In other news… (random updates and my current source of motivation)

What’s been going on around here? Nothing earth-shattering, but here’s a brief, topical run-down in “In other news” format:

In other news, Callaghan has been sick with the plague. (Poor guy! The virus has passed through his system, and he’s feeling better now. So far, I haven’t caught it.)

In other news, I haven’t worked out for over a week because of an injury… a minor injury, but enough of one to keep me on my ass for a while. Tomorrow will be my first day back to working out.

In other news, we binged on Santa Clarita Diet. Pun not intended.

In other news, I have a new sidekick who lives next to me on my writing table:

 

Thomasina

Thomasina

 

(I named her “Thomasina” and she’s a succulent, an aloe, I guess. I’ve never met an aloe with such dark green spears.)

Sidenote: My writing table is getting cluttered, and that’s okay. I think.

In other news, my writing is going well.

In other news, I’ve decided to prepare for an apocalypse, because you never know. I’ve been putting together a grab-and-go apocalypse bag.

And lastly, in relation to my whole existence, I’m currently obsessed with this video I’m sharing here. My continuous cycle of musical phases begins and ends with Stevie Nicks. When I reach this part of the cycle, I watch this video every day, sometimes several times a day, starting with first thing in the morning.

Stevie Nicks has been my role model badass since I was 20 years old. I listen to all kinds of music, but it all starts with her.

I wish I could explain how Stevie’s live performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” (1976) motivates and inspires me. There’s just this progression, and I’m fascinated by her mastery of it as she carries the song up to its powerful end.

 

 

Have a great Tuesday!

Pride and… ACMs

It was Phoenix Pride weekend here in The Valley, because gorgeous spring weather in the desert brings the Pride, right? Phoenix Pride weekend is always in April. On Sunday, Callaghan and I scooped up a friend and went to the festival to meet up with the friend with whom I traditionally go. She met us there with her partner, and the five of us had a great time! It was just good to be there, as I’d missed the last two years (I’d been in France).

Ronnie James and Nounours didn’t miss us at all that day. When we got home, we discovered them installed in their chairs, thoroughly engrossed watching the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMs).

We’d flicked the T.V. on for them before leaving in the morning, and we weren’t aware that the ACMs were going to be held that evening, so it was amusing to walk in and find both kitties watching Jason Aldean (winner, 2014 Male Vocalist of the Year) perform “When She Says Baby.”

This photo wasn’t from Sunday night, but it’ll give you an idea:

 

Commercial! Where's mah remote?

Commercial! Where’s mah remote?

 

It was about 9:00PM, so we first attended to feeding the little guys, but we kept the T.V. on and then settled in eagerly, because the ACMs are just a good time… and like Pride, they only happen once a year.

The ACMs are all about great live music performances, and what we managed to catch this year didn’t disappoint. The performances we took in were fantastic. Our favorite number was Toby Keith performing “Shut Up & Hold On,” a newer song of his that we particularly like:

 

 

We also enjoyed Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan’s performance of “This is How We Roll,” with Nitro Circus flying through the air over flames on their dirt bikes in the background. An awesome musical performance with crazy bike stunts on stage with fire! What’s not to like?

 

 

Now, we just have one comment, almost as an aside: Country music as a genre tends to get a bad rap. Possibly some of that is due to song titles such as “Same Trailer Different Park” (winner, 2014 Album of the Year, Kacey Musgraves) and “I Drive Your Truck” (winner, 2014 Song of the Year, Lee Brice). The latter is a beautiful and heart-breaking song, but if you don’t know what it’s about, just seeing the title “I Drive Your Truck” provokes the giggles. It’s almost like country music is trying to parody itself.

I do like the song, though.

[Another comment, and this one is definitely an aside: I thought it was a brilliant decision to close the penultimate episode of True Detective with Townes Van Zandt’s song “Lungs.”

Townes Van Zandt. Let’s not get me started on how much I admire Townes Van Zandt and the genius of his lyrics!]

Anyway, back to the ACMs. We missed a lot of performances and parts I’d have wanted to see, such as Stevie Nicks with Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton’s duet with Shakira and his Ellen-Oscars-selfie-with-superstars copycat moment… but we were glad to see George Strait receive the Entertainer of the Year award, and it was sweet when the entire room sang “Happy Birthday” to Merle Haggard for his 77th birthday.

In addition to enjoying the performances, I also got to indulge my guilty pleasure of ogling the style choices of the beautifully attired musicians. My favorites this year were Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift, who I thought were ravishing in gowns or ensembles that were creatively cut and embellished, and that also exquisitely suited the singers’ unique personalities (or, shall I say, personas) as well as their physiques.

 

Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift at the 2014 ACM Awards

Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift at the 2014 ACM Awards

 

Of the men, I most admired Keith Urban and LL Cool J. The latter attended as a co-presenter with Chris O’Donnell; they were there to co-host this year’s “ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops” (to be aired in May). If I’m remembering correctly, they also presented the Entertainer of the Year award to George Strait.

 

Keith Urban and LL Cool J at the 2014 ACM Awards

Keith Urban and LL Cool J at the 2014 ACM Awards

 

I love how Keith Urban managed to look laid-back and classy at the same time in his ensemble of layered textures, the luxurious shirt under a more casual yet carefully fitted jacket. LL Cool J also expressed his personality well, deflecting the strictness of his black shirt and tie with a fun, fancy jacket and casual pants and shoes. The hat and shades as accessories further balanced the outfit. The whole thing was risky, but none of it seemed overdone to me. It worked. Well done, Sir! Both men were wearing belts. I like that.

This Post Contains Sleep-Laughing, Stevie the 4-Runner, Movies and the End of an Era

I often experience insomnia and nightmares pending a big move. It happened when I was getting ready to move out to the Superstition Mountains. It happened when I was getting ready to move to France. It even happened when we were getting ready to move here!

Now, another big move is pending, but instead of having sleep issues, I’ve been sleeping very well… and last night, something totally bizarre happened. I had a dream in which Callaghan and I were laughing boisterously at something (I wish I could remember what). Suddenly, I found myself awake, and Callaghan was laughing and saying, “You were laughing! Really loudly!”

Can you believe it? I actually woke Callaghan up because I was laughing in my sleep. Unheard-of! I opened my eyes laughing and he was laughing, too, just as he was in the dream, because my sleep-laughter was infectious, he said. We snuggled close, laughing and kissing each other back to sleep. It was sweet and weird and different and awesome.

I think I can take this as a sign that moving back to Arizona is the right thing to do.

We had a busy, fun and emotional weekend.

Busy because: We got some boxes, did some packing, and reserved a trailer. We knew we’d eventually see the end of our blissfully unfettered non-vehicle-owing days… they came to a screeching halt when we bought an old (1999) Toyota 4-Runner last week in preparation for our move to Arizona. We got a truck because a) we prefer them, b) cargo space, and c) trailer hitch. We named her Stevie, after Arizona native Stevie Nicks. She rocks! She’s not the worst gas-guzzler we’ve ever seen, so that’s good. We can strap Ronnie James and Nounours safely in the back seat in their respective carriers, load up the rear cargo area and hook the trailer to the back so we can drag the material contents of our lives across the expanse of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona we need to cover to reach our destination. No airplanes, movers or shippers for us this time!

 

Stevie, dressed in black, just like her rock star namesake! Callaghan got creative with the blurring out of her plate.

Stevie, dressed in black, just like her rock star namesake! Callaghan got creative with the blurring out of her plate.

 

Fun because: We spent all Saturday afternoon right up into the evening ensconced in movie theaters. We do this thing where we wait until there are several films out that we want to see, and then we spend a whole day watching them back to back. The last time, we went for Pacific Rim, The Conjuring and The Heat. This time, it was Prisoners, Rush and Gravity… and again, it was well worth it. The films ranged from very good (Prisoners) to great (Rush) to OUT-OF-THS-WORLD stunning (Gravity), with plenty of thrills all around.

Emotional because: After we emerged from the theater, we headed to a nearby McDonald’s to get online (their free internet is the best thing on the menu!) and check our phone messages. This led to finding out that my Grandma had died earlier in the day, in Hawaii, where she’d lived all 99 years of her life. She was ready to go. She went to sleep and dreamed herself a peaceful, painless end to a life that had been rich and fulfilling. Devout Buddhists in the Japanese Jodo Shinshu tradition, she and Grandpa had derived a lot of joy from the work they did for decades at their hongwanji (Buddhist temple) in Kahului, so our family will get together there next summer to memorialize them both.

She was my last Grandparent. It’s an odd new circumstance, not having Grandparents.

Incessant Phoenix Flashbacks. Also, the Sports Sitch in Austin.

I realized that ever since I decided to post here on Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ve been posting on Wednesdays and Fridays… this is the fifth Wednesday in a row. Not a Tuesday in sight on the recent calendar. Somehow, despite my efforts for Tuesday, Wednesday is just when it happens. Maybe I’ll try to start posting on Mondays, as well, to make it a 3x/week affair.

Saturday evening, we went downtown to meet a friend at Champion’s, and he took us for a stroll onto Rainey Street in pursuit of some local flavor. I kept expecting to find Casey Moore’s cozying up to the old houses lining the street. I wonder when the look-out in the back of my mind will stop automatically using my old Phoenix metro stomping grounds as a cultural point of reference for Austin? Austin is a very unique place with a distinct character of its own, but without wanting to, I’m finding Arizona corollaries for many places we encounter here, as well as many of the same businesses. Some of the Austin neighborhoods appear to have twins in The Valley (Greater Phoenix Metro Area), especially around Arizona State University.

University towns. I like them. Austin being a university town was one of its selling points. The live music scene in Austin is bigger than it is in Phoenix – hell, it’s the “Live Music Capital of the World” – but in my opinion, Phoenix has more of a hard rock vibe, if you can apply a genre of music to a place to describe its general ambience. Phoenix is Alice Cooper’s town. Alice is a big sports fan, and his establishment is a popular pre- and post-game watering hole and eatery in downtown Phoenix. (My girl Stevie Nicks is in Phoenix, too.)

That brings me to this one thing about Austin: there are no major professional sports teams. This is not a source of distress, mind you… it’s just different from what I’m used to. The Greater Phoenix Metro Area has the Suns (NBA basketball), the Diamondbacks (MLB baseball), the Cardinals (NFL football) and the Coyotes (NHL ice hockey). The Ironman Arizona Triathlon is there, and there’s pro fighting. Golf is also big in The Valley of the Sun; the WM Phoenix Open is the largest professional golf tournament on the PGA TOUR. The Super Bowl was hosted at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 (Cowboys vs. Steelers). There are also two college bowl games hosted in the Phoenix metro area (the Fiesta Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl), and MLB Spring Training takes place there annually. Phoenix is a huge sports town by anyone’s standards.

Here, the major professional sports situation is this: San Antonio’s 1.5 hours away, which actually isn’t that far… it’s the home of the Spurs (NBA basketball). Drive to Houston (3 hours), and there are the Rockets (NBA basketball). And Dallas – 4.5 hours away – has the Mavericks (NBA basketball), the Cowboys (NFL football) and the Dallas Stars (NHL ice hockey). Also in the Dallas area, you’ve got the Texas Rangers (MLB baseball). So the teams are here in Texas, for sure. Just not here in Austin, which is perhaps a good thing, because it’s already bad enough that we’re tempted by live music opportunities every which way we turn.

It’s not like I went running off to sporting events all the time when I lived in Arizona. I didn’t. But I do enjoy the energy of a sports town, and there was the occasional game or boxing bout.

The most memorable one was on May 9, 1993; it was Game 5 of the Suns vs. Lakers NBA Western Conference play-offs. That was some basketball! The Lakers were in the house, and my boyfriend and I decided to go at the very last minute. We went downtown, bought tickets from a scalper and folded ourselves into the madness, because isn’t that what any sane college student would do when she has a final exam the next morning? I had my priorities straight. There were memories to be made. We had a feeling that the game would be phenomenal, and holy crap, our instincts did not fail us. About 500 mini heart attacks later (or maybe it was just one big long heart attack – yep, pretty sure I’m remembering that correctly), the Suns won 112-104 in an astounding over-time upset. That win constituted the biggest upset I’ve ever seen live, in person. Actually, it may have been the biggest upset I’ve ever seen, period.

 

 

I was there!

That was Jerry Colangelo’s Suns, with the likes of Charles Barkley; Dan Majerle; Cedric Ceballos; Danny Ainge; Kevin Johnson; Oliver Miller and Mark West on the roster. Remember that team, Suns fans? I was unabashedly obsessed. I was working part-time as a barista and found myself ridiculously flustered early one Saturday morning when coach Paul Westphal came in an ordered a latte. I don’t think I breathed at all while I was making his drink, and I was embarrassed because I thought he could see my hands shaking. At least it wasn’t KJ standing there before me. I would have passed out.

Needless to say, I’m a Spurs fan now!

But I’ll always be a Suns fan. And a Sun Devil.

One very exciting thing Austin does have, though, is Formula 1 racing. This is enormous, and it’s a relatively new development.

At any rate, I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I’m not looking around seeing Phoenix everywhere we go in Austin. We haven’t even been here two months yet. There’s a lot of discovery yet to happen, and we’re really loving it here so far!

Here are some pics from Saturday:

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion's on 4th

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion’s on 4th

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night