I LOVE Getting My Money’s Worth

Oh friends, tonight was so enlightening. Please allow me to share with you what I learned from the Eric Kearns show.

  1. When something is free and you go ready to be entertained no matter what, you ALWAYS get your money’s worth. I’m telling you, for sheer entertainment value, this show definitely ranked in my top ten free concerts somewhere below Kelly Clarkson, Kelly Clarkson/Reba McEntire, The Avett Brothers, Dolly Parton, and Coldplay, but above the Laney High School marching band. And yes, I’ve seen all of those for zero money.
  2. There are really only six types of male singing voices. They can be combined a little bit, but in essence, they are as follows:
    – the scratchy voice (Jimmy Durante, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Neil Diamond, Steven Tyler, Elmer Fudd)
    – the Kermit voice (in higher or lower registers to sound like Rick Astley, Michael McDonald, Cher, Sammy Davis Jr. and of course, Kermit)
    – the falsetto (Johnny Mathis, Barry Gibb, Chris Martin, the guy who sings “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and Frankie Valli…sometimes)
    – the high-but-not-falsetto (Dennis DeYoung from Styx and Frankie Valli the rest of the time)
    – the normal voice with a New Jersey accent (According to Eric Kearns, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow all fit squarely into this category. Jimmy Durante overlaps here as well, but only because of his accent.)
    – the crooner (Perry Como, Al Jolson, and pretty much everyone else who doesn’t fit into one of the other categories. However, noticeably absent from Eric Kearns’s crooner list, in my opinion, are Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.)
  3. Hearing really is the first thing to go.
  4. It’s totally cool to break copyright laws at the Holly Springs Cultural Center. Through the whole show, Eric Kearns had pictures projected behind him of the singers he was impersonating. We are 100% sure that these images were Googled and pulled from the images Google returned. They were mostly concert shots and album covers. My favorite by far was a Nat King Cole album entitled “Lo Mejor de Nat King Cole.” For those of you who don’t speak Spanish (Ron Burgundy), that’s “The Best of Nat King Cole.” Eric Kearns was singing a Nat King Cole song in English. Incidentally, he was also singing it in sort of a high, scratchy voice, leading me to believe that he has never actually listened to Nat King Cole.
  5. Eric Kearns has never listened to Frank Sinatra. Ever.

Overall, we really feel like the show has potential. The problem is that Eric Kearns takes himself WAY too seriously. I mean dude, you are a vocal impersonator. Embrace that. If he had just a few little costume bits and some of the mannerisms of the people he impersonates, if he’d just ham it up some, it would be really funny (on purpose). As it was, however, we were pretty glad we went and very glad it was free.

I’m the Big Weiner

Sooooooo…I was listening to a local oldies station this morning when they said to call in and finish this candy bar jingle:

“Sometimes you feel like a nut…”

Clearly I had to do it. I mean, you tell me to recall lyrics, and I just do it. There’s really nothing I can do to stop it. Plus I never thought I’d actually get through to the DJ. But I did. And I won tickets to see Eric Kearns tomorrow night at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

What? What’s that you say? You don’t know who Eric Kearns is? Why, where have you been? Don’t you know he’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s premiere vocal impersonator among those performing at senior adult living centers? Yessiree Bob. Tomorrow night, L-Josh and I will have the pleasure of seeing Eric Kearns impersonate the vocal stylings of over 40 artists in an hour. We’ll hear him as Rod Stewart, Cher, Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Perry Como and a host of others whose songs we won’t know (click here to hear samples). And it will be glorious, and it will be FREE.

And I’ll update you next week.

“If that guy doesn’t look like a good time, I don’t know who does.” ~L-Josh

Phil, Paul and Bret: My New BFFs

I’ve been having really vivid dreams lately that involve everything from celebrity sightings to grand theft auto. A week or two ago, I dreamed that I stole a van and ended up in the van INSIDE a building at a camp. I don’t know exactly how I got the van in the room, but no matter how many points I tried to make, I could not turn the thing around to get it out. And last night, I had sort of a loosely strung together dream involving the following musicians: Phil Collins, Paul Simon and Bret Michaels. Here’s how it went down…

L-Josh and I were at a restaurant. There was someone else there with us, but I’m not really sure who it was. We were sitting in a booth, and the wall of the booth was probably 10-12 feet tall because on the other side of it, there was another level of the restaurant. If the wall hadn’t separated us, then our heads would have been right at the feet of the people on the other level. There were stairs leading from one level to the other by the entrance, and this was the kind of place where you give your name when you order, and they call your name when your food is ready.

So we’re sitting there in our booth, and we hear the name-caller say, “Bret Michaels,” and we all look at each other and kind of laugh, probably thinking that someone was being funny when they gave their name. And then the name-caller says, “Phil Collins,” and we’re all like, “What??” And we look over to the stairs just in time to see Bret Michaels coming down from the upper level to get his food. The first thing we notice about Bret is that he’s not wearing a bandanna, which is a relief at first because we think, “Oh good. That means the bandanna isn’t holding his hair on,” which was our previous belief. But then we realize that he’s wearing a really awful mullet wig.

Phil Collins looks like Phil Collins.

Well, after Bret and Phil (who are apparently dining together) pick up their food trays, they turn around to realize that they can’t go back up the way they came down. I’m not sure why. So they start looking for another way to get up there, and we suggest that they climb through our booth.

Josh demonstrates, and Bret Michaels immediately follows her up and over, but Phil Collins is standing there looking at me uncertainly, and he says, “Are you sure that’s ok?” I reply, “Look. If Lauren thinks it’s ok, then it’s fine.”

Then I was in a house, which I won’t go into because it got really weird at that point, and this post is long enough as it is. The important thing that happened there was that Paul Simon came in, and I said, “Ok. I just have to ask. What is a roly-poly little bat-faced girl?” to which he replied, “She was a prostitute named Marilyn in the town where I grew up.”

So now you know. Bret Michaels is actually bald but hiding it, Phil Collins is very concerned with propriety and restaurant etiquette, and Paul Simon sings about a hooker named Marilyn in “Call Me Al.” You want answers. I dream ’em up.

Social Event of the Season

As you may already know, The Container Store is opening in Raleigh this weekend. And since I hosted that giveaway a while back, they gave me a ticket to a “private” preview party, which took place last night. L-Josh and I went, and Amaris was supposed to come too, but she got…lost? Yeah, we’ll call it lost.

Read more…

My Life in Song Titles

As if my life weren’t already lived in songs, song titles and movie quotes, here’s a fun challenge my sister was telling me about earlier. Apparently this has been going around the internet, but if you haven’t already done it and want to, feel free. Here’s how it works:

Using only song names from ONE BAND OR ARTIST, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title.

I will also be including the album and year it was released in parentheses. This is not a requirement, but I’m going to do it anyway. Ok, here we go…

Pick your artist: The Beatles

  1. Are you male or female: Girl (Rubber Soul, 1965)
  2. Describe yourself: (Currently) I’m So Tired (The Beatles, 1968)
    (In general) I’m Happy Just to Dance with You (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964), Paperback Writer (Past Masters Vol.2, 1966), and Wild Honey Pie (The Beatles, 1968)
  3. How do you feel about yourself: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles, 1968)
  4. Describe where you currently live: Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles, 1968) – Clearly U.S.S.R. here stands for “Up in the South Side of Raleigh”
  5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Here, There and Everywhere (Revolver, 1966)
  6. Your favorite form of transportation: Flying (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967) OR Yellow Submarine (Revolver, 1966)
  7. Your best friend is: In My Life (Rubber Soul, 1965) OR The Sheik of Araby (Anthology 1, 1962)
  8. Your favorite color is: For You Blue (Let It Be, 1969)
  9. What’s the weather like: Sun King (Abbey Road, 1969)
  10. Favorite time of day: Mr. Moonlight (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
  11. If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Free as a Bird (Anthology 1, 1995)
  12. Describe your love life: Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
  13. What is life to you: Magical Mystery Tour (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
  14. What is the best advice you have to give: Act Naturally (Help!, 1965) AND Leave My Kitten Alone (Anthology 1, 1964)
  15. If you could change your name, what would it be: Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966)
  16. Your favorite food is: Strawberry Fields Forever (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967) OR Glass Onion (The Beatles, 1968)
  17. Thought for the Day: Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (The Beatles, 1968)
  18. How I would like to die: The End (Abbey Road, 1969), which will hopefully NOT be When I’m Sixty-Four (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
  19. My soul’s present condition: Glad All Over (Live at the BBC, 1963)
  20. My motto: We Can Work It Out (Past Masters Vol. 2, 1965)

Greetings From the Family Reunion

Hey friends! I’m at the family reunion! So far, it’s been pretty fun. Yesterday, we went into Franklin, VA to the Elms, which was my great-great-grandparents’ house, and I’ma just say that you know a house is awesome when it’s named. When I grow up and have a house, I’m going to name it something classy and old money-sounding like Prestwood or Roger, and people will write memoirs about things that happened there.

Then we came back and had lunch, and the afternoon was pretty low-key. We just sat around at the pool or in the room, reading. Then it was time for cocktail hour, followed by dinner, followed by KARAOKE!! I skipped most of that, though, to help put together our family cookbooks, which are pretty awesome, but let’s be honest. Whitney’s going to get more use out of it than I am as I’m sure there are only about five recipes in there I can eat. It’s still a really good idea, though, and we had fun putting them together while listening to karaoke, playing “Name That Tune,” and guessing which family members were singing. Then, my sister and I sang “You’re So Vain” to close out the night.

Today, we’ve had Fun and Games time, and now we’re getting ready for lunch. On the agenda for the afternoon is yoga, reading by the pool aaaaaaand that’s about it. How’s YOUR weekend going?

I got nothin’

My brain is empty. There’s no activity whatsoever except for “Candle on the Water” playing as a sort of screen saver. My days are going something like this:

  • Wake up.
  • Sit on the couch.
  • Apply aloe to crispy legs.
  • Watch an episode of Pushing Daisies while I eat breakfast.
  • Catch up on email/facebook/twitter.
  • Shower.
  • Be convinced to do something that is not writing (hang out, run errands, watch a movie, etc.)
  • Watch Pushing Daisies while I eat lunch.
  • Apply aloe to legs again.
  • Write an article. Or not.
  • Pack.
  • Teach.
  • Come home.
  • Apply aloe.
  • Go to bed.

On a positive note, I’m seriously almost completely packed. On a more daunting note, my things still have not multiplied, and I’m beginning to be concerned. I have a theory that it only multiplies under stress, and since I started packing so early, I’m not stressed about it, and therefore it shan’t multiply. But we’ll see. If my theory turns out to be correct, that means I’ll have to re-write the stages of moving (and also a handy guide to moving), but I’ll let you know how the rest of the week goes. For now, I’m going to watch one more episode of Pushing Daisies and go to bed (I’ve already applied my aloe).

“I am,” I said.

I live in a musical, if only in my own mind. There’s always a song playing in my head, always a lyric to fit the occasion, and if I had my way, we’d all burst into spontaneous, choreographed dance in the streets daily. The weather (natural lighting) would also fit our moods, and our outfits would always range from just a little over the top to holy sequins, Batman! This is my ideal world.

Unfortunately, the rats on the street don’t all dance around my feet encouragingly (Hairspray), getting mugged in New York is almost never a golden opportunity to throw caution to the wind and start from scratch (Thoroughly Modern Millie), and I fear most child laborers don’t psych themselves up for a long day’s work with a robust song and dance around the city square (Newsies).

The real world isn’t an ideal world, but I can create one by writing a musical.

This is something I’ve been talking about for a while. It’s an idea my sister and I had on our way to Mom and Dad’s house for Christmas one year. We were listening to Neil Diamond, and when “America” came on, we both heard it – really heard it in a new way – as an opening number.

Click play, then read on as you listen.

The strings start out low and ominous as we see the city, quiet and dimly lit in the early morning. Then as one, hopeful, sustained note plays, the sun begins to rise as the city comes to life. Husbands kiss wives good-bye as they head off to work in their suits and hats, women shake out rugs from their balconies, florists open their shops and sweep off their stoops, restaurateurs haggle with fishermen over the price of their daily catch, and as the bell chimes, we see a boat coming into the harbor, its passengers on deck, groggy and shivering, but hopeful as they catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

The music picks up as dock workers and the ship’s crew begin preparations for the boat’s arrival, throwing ropes, sacks and crates in time with the music and readying the gangway.

A male passenger on the deck of the ship sings: Far. We’ve been traveling far, without a home, but not without a star.

Another passenger, surrounded by his wife and several children sings: Free. Only want to be free. We huddle close, and hang on to a dream.

Someone on shore sings: On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America. Never looking back again, they’re coming to America.

You get the picture. Characters continue singing lines of the song until everyone aboard and ashore is singing, “Today!”

The captain of the ship descends the gangway slowly singing, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Of thee I sing today!” Then everyone joins back in with the “todays,” and as they leave the boat and enter the immigration building, they stop singing until all that’s left onstage is one boy, looking at the statue, almost whispering, “Today.”

Just thinking about it is making me want to watch it. There’s just one problem: In order to watch it, I have to write it, and I don’t know ANYTHING about writing a play. I honestly don’t know anything about writing fiction. Listening to several Neil Diamond songs, I see scenes playing so vividly in my mind, but I have no idea how they are related to each other or how they’ll string together to make a story.

And that’s part of the reason I want to go to the Living a Better Story Seminar in Portland. Living a story means knowing what a story is all about, and living a better story requires the ability to envision it. That’s basically what you need to write fiction too, am I right?

And ok, so I lied before when I said there was just one thing standing in the way of me watching my musical. There are lots of obstacles:

  1. I have no idea how to write a play. We’ve now covered that. I need writing classes/workshops/groups to help me.
  2. I’ll have to get Neil Diamond’s permission to use his songs.
  3. Once a play is written, I’ll need performers, a place to present it, people to design/make costumes and sets, a marketing team/plan/materials, and money to pay for all of these things.
  4. Not to mention, once the show is written, I’ll need to concentrate all my efforts on getting it ready, which means I’ll need funds to cover my living expenses for a few months.
  5. I want Neil Diamond to appear in the show as Brother Love of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m hoping the conference will teach me a little about story-telling, but also about finding the resources I’ll need to do this (or any other big thing I might want to do). I’m hoping it’ll be an encouraging thing and that it’ll get my creative mind thinking about where to get the money to take the classes and pay the people to build the sets and make the costumes, etc. And I guess I’m really hoping it’ll teach me how to invite others into my story in a way that makes them want to participate and/or follow a big dream of their own.

Here’s a video about the conference for anyone else who’s interested. Wasn’t it so sweet of Don to make this for y’all? I’ll be sure to thank him properly if he picks me to attend the conference (I’m thinking cupcakes, but feel free to leave suggestions for how to thank him properly in the comments).

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

Jesus Is Totally Radical

This is not necessarily a story I want to write with my life, but seeing as I do not have that post finished yet, and this just came up the other day, I figured I’d tell y’all about it.

I was talking to Emily Furr Hogan about that summer (I think it was ’98) when we did the BeeGees puppet show for the kids at Vacation Bible School, and Patty Astronaut TP’d the sound booth (naughty Patty). I’m not sure why we were so insistent upon making the theme of VBS that year disco when it was clearly space. I guess we just wanted to have it all. And we did. As the kids were arriving in the morning, we had “Disco Inferno” playing, and when we were put in charge of telling the Bible lesson that day, we worked up a very elaborate puppet show that involved both of us working at least two puppets AND a boom box, which is quite a feat when you’ve only got two hands, and one of them is constantly stuck up in the air. But we did it, complete with “Stayin’ Alive” intro music when each new character arrived on the scene and a duet of “How Deep Is Your Love” with Jesus and Peter center stage and two other disciples singing back-up.

I don’t know if those kids still remember that, but we sure do, so it got us to thinking…we should write Vacation Bible School curriculum! I’m pretty sure all you need is a theme, songs with hand motions to go along with the theme, cheesy videos to go with the theme, Bible stories that can be vaguely related to the theme, and lots of themed…stuff – name tags and cardboard cut-outs and workbooks and stuff.

I think we can do it, and here are my ideas for themes:

  • Roaring 20s – The VBS kids would learn to do the Charleston and steer clear of alcohol (like good little Baptists and prohibitionists). They’d also learn about freedom in Christ through the new-found freedom of women in the 20’s to vote, cut their hair short, wear shorter skirts and go to work. Then they’ll learn about how pride comes before a fall when we talk about the stock market crash of ’29. And that brings us to…
  • The Great Depression – The kids would learn about the danger of worshiping idols and the certainty of God’s provision. The songs might be a little depressing, but I think the message would be powerful. All lesson materials would be printed on the backs of scraps of last year’s materials.
  • Woodstock – Message of the week: Peace and love, kids. That’s what Jesus is all about. Every large group gathering would be held outside in the grass. There would be no videos or mandatory hand motions, just music and free dance time. In craft time, they’d just be encouraged to let the paintbrush do whatever it wants to do (which reminds me of another story I have to tell you later…don’t let me forget).
  • DISCO!! – Clearly Emily and I already think this is a great idea. I mean BeeGees songs are already written in an ideal octave for little kid voices to sing them, and we’ve already demonstrated that “How Deep Is Your Love” is the perfect song to teach the reinstatement of Peter. We can talk about eternal life in heaven with “Stayin’ Alive” though we might need to Christianize most of the lyrics (not a problem, I’ve done it before). And we can learn to resist the devil with “I Will Survive.” The church is going to need a complete overhaul for this VBS week, though, with mirror balls, strobe lights and paneled floors that light up when you step on them. But oh my gosh how much fun would recreation time be? We’ll all do the Hustle and other groovy disco moves.
  • Awesome 80s – Every day, the kids will make a different piece of their totally tubular 80s attire in craft time. One day it’s a slap bracelet, the next they’re bedazzling a denim jacket, then they’re making some crazy asymmetrical sunglasses (to wear at night), and the next thing you know, they’re all decked out and ready to go to the lake or the high school football game! The theme song for the week is called “Jesus Is Totally Radical.” It’s upbeat and peppy and gets stuck in your head whether you like it or not.

That’s all I’ve got so far. I just think the cowboy and space themes are way played out, and EFH and I are just the gals to bring some fresh new ideas to the table. If you’d like to join us, feel free to share your theme ideas in the comments!

The Story of My Life

It’s a good thing I’m not a people-pleaser, because I feel like I am constantly letting someone down with all my coming and going. I leave Raleigh, and people are sad. I go back to Raleigh, and people in Asheville threaten to lock me in a closet because they don’t want to lose me. I tell my students I won’t be back next semester, and they look at me with such disappointment that I honestly wonder if I’ll ever see them again. What’s the point of continuing a relationship (even a teacher-student one) that’s just going to end in two weeks?

It’s really sweet, and it’s flattering for sure, but it upsets me at the same time to know that my actions are upsetting to others. It’s like I can’t go anywhere without leaving a mark.

True story: I worked at Caswell in the summers of 1999 and 2000. In 2001, I went down for a weekend visit, and when I walked into the staff lounge, a guy I’d never seen before pointed at me all excitedly and said, “You’re Beth Parent! I want a massage later.” Because apparently word of my healing hands had gotten around the staff house.

That’s a silly example, but the dude knew my face, my first AND last name, and my hidden talent before I ever knew he existed, which means there was extensive discussion of me with accompanying photos before I arrived. This happens a lot, and that feels so weird to me because I’m just living my life, you know? I’m not doing anything spectacular except having a crap ton of fun, and yet somehow I am special to a lot of people.

I know it’s starting to sound like I’m complaining about how fabulous and popular I am, but that’s not it. It’s really quite humbling to think that I have this gift I’ve never really noticed or thought about before, and it’s just a part of who I am, but what do I do with it?

What does this ability to impact people require of me? There’s a great and weighty responsibility that comes with it, and I haven’t figured out yet how to carry it.

If I were a character in a story, after such a realization, I’d be at a point of decision. Where do I go from here? Given the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned and become, how do I proceed? Everything up to this point has just been background and character development. And here is where the story actually begins, but what’s it about, what do I want, and why does any of it matter?

I want my life to count for something. I want to love people well and help those who need it, but I also want to really relish life and facilitate the fun and enjoyment of others. I look at some people’s lives, and I think, “My life is pointless. He’s digging wells by hand so villages in Africa can have water, and I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me.” But you know what? I love that I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me. I laugh out loud as I’m working on it, and I hope that one day dozens of other people will get to enjoy it the same way.

I don’t want to give up those quirky little things that make me the person everybody wants to have around. I just want to figure out how to use them better.

I want to live a life of such freedom and adventure that when my great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughters read about it, they think, “So that’s where I get it,” and feel free to be exactly who they are because they know they’re not abnormal for being adventuresome.

I want to live a life that awakens people’s imaginations as to what their lives can be, and I want to encourage them to follow those dreams even when doing so is hard.

I never want to believe or say that it’s too late for me to do something I’m really excited about. It is never too late to live the rock-n-roll life, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Have y’all seen Young at Heart yet? Because you really must. I own it. Come on over, and we’ll watch it together just so I can prove my point.

I want to make people laugh. I want to make other people wonder what’s so funny. I get down on myself sometimes because I think I’m not doing anything meaningful. I mean, clean water is clearly more important than jokes, but here’s the thing: Laughter is bonding, and people need connection with each other. Laughter is healing, and there is a lot of pain in the world. Laughter might not be a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it should be. I don’t know if happy people live longer, but they sure do enjoy it more.

I don’t know what the plot of my story is yet, but I hope it involves a husband I can goof off with, travel with, raise children with, and grow with for the rest of my life, demonstrating radical love to everyone around us. I hope it involves at least a short stint in Spain (because I freaking love that country for no apparent reason). I hope it involves all the friends I currently love and all those I haven’t met yet. I hope it involves a lot of writing and a lot of foreigners, a home with an open-door policy and awesome flea market chic decor, delicious food and wine, full passports, surprises, and tons of music and dancing.

If it’s a story I’m writing with my life, it’ll be on Broadway one of these days. Mark my words.

These are the first of my thoughts on life that will hopefully win me a trip to Portland to attend Donald Miller’s conference. These thoughts are too vague, though, so for the rest of the week I’ll be writing more specific stories. Then we’ll pick the best one, and I’ll enter it in the contest.