a good portion of the drive back to Pittsburgh the next day, and I cried a little while revisiting old memories and talking for the thousandth time about the first time we saw them at the Grog Shop over the summer of 2005, mostly because I like to tell that story. Henry of course knows that story well because he was there with me, so he just sighed a lot.
From: First Feet Productions
*If you’ve stumbled across this blog and aren’t familiar with Circa Survive, please please please do yourself a favor and check them out. They’re really something special.*
Something is wrong with me, I think. I’m EXCITED about Christmas. This rarely happens! Usually I’m ambivalent at best, or downright bitter and suicidal at worst. But today, the weather is really mild, almost early spring-ish, so I went for a walk on my break and stopped to pretend to care about that manger thing and then I even half-smiled at a kid. (OK, it was a grimace, but still.)
So fucking weird.
I think putting up a tree helped shoot a zephyr of Yuletide joy up my grinchy ass. We wound up snagging a surprisingly beautiful artificial at Target for 50% on Saturday, and I feel a lot better about that than pouring money into a live tree that’s only going to wind up on the curb after Christmas. Tree murder! I’m still hoping to find what I need to have my perfect Christmas tree before next Christmas, but this one will be nice to have on standby.
I think Willie (RIP) peed on our tree skirt last year, so I threw down my old Cure wall hanging. It’s better than a regular tree skirt, IMHO.
The extent of our decorations.
But I think what I’m most excited about this year is the fact that I’ve been incorporating some of Chooch’s and my inside jokes into the gifts. If you have ever had the (mis)fortune of hanging out with us, you know that we will take the smallest thing and turn it into a Kelly-Robbins Family Legend. (Please see: The Napkin Dispenser or Dawn from Eat n Park.) Two Octobers ago, we ate a diner and heard the cook call out, “FISH DINNNNNEEERRR!” and I designed an entire Valentine for Chooch out of that because we were so obsessed with mocking the poor Yankee Kitchen cook. (I have Henry, who was not impressed with our antics, on video barking, “And next time, you two can go by yourselves!”)
Our latest obsession that Henry just doesn’t understand is watching birthday party videos on YouTube (yes, still). One of our favorites is from the mother/daughter duo who review dolls and have really grating New Jersey-trash personalities. Actually, the mom is kind of Kate Gosselin-esque, which just makes the whole thing even worse. Chooch and I didn’t know it at first, but these bitches are evidently YouTube-famous somehow, and toy companies just send them shit for free. God, I hate this country sometimes.
So in this video, the annoying girl gets to have a cookie pizza for her birthday; basically just a large chocolate chip cookie baked on a pizza pan. The mom is so fucking excited about this, that she makes #cookiepizza appear on the video. This in itself makes Chooch and I cry every time we see it, but THEN the best part of the video happens: the camera pans over to the left just so, and out pops GRANDMA FROM THE BASEMENT DOOR! Oh holy fuck, our insides crumble EVERY TIME we see this, it is so fucking hilarious to us. Chooch has literally puked over this, and I usually wind up with mascara rivulets running down my cheeks. Henry gets really annoyed and leaves the room.
Sunday night, I was the last one to come up to bed. Henry asked if I turned everything off, because he knows I’m wont to leave the TV, heating pad, iron, and stove on. You know me and my penchant for nighttime chores! Anyway, I was like, “Yes, goddammit, everything is off” but then a few minutes later, Chooch came out of his room and asked, “Do you hear that?” Then he got down on all fours and placed his ear to our bedroom floor. “It sounds like the TV is on…”
“Ugh, ERIN!” Henry growled, rolling out of bed and going downstairs to shut it off. When he came back up, he said, “That fucking Mommy and Gracie show was on.” Chooch lost his shit, almost started crying, and yelled, “I PUT IT ON! I TROLLED YOU SO HARD!” I guess Chooch was controlling it from his phone, and this is just the funniest fucking thing in the world to me, knowing that Henry had to get out of bed to turn off the TV, only to see that it was on the MOMMY AND GRACIE SHOW.
Last night, after Chooch went to bed, I screenshot the moment where Creepy Basement Grandma (CBG for short) emerges from the basement (and #cookiepizza is still on the screen—best of both worlds!) and then I printed it, framed it, and wrapped it. Chooch is going to die laughing. Henry’s face became a marquee for disappointment and annoyance as he muttered, “It’s really not that funny.” BUT IT IS.
Since Chooch knows that Santa is really Erin and Henry, I’ve been having fun labeling the “from” part of his gift tags with ridiculous things, like Daddy’s Amish Beard and Summit Diner Choking Hazard.
Chase’s Slutty Grandma is from a different birthday video, you guys. Try to keep up. We call her “CSG” for short, and the really scary thing is that I referred to Creepy Basement Grandma as “CBG” last night and it only took Chooch a few seconds to figure out what it stood for.
“Creepy…Basement Grandma?!” he screamed, and then we were doubled over, in utter hysterics, while Henry sighed miserably.
And this was before we ever referred to her as Creepy Basement Grandma. We are on the same fucked up wavelength and Henry is so fucking jealous.
I can’t express enough how thankful I am to have spawned a child who finds humor in ordinary, mundane things. Being able to have inside jokes with him has made our relationship so ridiculous and I love it. AHHH, I’M SO EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS!
While I was on my break today, I called Henry and said, “Remember when Chooch put the Mommy & Gracie Show on and trolled you so hard?”
Today as I was getting ready for work, I had a craving for Howard Jones so I put on his YouTube channel. I loved this man so much as a kid growing up in the 80s and he has been on my concert bucket list forever. I decided to check his upcoming tour dates and he’s coming to Cleveland in March! Usually, I find out about these things way after they happen, like when I’m scrolling through Instagram and I see one of my friends posting pictures of a Howard Jones show in Cleveland last year, so I’m taking this as a sign that I have to go. Plus, it’s on a Saturday, which makes the 2 hour drive there from Pittsburgh so much easier.
Howard must really like Cleveland if he was just there and is coming back less than a year later and it’s one of only 4 US cities listed on his tour. Thank god Cleveland is practically my neighbor.
I was about to call Henry 87 times in a row and then text him “911!!!! 187!!!!” but then Janna said she would go with me so Henry is like THANK GOD! I’m going to be in a good mood today, so everyone can thank Howard Jones, Cleveland, and Janna.
(Mike + the Mechanics is playing here in March too and if Henry doesn’t buy me tickets for Christmas, he is fucking dead to me.)
I was adamant on not making a big to-do over Thanksgiving, because it seemed stupid to have Henry slave away in the kitchen, cooking what would essentially be three separate meals since none of us eat the same things. (Chooch mostly just eats bread, cereal, and ice cream, anyway.) But, ever since we ate at this Lebanese restaurant last week and the waitress broke my heart by telling me that they no longer serve vegetarian moussaka, having that for Thanksgiving was absolutely all I could think about. Moussaka brings back such beautiful memories of this one time I was in Greece and my Aunt Sharon was like, “You’re not going to like that” and I was like, “Bitch please” and then to be honest I can’t remember if I liked it.
So, Henry slaved away in the kitchen making my motherfucking vegetarian moussaka while I painted cat heads on the wall and then took copious Call of Duty breaks (I’m obsessed, you guys; I’m even dreaming about it now). Also, Chooch and I spent a large portion of the day watching our new obsession on YouTube: birthday party videos.
Let me back up. Earlier in the week, Chooch was watching YouTube videos on TV, which normally I hate when he does that because who wants to sit there and be forced to watch the dumb shit he likes? (Mostly stupid videos with people screaming about Minecraft.) I was reading a book, so at first I wasn’t paying attention. But then something made me look up and I asked, my question plump with disgust, “Are you watching some kid’s BIRTHDAY PARTY?!”
“Yeah,” Chooch answered mindlessly, and I proceeded to tell him how dumb he is for watching stupid shit like this, but before I knew it, I was shouting, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?!” and then after three more birthday party videos from the same family, I fucking knew all of their kids’ names and found myself tweeting things like, “Chase’s grandma is such a slut” and “Mike’s birthday cookies are lame as fuck.” And then I was sitting on the edge of the couch, mocking this family with such robust zest, that Chooch threw up from laughing so hard and I was yanking the Xbox controller from him so that I could find more birthday party videos, like this one of some awful girl and her awful mom who review dolls on YouTube and are both just awful human beings altogether (and of course, also YouTube famous). I was so pissed because the girl got to have her birthday party at a roller rink that was 8374028347 cooler than any of the rinks around here. Fucking YouTubers.
We even watched a birthday party video that was in some other language. French or something. Who has time to tell? And some bitch’s pool party where Diego totally had the hots for Momo. (Every time we reference these videos, Henry gives us really mad looks.)
Then Chooch found a “Taylor Swift-themed birthday party” video. And that is how we became obsessed, in all of the negative ways, with a family that goes by the SHAYTARDS.
And they’re Internet famous too, apparently, but I can’t figure out why because they’re boring as fuck. But…they’re loud. And I guess that’s all that matters? The PAY ATTENTION TO ME volume of our voices?
“The ShayTARDS!?” I cried in disbelief. “Is this really what they call themselves?!”
Chooch, still hiccuping from his puke-laughter, nodded his head. “They’re like, famous on YouTube,” he explained. “But NOT as famous as Pewdiepie.” (Pewdiepie is his ultimate mancrush.)
So then I spent the day before Thanksgiving reading about these a-holes at work and trying to drag Mean Amber down into my hateful abyss.
“WALT DISNEY BOUGHT DADDYTARD’S COMPANY FOR 500 MILLION DOLLARS, AMBER. WHY, AMBER, WHY!?”
“You’re still reading about them?!” she asked, because this was approximately three hours later.
“Yes,” I admitted. “And apparently, the leader of this stupid family is obsessed with unitards, so that’s where their awful names come from.”
Seriously, Babytard? Brotard? Princesstard?
Chooch was calling me Mommytard as a joke at the store last weekend and it was so embarrassing! And this family SHOUTS these names at each other?!
Um, anyway. Back to Thanksgiving. One of the videos we found as we fell deeper and deeper into the birthday party video rabbit hole was a BIRTHDAY PARTY MAKEOVER with two horrible brats who somehow have like 7000 subscribers and I’m like, “STOP JUST STOP.” We decided to watch this one again on Thanksgiving and tried to get Henry involved but after 30 seconds, all he had to say was, “What is wrong with you two? You’re both idiots” and then he went upstairs to take a nap or find a new family on Craigslist, whatever he does when he finds himself with 6 minutes of solitude.
Five minutes of this video was spent dotting 7 different kind of concealer under their eyes. They’re 12…how dark could their circles possibly be? Last night, I said to Chooch, “Can you imagine if daddy had his own YouTube channel? It would be so boring. Like, ‘Hi guys, sup. Today we’re going to watch NCIS together. But first, let’s take a nap.'” And then Chooch laughed so hard that he threw up all over the floor but at least he’s finally been mopping up his own puke-laughter now so I don’t really care. Puke away, young man. Puke away.
The holiday season is a really weird time for me. I’m obviously pretty nontraditional, so the fact that we didn’t have some elaborate family dinner to attend didn’t necessarily cut me deep. Sometimes I really miss my mom and having a big dinner to look forward to, but if I think back at the collective Thanksgivings I’ve endured over the years, it’s probably a blessing to my sanity and emotional foundation that this marks the fourth year of our Mexican standoff. Still, I want Chooch to have SOME semblance of a holiday, so we stopped over my dad’s later in the evening. (Also, I wanted my SHOOFLY PIE!!)
As soon as we got there, Chooch ran off with Corey. When I went to Corey’s room a few minutes later to see what they were doing, I found them watching a Shaytards birthday party on Corey’s laptop.
“They’re seriously called the SHAYTARDS?!” Corey cried in concern when I walked in. But then he quickly became obsessed with them too.
They were also ghost-hunting and taking weird selfies:
Meanwhile, I spent some time firing off questions at my other brother Ryan. I don’t get to see him too often so I don’t know much about his life. Then we talked about the summer we hosted a French foreign exchange student, which was probably the best summer of my childhood and it comes up at least once at every holiday. MEMORIES. Then my dad served up some traditional T-giving staples: turkey, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. I filled a plate full of all of the carbs and then hounded my dad for shoofly pie. If you were following along the saga of the shoofly, you know that my dad made a special pilgrimage to Amish Country a few days before Thanksgiving to load up on cheese, licorice, and other fine foods, including THE PIES. Apparently, my dad’s go-to bakery is called Miller’s and he gets real weird talking about it. I asked him where it is and he paused for a just a beat too long and muttered something about “back roads” and “hard to find” which is why I’m 110% certain that “Miller” is my dad’s Amish mistress.
Anyway. He cut me a slice of Miller’s shoofly pie and I took a huge, inaugural bite because I had been waiting my whole life for this (read: two years; it has literally been less than two years since I last had shoofly pie but it was in Pennsylvania Amish Country). And my first thought was, “Holy motherfucking molasses.” Seriously, it was so forceful, like someone had shoved a molasses-soaked ball gag in my mouth.
Thick, gooey, molasses. It was like a big, hearty, blackstrappy FUCK YOU to the face of all the assholes who tromp on into Ohio, sniffing around for a pie that is native to the Pennsylvania Dutch. I mean, if you’re hard pressed to understand without the guidance of a sports analogy, I guess you could say it would be like knocking on doors in Cleveland looking for Steelers fans to hug.
I felt my dad watching me expectantly as my lips instinctively curled back into a mouth-flinch.
“Wow,” I coughed through the gooey treacle. “That molasses really hits you.” But I kept forking tiny morsels into my mouth because I didn’t want my dad to think I was being an unappreciative bitch on Thanksgiving, of all days.
“Here,” he said, sliding another slice onto my plate. “Try the shoofly pie I bought from Der Dutchman.”
Yes, my dad bought two different shoofly pies because he is goddamn thorough.
The Der Dutchman version was way less gooey, less molasses-y, and had a harder crust on top. At first I thought I was going to prefer it, but then I quickly found myself yearning the tongue-numbing brutality of the Miller’s pie. It appears I had acquired a taste for it.
At first I thought it was terrible, but then…well, I still thought it was kind of terrible but I didn’t want to stop eating it. So I gladly took the extra shoofly pie home with me and struggled to swallow a slice every day over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
I think I will forever associate Thanksgiving 2014 with YouTube birthday party videos, shoofly pie, and, inexplicably, this Europop hit was the soundtrack to it all:
I feel like all we did was laugh until our faces hurt. (Or, in Chooch’s case: puked.) I was totally thankful for good humor, Henry’s delicious rendition of moussaka (the bechamel sauce, can I just face plant in a pot of it right this second?), time with my family, The Law Firm giving us two days off, and having a kid who doesn’t give a fuck about “Frozen.”
If you’re reading this, I hope that Thanksgiving was everything you wanted and that you got to stuff yourself silly with all your favorite November foods!