She Rants

Got a Cigarette?

Baltimore. They call it “Charm City,” even though you won’t find one iota of charm in this depressing place. Actually the term Charm City was concocted in 1975 by a group of ad executives tasked by the then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer to come up with something to improve the city’s ugly image. Fail.

Like many East Coast cities, there is plenty of history in B-more.  Francis Scott Key was on a ship watching the British attack Fort McHenry in Baltimore when he wrote the words to the “Star Spangled Banner.” What would he write today if he was standing outside Lexington Market? I bet he’d forget all about that American flag and hightail it back to Georgetown.

But Baltimore does have the best crab cakes and steamed crabs, the Orioles, the Ravens, the Inner Harbor, and the shiny new Horseshoe Casino. The nice parts of the city require lots of disposable cash. And I hear you better keep that cash stashed in your undergarments in case you get robbed.

When I was a little girl, my father brought me to Baltimore to go to Orioles’ games. Sitting in the stadium eating hot dogs and watching the grown men down on the field play their game was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. But, my fond memories of Baltimore and baseball games have been blighted by the sight of blocks of abandoned row houses, combined with the constant “Can I buy a cigarette from you?” Maybe it’s karma from my days of bumming cigs, but it seems no matter where I light up, someone asks me for one. Here are a few examples of a six-hour period this past weekend:

Sunday afternoon:  I’m waiting for the bus and a girl walks up. She’s one of those girls who like to dress like boys; baggy jeans and Timberlands, doo-rag on her head, plaid lumberjack shirt, and boyish mannerisms. She asks me for a cigarette. I grab my pack out of my bag and she says, “What you got, Newports?” I said, “No, they’re Benson & Hedges.” She says, “What? I repeated, very slowly, “Benson & Hedges.” She said, “Aw, I never heard of that. Never mind.” Alrighty, then. See ya…wouldn’t wanna be ya.

A few hours later:  I’m walking home from the grocery store, carrying three bags in each hand and a car pulls up beside me, the window rolls down, and a young brother says, “Can I buy a cigarette from you?” “What!? No! Hell no!” He didn’t ask “Can I help you with your bags, Ma’am?” Or, “Can I give you a ride?” No, he stops the car that he’s driving to ask me, the one who’s walking, if I can give him a cigarette? And I wasn’t even smoking! Is he stopping to ask everyone he passes? Or do I look like R.J. fucking Reynolds?

Sunday night:  I’m walking to the gas station to buy a new pack. Two young guys are coming across the street and, as soon as I toss my spent cig, one says, “You got another cigarette.” I hand him one and say, “They’re not Newports. They’re Benson& Hedges.” He says, “They’re menthol, right?” I say, “Yeah.” He says, “Cool, thank you.” Then, his friend leans over and says, “Can I get one, too?” “Sure,” I say as I hand him my last one.

It seems that, in a city riddled with drugs and crime, you need not be ever-vigilant about getting mugged or shot. But, if you’re going to smoke in public, carry plenty of cigarettes to share with your fellow humans. There are innumerable poor smokers in B-more who can’t afford a pack.  Hell, I can barely afford a pack. My brand is $6.00 in Virginia but $8.00 in Baltimore. In DC, some places want $10!

Taxes and greed. They’re always over-taxing the smokers for the luxury of enjoying a smoke. Methinks they should figure out a way to tax the heroin addicts and crack heads and they’d really boost their revenue. But that would disturb an extremely lucrative underground market that is already padding city coffers.  I’ll leave that for another rant.

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Wait a Minute, Mr. Stinky Man

So, I was at the library the other day and this guy comes in, sits down, plugs his phone charger in the floor outlet, and begins what is to become a 20-minute-long, loud phone conversation. I really wanted to say something to him, but instead I kept my head down (lame, I know) and typed this:

Hello…you’re in the library.  Maybe you don’t know much about library etiquette. Maybe you can’t even read. But, just so you know, you’re supposed to be quiet in here.   I’m sure they don’t mind if you want to come in and charge your phone. You might live in a tent in the park and have no electricity; by all means, take advantage of the complimentary power.

Feel free to peruse the profusion of books, magazines, and newspapers while you’re waiting. But, why do you have to talk so loud? Why do we all have to hear that your phone will be cut off tomorrow and you’ve just signed up for a program that will get you a new phone but it might be 7-10 days until you have it. Are you so important that you have to get the word out so your peeps won’t panic when they try to call you and can’t get through?

And why are you wearing so much of that god-awful, sickening cheap cologne? Do you think that spraying tons of it on yourself will cover up the fact that you haven’t showered in a week? Are you trying to attract an equally stinky hoochie mama who will happily invite you to her room to give you a charge? I cough and scowl at you, but you are oblivious. The smell is so strong I can taste it. Icky, icky, eww.

I really want to say something to you, but what purpose would that serve? You’d probably start talking loud to me. Or, you’d complain to whoever you’re on the phone with that some bitch is giving you attitude.

You might even pull a knife out of your pocket and start wielding it like a madman. Chase me around the book shelves and cause a ruckus. I mean, you never know these days what will push a person over the edge.

I’ll just leave. Now.

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I Say Tomato, You Say Sauce

Chili. I had been craving it all day. Spiced-up chili loaded with chunks of tomatoes and onions. I came home from the store so happy that I had only spent $8 and will have dinner for three days. I put the ground beef in the skillet, chopped some onions, and searched for the can opener. Found it! Ok, open the can of kidney beans, check. Open the can of tomato sauce, check. Open the can of diced tomatoes…WTF?! That’s not tomatoes…it’s tomato sauce. Double check the label. It clearly says “Diced Tomatoes with Chili Seasoning.” There’s a picture of diced tomatoes plain as day on the label. Why are there no diced tomatoes in the can?

Well, I was not about to walk all the way back up to Food4Less, so I went to the corner store owned by the Asian couple. I really didn’t want to go there because they charge twice as much for everything. And, of course, they didn’t even have any canned tomatoes. They had five hundred cans of tomato sauce, but no tomatoes.

What the hell is going on here? Is there a tomato shortage or something? If so, what are they making all the fucking tomato sauce with? I paced up and down the aisle, scanning the shelves for anything remotely resembling diced tomatoes and then, “low and behold!” a can of salsa!

I took the tiny can up to the counter and the Asian woman smiled and said hi. I said, “I was looking for canned tomatoes, but you don’t have any.” She said, “Oh, no, we have tomato sauce.” I said, “Yeah, I know, but I need tomatoes.” I put the can of salsa on the counter and she said, “That’s salsa.” Does she think I can’t read?  “I know it’s salsa. Salsa is made with tomatoes and I need tomatoes.” She nodded, “Ah.”

So I paid $1.19 for the tiny little $.29 can of salsa and returned home to continue making my chili. The overpriced salsa turned out to be miniscule bits of tomato slivers swimming in watery tomato sauce with equally miniscule slivers of onion and green chilies.

It was overwhelmingly sad. I was so disappointed. I swear, this world is just FUBAR. You can’t count on anything anymore. I have never in my life bought a can of tomatoes and opened it to find anything other than…uh…tomatoes.

I’ll take the can of sauce back to Food4Less tomorrow. I’m sure they won’t be surprised. The reason the non-tomatoes were on sale is probably because they knew what was in those cans. Push it off on the loyal, unsuspecting customers.

And what about the manufacturer (Kroger)? Did they knowingly box and ship the mislabeled product to their customers? And where was the plant supervisor when the employees were putting the wrong labels on cans? Is there no integrity in this world anymore?

Oh, well, I’ll return the can tomorrow and get my $.79 back.  Tonight, I’m gonna eat this lame-ass chili and be thankful I’m not a hungry migrant worker standing in the hot sun somewhere picking tomatoes.

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Am I Anti-Social?

“How to succeed in today’s music business.”  Everyone is touting their advice on winning the social media game.  “Get the key to success!” “Only $189!” Without the means to support these enthusiastic entrepreneurs, most of us just trudge along, doing what we can to piece together a living.

As performers, we’re always asking, “How do I share myself with the world and get paid what I’m worth?”  How do you find those 5,000 true lifelong fans — people who will really connect with you, value your contributions, and support your efforts — without a record label machine behind you?

In the world I grew up in, you heard new music on the radio or tv, fell in love with a song, searched to find out everything you could about the performer, and became a fan for life.  Nowadays, people want to fall in love with who they think you are online before they’ll even listen to your music; then, they absentmindedly click on to the next thing.

Why is that?  How do we get back to the place where true musical talent is valued?  Or can we ever?  Many of today’s young musicians don’t even aspire to be great players or songwriters; they simply want to be famous, which they equate with having the most “views” and “followers.”  Meanwhile, insanely talented musicians struggle to find work.

I’ve read umpteen articles promoting Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as all-important to “building your brand.”  I am committed to putting in the time and effort, but I find myself in a quandary. Will 50,000 followers validate me as an artist?  As a creative human?  Do I really want to be a “brand?”  No, no, and hell no!

In a noisy space like Twitter, there is no way to have any kind of meaningful interaction.  It’s all so silly.  Strange people follow you, and if you don’t follow them within 24 hours, they unfollow you.  Really?  Who has time for that?  Experts say “engage your fans,” but are they really fans?  Do they come to your shows?  Do they buy your music?  Most of these people would rather spend 20 minutes scouring the internet looking for free downloads than spend 2 minutes and $.99 on one of your songs.

I’m a singer, writer, and performer — not a social media queen.  My goal is to be the best I can be at doing what brings me joy.  Sure, I’d love it if folks were rushing to buy every song I put out there.  And, it would definitely be an ego-booster to have 12,000 followers responding to my every whisper.  But, what I really want is to honestly connect with people who get me…to commune with like-minded souls who inspire me.

Truth be told, I may only have 30 real fans, but you know what?  I’m ok with that.  They love me and I love them.  We don’t interact on Twitter or Facebook, but they open my emails and respond to my newsletters.  They give me hope when I’m feeling lost in a sea of avatars, sound bites, and social media icons.  That keeps me going and for that, I am thankful!

Anti-social?  What do you think?

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I Believe

I am not a religious person…never have been. I think twelve years of Catholic school turned me against any and all forms of religion. Too many memories of bitter, dried up nuns pointing crooked fingers at us, calling us born sinners, and filling our young minds with horrific visions of burning in hell with a red devil standing in the fire with a pitchfork. Oh, and the particularly dreaded purgatory.  You know, that place between the shiny gates of heaven and the burning fires of said hell…where you wait for God, or whoever is guarding the gates, to decide if you are allowed to come in.

“Screw that, said the young me. And, don’t get me started on the money thing.  I asked: “Why does God need money?” And, “If this big fancy church needs money so bad, how can they afford to make special envelopes printed with everybody’s name on them that we have to put money in to bring to Mass?” My mother never answered any of my questions.

Although I don’t believe in organized religion, I do believe we are all spiritually connected to the same source. You can call that source God, a higher power, universal consciousness, etc.  To me, whatever you call it, it encompasses all that is. Everything is a perfect expression of creation and I believe we, as spiritual beings, are here on a learning journey.  A journey to the truth.  I also believe we are here to love and take care of our fellow humans and help them on their journey. Those in control — which would also be those who created the religions — would rather divide us, make us feel less than we are, and keep us in fear of, and disconnected from, our source.

So, how did we humans come to embrace this religiosity? I sure would have liked to be in the room when the first guy came up with the idea of creating a religion. Did his first “members” laugh and call him crazy or were they all in a trance from smoking some ancient ganja?  Did they only go along with it because they were afraid of having their sheep stolen? Whoever concocted the scheme of getting large groups of people to join his “church” and give him money was the ultimate con-artist, for sure!

I crack up when I hear religious folks say, “God is surely blessing me today!” or “Satan is working hard to make my life a living hell.” Is it too farfetched to believe that you get what you give, your thoughts create your experiences, and there’s no man in the sky or in the bowels of the earth controlling your life?

No-Religion-Higher-than-Truth1Here’s my belief:  all religions were created by man and all religions are based on fear and lies. I understand people need to believe in something, but “No religion is higher than the truth.” So say the Theosophists, and I am much more in alignment with what they stand for than with the average “God-fearing Christian.”

Take my father, for example. In his mind, your existence means nothing unless you have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” A personal relationship? Really? He’s a guy who lived over 2,000 years ago, but he’s personally walking next to you at all times, keeping that bus from running over you,  stopping the rain from messing up your brand new shoes, and keeping your ex-wife from hitting the lottery. Hahahahahaha!

Years ago, after a phone conversation with my father, I wrote the lyrics to a song called, “Religion.”  Some years later, I recorded it with my band.  A few days ago, I created a lyric video for the song.  You can watch it here:

 

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Beneficiary of a Dead Cockroach

Happy Sunday all. I am happy. I hope you are, too.  I had a productive week and I’m looking forward to another one.  Right now, I’m sitting at Starbucks enjoying a free venti Caramel Frappuccino.  It’s free because last week, at a different Starbucks, I went to sit at a table and there was a very large, very dead cockroach laying there.

I went up to the counter to quietly inform the cashier that there was a dead bug on the table next to me and she, being the stereotypical Orange County blonde, put her hand on her heart and shrieked, “Oh, my God!”  She ran to get the manager.

The female manager walked hurriedly over to the table to verify that there was, in fact, a dead cockroach laying there.  She then called the only male employee over and told him to take care of the now infamous cockroach.  Apparently, picking up insects in Santa Ana is a man’s job.  It was comical watching them all in a tizzy over a dead bug.

Anyway, after things settled down, the blonde chick came over to my table and said, “I’m so sorry about that.  Here’s a free drink coupon.”  I said, “Wow.  Thanks!

So, today I sit enjoying a treat that I would otherwise not be able to afford.  I am thankful for the participation of the Starbucks employees and the cockroach in the Universe’s conspiracy to bless me.  Thankful that, for a few moments,  I can forget that I’m hungry and only have $4 to my name.  Thankful that I’m not dead and no one is looking at my body laying face up, with my legs and arms frozen in the air.  Here’s to the cockroach (raising cup).  May the unlucky little bugger rest in peace.

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A Grateful Mother on Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!  Today, we honor Mom, Mama, Madre, Mere, Mutter…  No matter how you say it, the mother connection is eternal.

I’m a mother of three amazing human beings and grandmommy of one amazing little munchkin. My mother left this earth two years ago, but I am blessed and Mother’s Day is my day to be thankful for the blessings.

I wrote this poem yesterday:

A Grateful Mother on Mother’s Day

I say thank you to my babies, who gave me wings to fly

With purpose in my step and a sparkle in my eye

From diaper changing and breastfeeding

To first words and potty-training

Tiny arms wrapped around my neck and big, sloppy kisses

Through hectic mornings and noisy school yards

Girl Scouts, PTA, and high school basketball

First jobs, first cars, off to college in the fall

Just yesterday, I stood holding their little hands tight

Let’s cross the street now, look left and right

They loved me with unconditional acceptance

In spite of past-due bills and my feelings of incompetence

For them, I made banana pancakes with passion

Found joy in grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade popcorn

To Bryan and Derric and Shaina

I’m so proud to say I’m your mother

You’re all grown up now and still make my heart flutter

Immeasurable moments have been exquisitely woven

Into the woman I am today

A grateful mother on Mother’s Day

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Relish the Relic

The other day, the seven-year-old daughter of a friend of mine asked me, “Can you watch movies on your phone?” That’s such an odd question to me. Why would anybody want to watch a movie on a phone? How can you enjoy the intended film experience with a tiny little phone screen and crappy sound? Are you going to walk around the mall watching a movie? Or maybe you want to watch the movie while you’re standing in line to buy tickets to see the movie; just to get a head start? I answered her simply, “No.  I don’t have a fancy phone.

I have a flip phone. You know, the kind that old people use? The cheap one you can buy at 7-Eleven for $19.99. I pay T-Mobile $30 a month for talk/text service because I only call and text. I don’t need unlimited data/internet on my phone.

I’m a relic.  I’m in full acceptance of this fact.  If you can fondly remember life without cell phones, you’re probably one, too.  Here are a few of the common traits we share:

1. Resistance to texting. I’m getting better, but my response to  “idk wht 2 do 2nite” is to call you and say, “What?”  To me, it’s much more satisfying for me to have an actual conversation than to text, wait, text back, wait. That’s too disjointed and irritating.

2. Refusal to post pics. Why do people feel the need to post random bits of their lives on instagram? Whose life is really that interesting? I understand you want to share those special little moments with the world, but I don’t need to see pics of what you’re eating for dinner. If you really want to share, call me and invite me over.

3. Dismissal of GPS. We all got around just fine before there was GPS. I plan my trip before I leave and make a mental image of directions, turns, etc. It’s sad that there are so many idiots walking around who can’t even find their way around the corner without the little GPS lady telling them, “Turn right in five feet.” For heaven’s sake, learn to read a fucking map, dude.

Yes, relish the relic!  I’m not the only one. There are millions of us out there lurking in the shadows.  Don’t worry, one day we’ll all be gone and the rest of you can walk around with your heads buried in your phones, virtually bumping into each other as you virtually walk down the street watching a virtual movie.  “Caution, human being in front of you.  Bear to the left.

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The Incredible Barbara Walters

I just finished reading Barbara Walters’ memoir. It’s called “Audition” and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That woman has lived an amazing life. Starting out in television journalism when it was still new, and dominated by men, she paved the way for countless women and set a definitive precedent for the on-air news personality.

I remember as a young girl watching the Barbara Walters Special, as she interviewed politicians and other movers and shakers. She seemed so cool and calculating; never backing down. I often felt sorry for her subjects, some of them forced to reveal their true colors by answering (and sometimes refusing to answer) her probing questions. The book also contains some very enlightening and humorous back stories.

I was familiar with most of the interviewees named in the book, if not the actual interviews. She mentioned that eventually the network, in trying to attract younger viewers, leaned toward the sensationalism of celebrities and murderers instead of politicos. It was and still is a very competitive business.

Throughout the book, she spoke candidly about her mother and father, her sister, her adopted daughter, and her three marriages. I love her honesty.

She’s from my parents’ generation and grew up in a different time. She has watched the world change and has helped to bring about some of that change. The iconic Ms. Walters has been an inspiration to many women of my generation, including Oprah. She has also connected with a younger audience with the show she created in the late 90’s, The View.

The book was well-written and, except for the entire chapter devoted to Monica Lewinsky (remember her?), it was an engaging read. I feel like I got to know the very talented, ambitious, and sometimes insecure woman behind the fearless television presence.

At 84, Baba Wawa (RIP Gilda Radner) looks fabulous. She continues to enjoy success while, at the same time, reflecting on her life. At the end of the book, she says:

“In this time of instant Internet news, cell phones that take videos, and a profusion of blogs where everyone is a reporter, there will be little chance for any single person to have the kind of career that I’ve had. If I was, perhaps, atop of the game, I also had the advantage of being ahead of the game. How lucky I was. How lucky!”

Thank you, Ms. Walters, for telling your fascinating, inspiring story. What a journey!

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Sunny, Sunny Days

It’s a beautiful day here in sunny Cali. I’ve been here nine months now and 90% percent of the days have been incredibly beautiful, 70+ degrees and sunny. Perfect. There have been some chilly days and nights; chilly being in the 50’s which, to an East Coast girl like me, is still nice.

It’s funny, some nights I’ve been out in 50-degree weather and there were people actually walking around wearing winter parkas, furry hats, scarves, gloves, and snow boots, shouting, “It’s freezing!” Really? No, I think 30 degrees would be freezing. This is spring-like. Please get over yourselves.

Rainy days are even more infrequent than chilly days. The rain is always a nice diversion. I wish a torrential rain would come and wash away some of the ever-present dust. Give the smog a good rinsing and let us all breathe a little easier.

Truth be told, I’m homesick. I miss Virginia. I miss the sweet early morning air and the changing of the seasons. I miss snow. Yes, snow. That’s what we need here in sunny California: a good blanket of fresh snow! It would shut down the insanity of too many people in too many cars going nowhere even remotely important.

So, what to do about this homesickness? Should I hightail it back east or stay here until I have been fully assimilated? Will I one day long for the familiar smell of piss as I walk down Venice Boulevard? Will I crave the bland Mexican food advertising itself as authentic? Will I miss choking on the oppressively hot, toxic stuff that sometimes qualifies as air in Long Beach? Methinks not. I do, however, have an unabashed devotion to El Pollo Loco. I will miss that crazy chicken when I leave.

Yeah, I am definitely leaving. I’ll give it a few years, but eventually I will lose tolerance for the incessant sun, wind, and smog and catch a midnight train outta here.

But not today. Today, I’m out soaking up those glorious California rays. I’m going to watch the sunset and be grateful for the experience. Maybe I’ll stop at El Pollo Loco on the way home. Yum.

We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine. ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

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