Monday, March 17, 2008

These Are Days...

Who doesn't love live music? Regardless of style or taste, everyone wants to see and hear a good show. On Saturday, 15 March, I had the opportunity to do just that at Taste of Chaos.

I woke up pretty late on Saturday morning, long after Dave, so he went out and got us bagels and Nesquik for breakfast. We lazed around for a couple of hours, and then it was time for him to go to work. I got dressed in jeans and a tank top, figuring that I would tough it out through the cold from the car to the concert and back again, but it turned out to be a beautiful, warm day. I cleaned out the car, changed out a bad headlight bulb, and waited for Matt to get out of work. Ira also met us at the house, and we headed down to the Junkyard to pick up Tom. He had been waiting for us only a few minutes, and it was only about three in the afternoon, but when Tom got in the car we found out he'd had a couple of shots of Jameson and reeked of alcohol. This contributed to some hilarious conversations on the way to Asbury Park, NJ, punctuated by Tommy telling us to "Stay left!"

We got down there in plenty of time, parked a couple of blocks away, and walked to the Convention Hall. When we were still pretty far away, some guys walked up behind us and asked if we had any extra tickets. Tom had been trying to get rid of the other ticket he bought all night and all morning, and was happy to sell it for face value. We walked to the entrance and saw a long line stretching down the boardwalk. Just as we got to the end, the doors opened, and we all filed in to get frisked, IDed, and wrist-banded. The entrance way was a large, wide room, with a bar in the center. There was a line of porto-potties, vendors selling t-shirts, and even an Ernie Ball station where you could test out some guitars. This room became our home base for the rest of the night, especially because we found out that smoking was allowed there. Our first stop was the bar, to begin catching up with Tommy. Ira had his usual vodka straight, and Matt started with beer. Tom offered me a drink in return for driving down, so I agreed to have whatever he was having: Jameson on the rocks. Complete with drinks, we hung around for about a half hour, and had run-in with a couple of girls from Sugar Hooker. We put our names in for a guitar-giveaway and were abused by their inflatable clubs for a while, then headed into the hall itself.

We ran straight upstairs to get some more drinks. On either side of the second floor, there were designated areas for alcohol with two bars. The others had shots, while I just picked up a beer. We pounded them quickly, then headed around to look at the merch for sale. I signed up where ever I could to win guitars, and Tommy got abused by the Sugar Hookers again. After a quick run downstairs to see who was playing, and it was a Japanese band that we didn't know, so back upstairs for some more beer. While hanging out in the Beer Garden, we devised a plan to ambush the Sugar Hookers for some retaliation. At this point, we know that one of the girls has her boyfriend there with her, but she's still flirting with the guys, so why not make it worse? We inflated our clubs, finished our beer, then headed around to look for them. We eventually found them downstairs, and the guys attacked. The looks the boyfriend was giving us could have killed the whole group.

At this point, I started getting text messages from my co-worker Garry, who was there with his friend Lina, and our friend Joey, who was there with friends we didn't know. We found Garry and Lina, but lost Matt. We were able to find Matt hanging out with Joey, but lost Garry again. Tommy, Ira, and I went back upstairs for another beer, and lost everyone else. While in the Beer Garden, we heard Bullet for My Valentine begin, and we ran back downstairs. I only watched a couple of songs, not being very into the band. After they finished, we went back out into the entrance way for a cigarette, and we were able to get everyone together, including finding Tommy's brother. Tommy gave me his wallet and phone to prep for the pit, and he, his brother, Ira, and I went down to the right front for Atreyu. We got right into the mix of it: Tommy and his bro holding their own in the pit, Ira and I pushing forward with the crowd. Ira and I were able to stay within a couple of feet apart, though not right next to each other. The crowd was pretty rough; I was getting pushed around hard, but everyone around me was at least nice. At one point, someone stepped on the bottom of my pant leg and pushed me away from them hard enough that I lost my sneaker. I let Ira and the rest of the people around me know it was missing, and people kept an eye out for it the rest of the time. I wasn't familiar with Atreyu going into the show; Matt had given me two of their cds, but I hadn't had time to listen to them beforehand. The crowd was really into their music, and they had so much energy that it was contagious. The band looked like they were working hard and having fun, and the music flowed in a way that I could predict where it was going and stay right with them. By the end of their set, I couldn't wait to get back in the car and throw in an Atreyu cd. Just before the last song, Ira found my shoe, and the guys around me cleared out a space so that I could get it back on. By then, I was just tired of being shoved, and beat a swift retreat to the entrance way for a cigarette. I found Tommy out there, and he explained that he had suffered an asthma attack in the pit, and had also been knocked over and re-sprained his ankle.

Once again, we gathered everyone up. Joey and Matt said that the left side of the stage was a little calmer during Atreyu, and they were headed back there. Ira, Tommy, and I ran back up for another beer, and I told Tommy that I would keep in company sitting down if he couldn't stand. While he drank his beer, Ira and I stood at the top of the stairs to watch Avenged Sevenfold get started. They were about two chords in when I realized that this wasn't going to happen. I asked Ira to wait there for Tommy, told Tommy that Ira was there, and ran downstairs. The person I was most interested in seeing was Zacky Vengeance, the lefty rhythm guitarist, being a former lefty myself. He was on the left side of the stage, where I knew Joey and Matt were, so I went over and found them. By the end of the first song, I couldn't stand outside anymore, and set my sights on the rail.

The crowd wasn't as harsh as during Atreyu, either because it was a different band or because it was the other side of the stage. When the third song started, I was only two people back from the rail, and had a great view of Zacky. I couldn't see most of the rest of the stage, though, because of some very tall guys that were surrounding me. I had my camera and planned to take pictures, but got so wrapped up in the music that I didn't remember to. By the end of that song, I had made it to the rail, and was basking in the wonder that is up-close-and-personal live music. I honestly couldn't tell you what they played, all songs I knew, though I vividly remember 'Seize the Day' because they had Johnny Christ open it.

At one point, the crowd-surfing got pretty out of control. There were so many people coming up to and over the rail that security couldn't keep up. Someone flew over my head and wasn't caught by anyone, and so crashed to the floor on the other side of the barrier. Unfortunately, he took my left arm along with him, and smashed it down onto the metal bar, just above my elbow. I'm still not exactly sure how my arm didn't break; I guess it was in just the right spot. I moaned a bit, but held my ground right through to the end.
Following the show, I beat a hasty retreat into the entrance hall to meet up with the boys. Joey and his friends had already left, as had Garry and Lina, but I found Tom, Matt, and Ira pretty quickly. We headed out into the cold, past the buses, and to our car. The long ride home was amusing, with Ira and Tommy calling requests into the local college radio station. As usual, we all had a blast together, and my favorite band was a sight to behold.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

...How I Disappear...

I weigh myself every day. I know pretty much any diet will tell you not to do this, and that it makes me look positively obsessive over my weight, but I do it anyway. Being as I work in a manufacturing facility, there is a pallet scale on my way to the bathroom, and it's just a quick glance around to see who's looking, hop on, hop off. I don't worry about the number on a daily basis, but I am keeping a diet journal right now and that's just one more column. The other columns are for all of the food that I eat every day, exercise I get, cigarettes I smoke, location (home or traveling), and activities. This helps me keep track of why I eat a certain way on specific days, and why I might eat more or less when I travel or work or hang out at home.

Since I started my journal on 25 February, I've lost 6 lbs (145-139). This averages out to 2 lbs per week, which isn't a bad rate of weight loss. I don't expect that it will remain consistent down to my goal, but if it did, I would achieve 120 lbs at the beginning of May. That really doesn't seem very far away! I still think about myself as having started at 170 lbs, though it's been almost 2 years since I weighed that much, and compute my overall loss using that number: 31 lbs. I had been at 130 for most of last year, but gained weight this fall from lack of exercise due to injury.

The key to my weight loss has been exercise, but I've also begun to pay much more attention to what I eat. I cut way back on my Dr. Pepper fixes, pretty much eliminated fast food, and upped my water intake. Those very simple changes, plus excercise of course (can I stress that any more?!), allowed me to lose weight quickly and relatively easily. As I began to keep records of what I ate on a daily basis, I also started to eat better food. It's lame to say, but I felt proud of myself when I looked at the day or week and saw only foods that were good for me.

All along, I've known that my eating habits, and Dave's for that matter, would be far better if we ate at home more often. We rarely cook dinner, preferring to have restaurants do the work for us. Dave is also very picky, and does not eat many of the foods that I like, so going out means we can both get what we want. Something about being at Sarah's last weekend inspired me to make more of an effort to cook. Dave's job as a bartender at a country club means that we work nearly opposite hours, so currently the only nights we have dinner together are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Three nights of meals per week shouldn't be a problem! If I can finally get myself into the habit of taking leftovers to work for lunch, I should save quite a bit of money, and eat healthier, tastier food everyday.

Sarah made a wonderful sausage & peppers soup on Sunday, and though I didn't actually pay attention to how it was made, I attempted a version of it on Tuesday night. I had asked her for the recipe, and when she got back to me after I had already made it, I saw that I had guessed pretty well. I thought the soup turned out great, though extremely spicy, and Dave liked it as well. I think it's the first time I've ever cooked anything for him with tomatoes, his most hated food, and he ate them with no complaints. I reheated a bowl for a quick dinner before my soccer game last night, brought over a generous portion for my parents to try, and finished the rest for lunch today. The ingredients cost about $20, which isn't bad for what worked out to be six individual meals worth of food. I'm making chicken enchiladas tonight from a simple and healthy recipe I found online, also inspired by a meal I had with Sarah this weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thank Heaven For Little...

...boys, actually.

After stumbling through packing in an exhausted fog Thursday night, I grabbed about five hours sleep. Left the house before six AM Friday, so I could stop at the bagel store for contraband real New York bagels (from New Jersey, of course.) Made it to Newark Airport by 6:45, parked in the economy lot, and caught the bus to the terminal. Everything went smoothly through security; it helps to be a frequent traveler that knows exactly what can be brought in the carry-on. For once, the flight to Detroit was on time and uneventful.

Of course, upon arriving in Detroit, my one hour layover turned into a three hour delay. When we questioned the staff, they announced that the plane was coming from the hangar and would be there within the next ten minutes. They made this same announcement four times over the next 1-1/2 hours. Finally, the pilot herself got on the PA and told us that the plane had definitely left the hangar, should have arrived long ago, and no one was able to locate it at that time. It's always reassuring to hear that the airport can't find the plane you're supposed to get on. A few minutes later, the plane arrived, and we all loaded up, only to be told by the pilot that there was something wrong with the external generator, and not to worry about the weird sounds and flashing lights going on for a few moments. As it is, I hate to fly, so this made me a bit nervous, to say the least. In the end, all was fine, the flight was otherwise uneventful, and I made it to Grand Rapids only about 2 hours late.

Sarah was waiting for me with the cuddly bundle of babble that is Ike. After I grabbed us some Starbucks, we loaded into the Roadmaster and headed for their house, passing hubby Dave's job on the way. Dave's company has the policy of closing every other Friday, and this happened to be one of those days. Unfortunately, he had decided to take advantage of the empty building and perform some IT work that wouldn't be interrupted. She expected him to be home around 6pm, so we camped out on the living room couch for a few hours and played with Ike. It was great to have some time to ourselves, as we reminisced and got to know each other again. Ike was as huggable as I had imagined, and stayed upbeat the whole night. I tend to think that anyone who interacted with him would be hard-pressed not to want to take him home. When Sarah called Dave to see how it was going, we found out that he didn't think he would be home for hours. She and I were starving, so we made an enchilada-style casserole, which was really tasty, and relaxed. In the end, Dave arrived at approximately 2:30am Saturday morning, which was about three hours after we went to bed. I joked with Sarah the following day that I was impressed at the lengths he would go to avoid seeing me.

We all slept in on Saturday morning, and finally got up to a breakfast of yummy NY bagels. Dave was experiencing them for the first time, and pronounced that the bagels were orgasmic. We chatted and played with Ike for a few hours, relaxing with Dre's Chronic and Portishead, then bundled up and headed to Grand Rapids. The town that they live in, Freeport, boasts three churches and zero traffic lights, so there wasn't much to do locally. Our destination was a lovely butterfly garden, which is also surrounded by outdoor sculptures, but the blustery weather kept us inside only. Dave assaulted me with the all-terrain stroller to pay for the tickets, but agreed that I could pay for food later on. Ike seemed more fascinated by the crowds than the insects, while Dave was drawn to some puffy and seemingly-flightless birds. We stopped at the gift shop for presents for ourselves, mostly on Dave's urging. Throughout, Sarah was the identical image of serenity that I always remember her mother displaying when we were children.

We were pretty much starving at this point, and after some discussion about the world being our oyster, Dave took us over to The Bob in downtown Grand Rapids. Apparently, this stands for something like 'big old building', and is a converted factory (according to Dave, probably textiles.) Ike slept beautifully through dinner, and we enjoyed a great seafood meal, though it was much like that commercial with the elf food. An appetizer, entree, and dessert for each of us was just enough to get us home for some chips, hummus, and beer. Dave turned DJ, and we relaxed and chatted about music, family, religion, books, everything, until sleep overcame.

Sunday morning was nice and lazy. Ike was cranky, and ended up sleeping for much of the day. Sarah and I were reminiscing again, and this time it inspired a look through her photograph collection. Weekends in the Catskills, a trip to Tanglewood and Stockbridge with Aunt Marsha and the girls, lots of Christmas Eves, old boyfriends, birthday parties, so many occasions that we've shared. Dave's iPod narrated our conversation with Led Zeppelin, Tool, the Beatles, and Weezer, among others. Then Sarah made us an early dinner of Italian sausage, peppers, and onion soup, we packed up Ike, and headed off to the airport. The flights home were on time and completely uneventful. I even got back to Newark about fifteen minutes early, but the late hour meant short staffing, and we had to wait fifteen minutes for someone to come open the door.

Overall, it was a great trip. I try to take advantage of any opportunity I get to spend time with my cousins now that we are adults, but it is extremely rare. I know that just because we spent a lot of time together as children, and got along so well, doesn't mean that we'll have much in common or enjoy each other's company now. This weekend showed me that our shared history really is a shared starting point, and led us to many of the perspectives and beliefs that we currently share. And it's amazing how alike our respective Daves are! I can only hope that one day I have a healthy, happy child like Ike to show for my life, as she does.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Please Don't Stop the...

Music has always made sense to me, with it's precise notes and scales and measures that can be arranged in an infinite number of ways. My parents tell that I would sing along with the soundtrack to "Annie," on record of course, starting at 2 years old. Most babies woke up crying for attention; I would wake up singing. I had imaginary friends that changed every day, and I made up voices and songs for them in the backyard. I began piano lessons at 6 years old, but only continued for about 6 months. I didn't want to practice, and the lessons were frustrating. I'd rather sit at the piano by myself and figure out songs, instead of learning scales and to read music. Though my piano career ended quickly, that knowledge has carried me through the rest of my life. When I began writing music a few years later, I returned to the piano, and that is still what I do.

When I was about 10, my elementary school allowed us to take up an instrument. I chose the clarinet, because I was told it was the easiest. My brother was playing the trumpet at the time, and horns just seemed so difficult! The clarinet looked like a recorder, and I had no problem playing that. A couple of years of lessons, and I gave that up as well. Middle school brought on a new music requirement. I chose the flute this time, and felt like I'd finally found my instrument. After playing two instruments a bit, learning another seemed easy. I pushed myself hard, and progressed quickly. My experience learning the flute inspired me to pick up any instrument I could find: my brother's trumpet, my friend's oboe, cymbals for the high school marching band (oh, yes), and my mom's 1970s acoustic guitar.

Over the years, I became proficient with at least nine instruments, but I just couldn't progress with the guitar. After many months of picking it up, only to lay it down after just a few minutes, I thought to restring it lefty. Suddenly, everything flowed in the right direction, and my hands knew exactly what to do. The guitar became my focus and my only instrument, except for occasional trips back to the piano for composition. I finally had a means to express my creativity, a medium to support my lyrical poetry, and a relaxation tool for when OCD got the best of me.

Unfortunately, this feeling did not last very long. After about 4 years of playing (circa 2003), the nerve damage in my right wrist (a softball injury when I was 15) wouldn't allow any more. I couldn't bend my wrist at the proper angle or grip the neck with enough pressure. I put the old acoustic away, and tried to forget about music.

The weekly ritual of Wednesday Night Drinking inspired me to go back to the one thing that allowed me to express myself in a creative and intelligent way. Within a few weeks, I was itching to play again. I tried to pick the acoustic back up, but my wrist had degenerated even more over the subsequent years, and there was no chance. In late July, I visited my brother Brian at Fort Campbell in KY, and a trip to the Gibson Custom store in Nashville solidified it. When I got back, I finally took the plunge, purchased a cheap new acoustic/electric, and started to teach myself to play right-handed.

Where Everybody Knows Your...

Wednesday is my weekend.

It all began last June, when my cousin Jessica sent me a text in the middle of the day, asking if I would meet her for drinks that night at the Junkyard. I started going to this bar way back when I wasn't legally allowed in, plus Matt and I had spent many nights there years before, following a couple of local cover bands that we really liked. Of course, Jess is a few years younger than me, and we hadn't really gone out together much, so she didn't know that. I'm still not sure why she picked a bar that wasn't anywhere near either one of our houses.

Anyway, I recruited Matt to come with me, and we went down to meet her, knowing that the cover bands there are always pretty good, even if you're not into the style of music that they play. It turns out, Wednesday nights are always the same band, Lifespeed, and have been for quite a while. Our first night there was a blast; rocking out to the music and drinking on a random weeknight with people we didn't normally hang out with. We also ran into an old car buddy, Tom, that I hadn't seen in years and who just happened to work there. We were quite impressed with the band, as well. From the start, we were having a good time with what they played, but once Matt heard Linkin Park's "What I've Done," he was hooked. And once I'd heard Bobby (bass) sing, I knew I'd be back to see them many, many times. I can't remember what else they played that first night, but I do recall deciding on the way home that this was our new weekly tradition.

We returned the following Wednesday, and ran into a couple of other car friends who were regulars there. And the band was just as good. I'm one of those people who does extensive Internet searches on everything, so at some point over the next few weeks I pulled up their website. Their song list included one of my all-time favorites, "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies, so I dropped them an email saying that I loved that song and hadn't heard it from them yet. The following week, they played it, and commented that it was by request. Afterwards, we smoked a cigarette and chatted with James (guitar), and he was really nice to us. That night made me a die-hard Lifespeed Wednesdays fan.

By the end of last summer, we were regulars there. The band always kept us entertained, Mikey the bartender had my Blackhaus and Cranberry waiting on the bar by the time I got to it, and we were making friends with the other Wednesday night junkies. Lifespeed mixed it up with everything from Fall Out Boy and Panic At the Disco to Tool and Pantera, then threw in some New Jersey standard Bon Jovi (ugh) and some other random '80s rock. They joked and yelled and made fun of the crowd and each other. Substituted lyrics, pick fights, and random shots with the drummer, T, became the norm. I had no problem going to work on Thursday after 4-5 hours sleep, and I was finally making my way back into the music scene. Since we started going, I think we've both missed maybe 2 Wednesdays, and I've even gone down there by myself a few times.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Looking Back at Me...

So, let's bring you up to date:

The wedding is to be held October 4, 2008. We have the location and the guest list, and I recently sent out very cute Save-the-Date magnets. I purchased my dress and veil a couple of weeks ago, and it is hiding out in my parents' non-mold closet (as opposed to at my house). Otherwise, absolutely nothing is done. Flowers, DJ, Photographer, tuxes, and anything else you could think of, have not been worked on yet. We're actually still waiting for the location (a country club in the Catskills region of NY State) to provide us with a contract, even though guests have already begun to reserve their rooms.

Well, as of today I'm at 142 lbs. That's down 3 pounds since last Monday, so at least it is progress. Over the past two years, I've gone from 170 lbs to about 130 lbs, and from size 14 to size 5. Even with the 15 lbs I've put on since September when a back injury sidelined me from soccer for 3 months, I'm still chillin in my size 5s, so oh well. Soccer will increase to a possible 3-nights-per-week as of 13 April, so my hope is to have the motivation to get that going again. I'd like to get down to 120, or maybe even 115, and a size 3.

I've been sick for the past few days, since around Thursday of last week, so this past weekend was spent on the couch with my Daisy Rock acoustic/electric (aka Hesperus). Two days of continuous playing ripped right through my calluses, so I haven't been able to do much since. I try to play just about every day, whether it's working on scales, chords, finger exercises, songs, acoustic, electric, or bass. Right now, I'm giving the old college try to finger-picking. I made great progress this weekend, but these 2 days unable to play are really getting to me.

As far as travel, I'm headed to Grand Rapids, MI this weekend to meet my cousin Sarah's new baby. My flight out is at 9am Friday morning, through Detroit, and I'll be leaving around 6:30pm on Sunday. I can't wait! Sarah and I haven't been able to spend much time together at all over the past few years, and I've only been able to meet her husband a couple of times. She and I have many things in common, including the love of books, writing, music, and men named Dave...

Here I am Again...

...again, overwhelming feelings.

Let it be known throughout the land that on this day, the 5th of March in the year 2008, Larisa has begun to blog!

I know, the excitement is almost too much to contain! This blog lacks a concise overall purpose, other than to allow me an outlet for my thoughts, feelings, creative endeavors, experiences, silliness, etc. With so much going on in my life right now, I should have plenty to express on a daily basis. I expect the wedding planning, diet, ever-growing obsession with all aspects of music, and travel updates will be numerous, along with various other incoherent ramblings that are devoid of any other application.

By the way, I seem to title everything I write, be it emails, poetry, blogs, or anything else, with the unfinished line or title of a song. Feel free to guess the song, or at least complete the line.