In other news, the My Brightest Diamond concert I saw this past month was spectacular, though it was very strange to be seated for the entire concert. The opening act was Clare and the Reasons, who I had never heard before and thoroughly enjoyed. They performed a great cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
We were able to talk to Shara for a bit after the show and I gave her the crossword puzzle I had made. She was excited about it and asked me if it was alright for her to put it on their website. So keep an eye out for that.
Chris and I went to see the Decemberists at an auditorium on MSU's campus. The band was great as always, but the show was pretty disappointing. The Wharton Center is a lovely auditorium, but an auditorium is not a good place to see a Decemberists show. I'm guessing that the band was not allowed to venture into the orchestra pit, since Colin would come up to the edge of the stage but no further, and so was at a distance of about ten feet from the audience at all times. And, I succumbed to peer pressure and remained seated for the whole concert since everyone else was seated. It was a very odd experience. Afterwards, we waited outside and were able to talk to Jenny for a bit (and witness the stupidity of some audience members up close and personal), but did not see the rest of the band at all. I can't wait for the spring when they'll tour for their upcoming album The Hazards of Love.
Tonight, I finished reading Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and very much enjoyed it. I had read the first chapter of the book waiting in line for Colin Meloy's performance at the Park West in April and was loathe to read any more of it. So it sat in my to-read pile while I finished Middlemarch and Quicksilver, both of which were enjoyable but time-consuming (and Quicksilver is only the first in a trilogy which will be continued perhaps after Christmas). I restarted Castle recently and read a good chunk while waiting for the Decemberists performance at Wheaton College, which will be detailed later. The rest of the novel was very engrossing, and, as always, I am glad to have finished it but sad that it is now over.
This Wednesday, Chris and I will go back to the Ladies Literary Club in Grand Rapids to once again see My Brightest Diamond play there. It is the second of three concerts that will take place within three weeks--it always seems as though concerts pour in between dry spells. I am looking forward to the show and have to finish writing clues for the crossword puzzle I made for Shara Worden (I hope she enjoys crossword puzzles).
The Decemberists played Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL on Halloween. For those not in the know, the college is very, very religious. So, it seemed interesting that a band such as the Decemberists would be invited there and that they would play on Halloween night. I arrived at the chapel/auditorium where the performance would take place at 11am and began my day of sitting on concrete and hoping to talk to a Decemberist or two. Sadly, no one from the band came out that day, which is unusual, but the performance and post-performance made up for the day (which was nice and balmy, at least). The band came out dressed as the cast from The Shining, with Colin Meloy playing the part of Danny, John Moen and Nate Query as the twins, Jenny Conlee as Wendy, and Chris Funk as Jack. They did a brief reenactment for the intro and then proceeded to play a set list that highlighted the more Halloween-appropriate part of their catalogue. I had come to the show dressed as the uncle from "July, July" (a crooked French Canadian who was gut-shot running fin), which consisted of a red and white-striped shirt, some fake blood on my gut, a neckerchief, beret, a plastic carafe filled with water and a label that read "Water, No Gin in Here!", and a little Canadian flag. Colin commented that I had a nice costume (only a handful of audience members had dressed up) and at the beginning of "16 Military Wives", sat down on the stage near me and put my flag in the headstock of his guitar!
As usual, there were several times during the show where he came towards me--I like to think it's because he likes me and not just because I am standing to his left, while all of his pedals are to his right. I was not pulled onstage to play any instruments or sing any parts, but it was still a very fantastic concert, albeit the sound guys could've been much better at their job. Afterwards, I waited outside for the band to come out. I was able to talk to Nate and he signed my copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Now, I should mention that the Decemberists are playing the Wharton Center at MSU on November 12th (!) and that the promotions lady at my bookstore e-mailed the band to see if they could come do a signing that day (!!), though the band didn't respond. So, I took it upon myself to try and persuade them to come hang out at the bookstore before they play on campus. So, I told Nate to come and he said he'd see what he could do. Then, I got to talk to Colin Meloy. There have been two times where I have been talking to Mr. Meloy and another fan has asked me to take a picture of him/her and Colin. I have been happy to oblige, but because I get so nervous, my hands are always shaking while I take the picture. I am happy to report that, for some reason, when I was talking to Colin this time (and taking a picture for a fellow fan), I wasn't very nervous at all. It was almost as if I was talking to some regular person. Colin remembered that I had give him a book for his son (The Berenstain Bears' The Messy Room) and thanked me. We talked a little bit and I told him that the band should visit the bookstore and he said that they might call and arrange a ride to our store (since it is not within walking distance of the campus)!!!!! So I am looking forward to seeing the show on the 12th and keeping everything that I can crossed, hoping that I'll be able to hang out with the Decemberists during the day. Wish me luck!
- Chris and I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and thought it was fun and enjoyable. Neither of us understand any lackluster response to it.
- We also saw a movie called The Fall in an old theater in Ann Arbor. It featured good performances by Lee Pace (of Pushing Daisies fame) and a little girl and was stunning visually, but it wasn't anything really fantastic. It was directed by the man who made The Cell.
- I have a copy of the sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society, which is illustrated by Diana Sudyka--an artist who lives in Chicago and has a Carson Ellis-designed tattoo. I've told myself I have to finish at least one of the books I am currently reading before I can start this one (Middlemarch, Quicksilver, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle). Sigh. More about Middlemarch later. I also purchased another book in the 33 1/3 series (I have read Colin Meloy's book on the Replacement's Let It Be, which was excellent). This one is for Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister and is written by Scott Plagenhoef, who is the Editor-in-Chief of Pitchfork. I am excited about it, but again, I won't be reading it until one of the current reads is down for the count.
- I have the new Death Cab for Cutie album Narrow Stairs, which is very good, though I haven't listened to it enough yet to give a full impression.
- I am waiting for the postman to deliver a new Decemberists shirt as well as John Moen's solo album, Perhapst.
- I have a couple of pairs of new jeans (this is pretty eventful since I'm very picky about clothes, particularly pants).
- I have an interview with Grand Rapids Community College this week. I'm trying not to think about it so much so that I won't be disappointed when I don't get a job there
I have spent a good deal of this month substitute teaching for the Lansing School District. The good thing is, I now have money in my bank account, the bad news is, it has been awful. I started out doing all grade levels, but I was nearly crippled by standing all day at elementary schools, so I limited myself to only high schools. Lansing is apparently very poor and this is reflected in their schools. Apparently several schools in the district are magnet schools, but I have not noticed this having any good effect on the school or its student body. I understand that students aren't going to behave very well when there is a substitute teacher, but it's been a tad ridiculous. Perhaps I was raised in a school district that was an exception rather than the rule, but things that occur in the schools I've been in simply would not be tolerated in my almae matres. And no one at these schools seems to be interested in doing anything about discipline. To get a sense of the type of educational facility I'm dealing with, all the doors in these buildings are locked and remain that way throughout the whole day. The faculty bathrooms are locked, but can be opened with a classroom key (which no one told me), the students bathrooms are not locked, but do not have locks on their stalls. One school has a chain and padlock on the door to the third floor that thankfully was not in use during the day, though it would not surprise me if it were--one of the afternoons that I went to the school, the front door to the building was locked and did not have any kind of buzzer or indication of where an open door might be found. Sometimes, I would get a key to the classroom, and therefore the bathrooms, sometimes not, at which point I was pretty much shit-out-of-luck. They don't really give me any information when I come to the school and I don't really have any authority to wield in the classroom. Many times the students would not stop talking and doing whatever they wanted for the entire class, including my introduction and instructions. So, anyway, the school year is over this week and I don't have any gigs currently lined up, so it looks like its over. Hurray!!! But, I still need a job. Boo!!
Another aspect of substitute teaching is that it has made me very miserable. Now, technically the job isn't that bad. I basically sit around all day and get $75 for doing it. But, because of the problems mentioned above, I don't feel comfortable during any of these days. Feeling comfortable is very important to me. Because of this, and some unknown element, ever since I began this job (April 29th), I have experienced the worst depression of my life. Never have I been so constantly and consistently miserable. What usually lasts for a couple of hours and then goes away, not to show its face for at least a couple of days, if not a couple of weeks, has stuck around, lifting for very short periods of time (maybe one day, maybe a couple of hours). Now, I haven't been doing that well for quite some time now (at the risk of ruining my reputation, my libido has been almost non-existent for almost a year, which is very unnerving and depressing), but it's been particularly bad as of late. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.
But...here's to better days ahead, and more blog entries in the near future.
My day began early last Monday. I hit the streets of Chicago around 6:30am, breakfasted, parked, and ended up outside the Park West at about 8:15am. I was first in line for the Colin Meloy show that night at 7:30pm. I was alone for about four hours, trying to keep warm as the sun slipped behind a tall apartment building across the street. Eventually, the sun came back and it was a nice day. And eventually (around 2pm), the tour bus carrying Colin, his fiancee Carson Ellis, their son Hank, and the opener Laura Gibson pulled up. I had come bearing gifts and waited by the tour bus to bestow them. Colin came out and I gave him a DVD of 2 concerts from 1982 and 1981: Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, respectively. I gave him The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room (one of my favorites) for Hank. And I gave him a Carson Ellis-themed crossword puzzle I had made for Carson. I was also carrying my copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society for Carson to sign (I have Colin's autograph in my copy of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater). He thanked me and went on the bus to give the crossword and get the autograph and then went inside.
Now, the last time I saw the Decemberists was one of the best nights of my life, so I had pretty high expectations for Monday. It didn't seem to me as though Colin remembered me, and so I was a little disappointed. Later in the day, while I was waiting, I had a couple of other encounters. I met Carson, and she thanked me for the puzzle and told me that she's a crossword fanatic. Then, I saw Carson come by with a nanny and little Hank (who is really, really adorable), I saw Hank come back later in the day and he was crying a bit (which was also adorable), and I saw Carson walk by a couple more times. On one of these occasions, I was reading the book I had brought for all of the waiting: Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Live in the Castle. Carson saw the cover and told me that Colin was reading the same book!
The main event: Laura Gibson opened and was very good, though I think I might've enjoyed the show a bit more if we had been sitting in a cafe rather than standing in the Park West. From what I'd read about her openings for other stops on the tour, I was expecting her to be very quiet and a bit awkward, but she made pretty wonderful onstage "banter." Then, it was on to Colin Meloy. My goal, for a while now, has been to get Colin to like me. I just want to be friends, perhaps correspond regularly, be one of his favorite people...that's all. So, I do my best to come off as smart, interesting, charming, etc. in any encounter with the man. Perhaps I come off as trying too hard, though. I got the impression that Colin found me a bit irritating more than anything else (I should note that I have a tendency to get this impression from a number of people fairly often, so maybe it's just me). It seemed different that night than it has been when I've been in front at Decemberists' shows. This was my second time seeing a Colin solo show, but my first time being right in front. Anyway, the "highlight" of the night happened during "A Cautionary Song." I knew, from watching youtube, that he's been encouraging audience interaction on this tour and that when the line comes up "the sailor's sorry racket calls for maidenhead," he's expected the audience to call for maidenhead. So I did. I yelled out "pussy!" This surprised Colin quite a bit and it took him a minute to laugh and announce that it had made him blush before he could continue with the song. I felt a bit bad since I remembered right after I yelled out that it was an all ages show.
After the show, we stayed around the bus to see Colin and I apologized for making him blush. He told me it was alright and thanked me for yelling out, but then it was a bit awkward as I continued standing there rather than thanking him and leaving. He gave a salute, and I saluted back and then continued to stand there awkwardly. Finally, I did turn around and leave and felt a bit of a fool for not being more smooth. Then, I drove to Joliet and started a saga that shall have to be continued in another post. All in all, it was fantastic, but now I'm trying to get over a bit of an inferiority complex. C'est la vie.
A bit of really good news: when I finally got back to Michigan, I commented on both Colin and Carson's myspace pages, offering my hope that they enjoyed their respective gifts. Later that day, Carson commented on my myspace page saying that she very much enjoyed her crossword puzzle!!!! Hooray!!
Chris and I saw Feist at the Fillmore in Detroit on April 10th. I have never been to Detroit, but I thought I knew what to expect since the city is pretty notorious. We arrived at the venue around 2pm and were the only ones there. It was barely drizzling, but it was very windy, which made it a cold, unwelcome day. A little over an hour after we got there, Feist and one of her bandmates rolls up in a taxi. We learned later that they had been at the Motown Museum (somewhere I'd like to go before we move out of this awful state). I had brought along "Ricky Gervais presents The World of Karl Pilkington" (a collection of transcripts from Ricky Gervais' podcasts) for her to sign and she happily obliged. Apparently, she and her bandmate had just been talking about Ricky Gervais and quoting The Office, so she wrote: "'I froze your tears and made a dagger...must you breath, for I need heaven' Feist, quoting David Brent with admiration" and then signed Feist. She was very lovely, but a rather short woman, which I was not expecting at all. She's about 5'2" and I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at this fact. I had always assumed she would be around my height or taller from videos and such, and she's not that short, and it doesn't make any difference, it's just that I had to change the picture in my head which can sometimes feel odd.
Anyway, the show was great, despite some annoyances. Apparently Detroit crowds get rowdy, so the Fillmore had security guards (read fat guys in a Fillmore t-shirt) stand between the barricade and the stage. This is fine except that one of them stood near the center of the stage, and the stage isn't really high. This is kind of fine except that this particular security guy was hugely ignorant, a douchebag, and a chatty Cathy. He started conversations with us and people around us (including people in the second row) and talked during the opening act and while Feist was onstage. Sample gem: "That guy looked retarded. He sucked. I'm sorry, but it's the truth." I didn't realize that a large man from Detroit who likes hardcore rock (he informed us of this several times) was able to judge and provide such truths. The crowd that night was not terrible, but don't let that fool you: they were bad. At one point, Feist started a song and then instead of singing the lyrics, she sang about how if a performer sings very softly the crowd automatically shuts up since it doesn't know what's going on. She even stepped away from the mic and sang for a while until the crowd finally stopped buzzing. Most impressive, though, was her voice. I knew she could sing, but man, she can sing!
Chris and I also saw Ben Folds at a small college in Michigan this past week. I would write about how the show was good and the audience was perhaps the worst I've ever seen at a show and how Chris and I are ready to never see a show in Michigan again (but then admitted that of course we would go if it was a really good act), but then I would get angry and disappointed in humanity (once again).
To end on a good note, I will mention that I'm getting all geared up for what I hope to be the best night since October 29 of last year. Chris and I will drive to Chicago tomorrow, he'll get on a bus to go to St. Louis and I will hang out with John. Monday, I will be outside of the Park West all day and see Colin Meloy perform in the evening!!!!!!!!! I will then be around Tuesday night and Wednesday in the early afternoon, hopefully seeing friends. So friends, clear your schedules.
Anyway, I'm still unemployed and I'm trying to do worthwhile and productive things while I have all the time in the world. I am trying to amp up (speed up) my guitar learning, but I get discouraged very easily. Chris thinks that it's because I find it difficult, but I think it's a bit more than that. I like to think I'm not the type of person who tries something once and then quits if she's not immediately successful in the endeavor. I'm more the type of person who tries something and instantly feels that she'll never be successful in the endeavor. It's not that I'm diametrically opposed to hard work, it's more that I worry that even with a lot of hard work, I'll end up mediocre at best. Then again, whenever I think about how easily I become discouraged and hopeless, I also think that I tend to be persistent in pursuing things and that I often get what I want in the end. Then, I feel a little better. And, I can play the Futurama theme song on guitar, so there's that.
I was reading a copy of the History Channel's magazine and I found this anecdote very amusing: not that long ago, Iowa wanted to add the wild sunflower to their state's list of destructive weeds and therefore encourage the plant's destruction. Kansas found out about this, and so they threatened to name the Eastern Goldfinch (Iowa's state bird) as their official game bird. Also, apparently some people mock Iowa by claiming the state's name is an acronym for "Idiots Out Wandering Around." Oh, how I love state rivalries.
I've constructed a crossword puzzle! It's not very good. Here are the clues:
1. Baking or Fountain
5. ____fall, comedy staple
14. Dance from the Pontos region
16. Tosses out
17. Bassist Query for 35 Across
18. Leave out
19. "M*A*S*H" Iowan's nickname
20. "____ Hill," song by 35 Across
23. Home of Ben Gurion International Airport
24. Give off
25. "____ Driver," song by 35 Across
28. Prefix meaning halfway
29. Neighbor of the black kettle
32. Not sat or laid
33. Rival of MSN
34. "Leather and ____," Stevie Nicks and Don Henley duet
35. Band from 48 Across
39. Chocolate and caramel candy
40. Singular European mountain range?
41. Artist's support?
42. Comm. by hand
43. French Mrs.
44. "Do You Want to Know a ____?" song by The Beatles
46. Capital of Ukraine
47. Flightless bird
48. "Rose City," home to 35 Across
55. Turn on your heel, maybe
56. Place to suckle
57. Horse with an injured leg
58. Inspector Javert's grave
59. "O Roma o ____!" a cynic's take on Garibaldi's motto
60. Hamlet's lament for Yorick
61. Forest of "As You Like It"
62. Several hearty loaves?
63. It refracts light
1. "____ for Myla Goldberg," song by 35 Across
2. Actor Sharif
3. Android from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
4. The most successful Baldwin brother
5. Rooting for an inmate?
6. Created again
7. Mine entrance
8. "Married ____," film featuring 4 Down
10. 2 pints
11. Food safety watchdog
12. Fancy typography, Abbr.
13. Org. to find your test-tube sister
21. Omit a sound
22. Naturalist Zola
25. A mode of persuasion
26. Train isn't running in Chicago at Christmas?
27. "____ that voodoo that you do so well!" Hedley Lamarr order
29. Isn't fashionable anymore
30. Apu and Manjula's clan on "The Simpsons"?
31. Instructing an émigré from the USSR?
32. Icelandic straw
33. Electric guitar necessity
34. "Billy ____," song by 35 Across
36. Transportation for a legionnaire?
37. Onetime venue for Colin Meloy
38. Happen again
43. Glove alternative, favored by kittens
44. Dose with morphine
46. Danish dollar
48. Hyde Street ____, near 20 Across, sung about by 35 Across
49. Author of "Metamorphoses"
50. Mexican footballer Castillo
51. Israeli airline
52. Strong wind
53. Nation on the Arabian Peninsula
54. Untouchable Treasury Department star
55. "The More You Know…," e.g.
In other news, I found out some very interesting things last night. I stumbled across the bass player of My Brightest Diamond's blog. He wrote about the show Chris and I attended in Grand Rapids here, though he didn't mention us (which is a little disappointing--maybe we weirded him out a bit). I discovered, though, that he's younger than me, which was pretty surprising to me. I tend to be unprepared for people to be younger than I am since I'm used to being the youngest one in any particular group. It's also a little disorienting when someone is successful and famous (okay, semi-famous) and has accomplished this in less time than it will take you. Anyway, even more shocking is the fact that this guy is none other than John Lithgow's son!!!!! Holy shit!!!