A Short Story and a Darren Criss Concert

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This past weekend I went to see Darren Criss perform at the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. The only other time I had seen him live was during his performance in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway (which was fantastic), so I was very excited to see him perform some of his own music.

Darren Criss EncoreThe show was great, Darren was amazing as one might expect. The only downside was that although we were fairly close to the stage, there was one extremely tall older gentleman in front of us who was very difficult to see around. And it seemed every time we moved or tried to shift away from him, he did as well, so he was always right in front of us. This made it extremely difficult to see the stage and therefore I became very frustrated with him. I couldn’t imagine why he didn’t just stand off to the side or back like most of the other parents who had brought their young teens to the concert. However, yesterday I had a thought about this gentleman that made me see him a little differently. I had no idea why he was there. Maybe he was a Darren fan himself, maybe he was a chaperon, or maybe he had a larger story that I was unaware of.

That led to this short story that I’m going to share with you. It’s only a couple pages, but it was inspired by the gentleman at the concert. Follow the link below if you would like to read.

Sami, a Short Story

(Not) The Right Stuff

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I’m struggling with writer’s block on my thesis today, so I decided to try writing a blog post instead and see if I could shake something loose.

As I stated in my previous post, my best friend and I went to a New Kids on the Block concert last weekend. Opening for the New Kids were 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men, so the entire concert was one big throwback to our teen years (and childhood, I’m too young to have been a teenager when NKOTB started out). My friend Sarah is still a huge boy band fanatic, and while I don’t listen to modern boy bands at all, I still have a soft spot for the boy bands I loved when I was younger. Neither of us could resist this show, just like we couldn’t resist seeing NKOTBSB (twice) two years ago. (I mean, New Kids and Backstreet Boys? That’s just a given!)

When we went to the concert two years ago we were amazed by the age range of fans. We expected the majority of the crowd to be around our age or older, since we were certain Beiber fans had no idea who the New Kids on the Block were (or that they should thank them for making it possible for bands like One Direction to exist). We knew some younger fans had probably heard of the Backstreet Boys, but we weren’t prepared for just how many younger fans were there. All were clearly there just for BSB, as they just sat and stared whenever NKOTB were on stage. Clearly they had no appreciation for the guys who started the boy band craze.

This year however, the crowd was exactly what we had expected the first time around. Most likely because 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men haven’t done a lot of touring (or recording) in years, so most of the younger generation is even less familiar with them than NKOTB. Unfortunately, being surrounded by mostly adult women led to one side effect we hadn’t (but probably should have) foreseen: drunk fangirls. I’m sure some of these women were tipsy before the show even started, as there were a number of tailgating parties in the parking lot (I didn’t even know tailgating for a New Kids concert – or any concert for that matter – was a thing; I thought it was reserved for sporting events). The woman sitting in front of Sarah was completely wasted before Boyz II Men (the opening act) was even halfway through their set (and I’m pretty sure she smuggled some of her booze in with her, as she was drinking from a liquor bottle not normally sold in stadiums and still possessing it’s lid).

In light of this experience, I came up with a couple tips I just thought I’d share before you get drunk at a concert and make a complete idiot out of yourself (I mean, I don’t know about you, but my idea of a good time doesn’t involve becoming that girl everyone laughed at for being falling-down-drunk at a New Kids on the Block concert).

  1. Dress Appropriately (and with proper support): This is a big one, especially if you’re a big girl. When you’re sitting all the way up in the nosebleed section (so far you can’t even make out anyone’s faces without the big screen) then I guarantee Donnie Wahlberg cannot see your chest and no one around you really wants to either. Maybe the person you keep texting selfies to does (or at least doesn’t care), but that person ain’t here. It’s one thing if Jordan and Donnie want to shed their shirts on stage, but you are another story entirely and the last thing anyone wants is a full-frontal while you’re jumping up and down and waving your arms. Though it will give those around you a chance to place bets on whether or not your girls will actually pop out at some point during the show.
  2. Don’t Violate Someone Else’s Personal Space: If you’re going to insist on using the back of your seat as a chair itself, please refrain from sitting on, or even just rubbing you behind on the legs of the person in front of you. And if you do, don’t get annoyed if said person then kicks you back. Your friends may not mind you invading their personal space, but the person behind you most likely has no idea who you are and would like to be able to sit comfortably in the seat they paid for without you trying to sit in their lap. Along the same lines, when you actually are sitting in your seat, don’t whip your head back really hard because you just might come into contact with someone else’s shin or knee and that hurts a lot (and it will probably hurt even more the next morning, when you have that head ache on top of the hangover).
  3. Don’t Trip and Fall Face First into the Row in Front of You: Okay, so this didn’t actually happen, but at one point I was pretty sure it was going to. She literally began falling forward and I didn’t think she was going to catch her balance, but somehow she did. I’m pretty sure the guy in front of her was ticked off though, he left shortly after and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the show (she of course took advantage of this by dangling her legs over his seat and nearly kicking the people on either side). We spent much of the rest of the concert wondering if she was going to fall every time she stood up, and then I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if she did. Those rows in the stadium are pretty steep. If someone had enough momentum, would they just keep tumbling down the seats until they fell out over the edge of the stadium seating? I pretty much came to the conclusion that if your drunk in the stadium and you fall you could die. And that would put a pretty big damper on everyone’s concert experience. However, if she just fell into the next row or two and didn’t die, Sarah and I may have died from laughter and this would be a much more interesting story to tell.
  4. Friends Don’t Let Friends Make Fools of Themselves: What I really didn’t understand is why this girl’s friends didn’t try to intervene a little bit, especially when it looked like she was about ready to topple into the row in front of her. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t want to have to leave the concert because their friend is a sloppy drunk, but at least try to get her slow down on the booze, and maybe stay in her seat where it’s a little safer. They could have also suggested that sitting on a stranger’s legs isn’t a great idea, instead of just ignoring everything their so-called friend is doing. If I had been the drunk girl, I probably would have been rather upset with my friends the next day (assuming I could actually remember anything that happened during the concert … which may be another reason to be angry; if I’m paying to see a concert like that I definitely want to be able to remember it the next day).

I respect everyone’s right to enjoy the concert the way they would like to enjoy it, but is it really necessary to become so intoxicated you’re ruining the experience for those around you? While the drunk women around us didn’t prevent us from enjoying the concert at all, I definitely preferred the clueless teeny-boppers from the previous tour. At least they were quiet (and not old enough to buy alcohol). And if you do decide to get wasted, don’t be surprised when the sober people around you are laughing at you (definitely not with you), and possibly taking photos and/or video (neither of which we did, but it was tempting).

Smart Phones, Concerts and Social Media: Are We Missing Life’s Great Moments?

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” 

For my thesis I am working on a collection of short stories and poems that are semi-autobiographical along the lines of Sandra Cisneros’ The House of Mango Street. Tying all the works together is the underlying theme that all the experiences I am writing about are completely lacking any influence by social media or smart phone technology. Most  are stories from when I was younger, but all of them are about living life to the fullest and being fully connected to friends, family and life as opposed to the disconnect that results from constantly checking your phone for emails, Facebook notifications or tweets. Those of you who know me know that I am just as guilty of this as the next person, I can hardly go more than 15 or 20 minutes without checking my phone, so it’s been fascinating trying to look at life through this lens, noticing the differences in life back then, before the existence of smart phones, and life now where everything can end up on the internet within minutes.

During the Pope selection process a few months ago the New York Daily News posted photographs comparing the crowd outside the Vatican with the crowd from 2005 and it was incredible to note the change – from an almost cell phone free photograph, to one in which nearly every person is holding up a phone or tablet to be able to record a moment in history. These two photographs document well how much things have changed in just seven years.

I couldn’t help thinking about these photographs and this change while I was at a concert with a good friend of mine this weekend. We had travelled to Philadelphia to see the New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men perform (I make no apologies for my choice in music, I love these guys; blame it all on my early love for the Monkees, which is a story for another day). I’ve been to a lot of concerts in recent years, and I’ve come to rely on my cell phone for pictures just as much as my camera (if not more) without even thinking about it. But since I’ve been working on this thesis I’ve been finding these kinds of comparisons everywhere, so I couldn’t help looking around and noticing how many people were just using their phones instead of cameras to capture photographs and video from the concert. With the advent of apps such as Instagram and more recently Vine you can now instantly post those photos and video to several social media platforms and share them with the entire world while the concert is still happening.

I remember the old days (like, just 10 years ago) when you might call a friend from your cell phone, then hold it up so they could hear their favorite song playing. Now you can just film that song and send it to them in a text message. Also, with the advent of digital photography, you don’t even have to take any of your own photos if you don’t want to; all the fans sitting down much closer than you and getting much better pictures than you will likely be posting them online within the next few days and a simple Google image search will lead you right to them. You can just sit back and enjoy the concert from the nosebleed section, knowing tomorrow you’ll be able to download some really great pictures of Nick Lachey and Donnie Wahlberg that are much better than any you could have taken. Even the bands themselves have photos posted to their Facebook pages less than 12 hours after the concert ends.

The advent of all this social media integration and the easy access has completely changed not only how we record concerts and other events, but how we experience the actual event itself. Suddenly, we’re not focusing our undivided attention on the performance in front of us, but listening to the band or artist as we type a caption to post with the photo or video, or text a friend about what the crazy drunk lady in front of us is doing (or just tweet about it, as I did Saturday night). I was in the process of composing a tweet about how the drunk woman in front of us nearly fell face-first into the row in front of her, when the crowd went crazy and I looked up to see Donnie kissing a lucky fan. These quick moments are things people are beginning to miss now that they are becoming cell-phone compulsive (and again, I am just as guilty as the next person, I can’t even sit through an hour of television without checking my phone). Sure, this is just one trivial moment among many, but how many of life’s other moments are we missing now that we spend so much time on a cell phone, instead of looking up at the world around us? That’s a question I’ve asked in my thesis, and one I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past month since I started writing.

Just looking back at how much the concert experience (and life) has changed in the last 10 years makes me wonder how much it might change in the next 10. Was that Tupac hologram at Coachella last year just a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future? Will we someday be paying high ticket prices to see not a live band performing, but instead holograms of artists like Tupac, Kurt Cobain, or older favorites such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley or the Beatles with John and George? And how will these performances be recorded by fans? Will we still be using our phones or will something be replacing those the same way phones replaced cameras; perhaps devices like as Google Glass or will that have already been made obsolete by contact lenses (which were science fiction just a few years ago when Torchwood made use of them)? If we’re already missing out on many of life’s great moments due to a phone or other device that’s kept in our pockets, how much more will we be missing out on in the future if that device was something we have constant access to, such as a pair of glasses or contact lenses?

Cead Mile Failte and Five Reasons I Love the Irish

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St. Patrick’s Day is quite possibly my favorite holiday, after Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. I love everything about Ireland and the Irish, as most of you probably already know. I don’t usually go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day, with drinking and partying etc. but I love celebrating the holiday in my own way.

In the past our celebrations have involved my mother making this extemely yummy dish called “Irish Coddle” which is just potatoes, bacon, sausage and onion all cooked together. I think it’s supposed to be a breakfast dish, but we eat it for dinner and it’s amazing. Last year I found a bottle of Bunratty Mead at the local liquor store. We had first drank the mead at Bunratty Castle during our trip to Ireland. There it was pretty good. Here in the US, not so much. But it was a fun way to celebrate. After dinner we usually watched a movie, most likely The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, or Darby O’Gill and the Little People, which stars a young Sean Connery and has been a favorite of mine since I was very young (back when the banshee at the end terrified me and gave me nightmares, but still didn’t stop me from watching the movie repeatedly).

This year I had to work, so instead I am spending the last hour of my St. Patrick’s day with a glass of wine and writing this blog, while listening to Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly on Pandora. I will probably watch some episodes of The IT Crowd and/or Being Human before going to bed, both of which contain Irish actors, thus fulfilling the Irish film portion of my evening.

But I thought before St. Patrick’s Day is over I would share with you five things to love about Ireland or the Irish.

5. Who doesn’t love a little bit of Baileys poured into a cup of hot cocoa or coffee? I was introduced to the drink while in Ireland, and I must say while I don’t drink much, I do enjoy an occasional shot of Baileys. What’s also great? They now make non-alcoholic Baileys coffee creamers, so you can still have the yummy flavor without the alcohol!

4. Irish Literature. Ireland has a very rich literary history. Many great classic authors come from Ireland for example, Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Bram Stoker (Dracula), James Joyce (The Dubliners), Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde, etc. Modern authors include Maeve Binchey, Colm Toibin, Cecilia Ahern (she wrote P.S. I Love You, which is a phenomenal book, but have tissues on hand) and many, many more.

3. Irish Actors. I’m sure you girls out there would agree with me. Ireland has produced some great actors such as Aidan Turner (above, from Being Human), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, August Rush) and Colin Farrell, just to name a few. Not only are these guys very good looking, but the accent is absolutely to die for. (Oh, and David Boreanaz isn’t Irish but Angel was! Or should I saw Liam?)

2. Music. I love a lot of the classic “Pub Songs.” Songs such as “Whiskey in the Jar” and “Irish Rover” are great. I also love how people always sing along to them in bars. There are also songs known as “Rebel Songs” which are written about the Irish desire for freedom from British rule. One of my favorite Irish songs ever is “Four Green Fields.” My favorite memory from my trip to Ireland is hearing my tour guide sing that song, and the emotion in his voice as he sang. Ireland also gave us U2, one of my favorite bands ever.

1. Ireland. I’m pretty much just in love with the country itself, because honestly, what’s not to love. I absolutely loved every second I spent there and truly hope I can go back some day.

So there’s just a few of the things I love about the Irish. There are so many more that I could list and I could show you many more great photos. But these are just a handful of the reasons Ireland is awesome. So I hope you all had a great St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Irish blessings.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand


Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

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Henry David Thoreau once said “Go confidently in the direction of the your dreams, live the life you’ve always imagined.” I love this quote. Following my dreams have led me to some interesting places, and though some of you may not understand why I would spend a ton of money on a trip to Vancouver to meet the cast of a TV show, it was a dream come true for me.

Today, another dream came true. I and several other people had the pleasure of spending an hour with Christian Kane, listening to his music, watching the extended directors cut of his video for “House Rules” and just chatting with a man I have had a crush on for the last 10 years. In some ways it was an intimidating experience, I’m not good with going to completely unfamiliar places without anyone I know being there. But this step out of my comfort zone was entirely worth it.

Now this blog will probably take a turn to detail my afternoon, mostly for my fellow fangirls who were unable to be there with me, so I won’t be insulted if you get bored and tune out.

As most of you who will be reading this know, Christian Kane is currently one of the stars of the show Leverage. He has also appeared in numerous other shows, most notably Angel. Soon he will be releasing his first country album (though true Kaniacs know he’s really already released albums, just independently). He’s currently touring the country, visiting radio stations and getting them to play his first single off that album, “House Rules.” This afternoon he was visiting WIOV in Ephrata, and had a meet and greet with some fans.

When Christian first walked in it was a little surreal, because I’ve been watching this guy on TV and listening to his music for 10 years now, and here he was standing right in front of me (fangirls will be happy know his eyes and smile are just as gorgeous in person as they are on television).  He showed us the video and we also listened to “Whiskey on my Mind” and the album cut of “Let Me Go.” Throughout the time he also answered a lot of question and told us some amusing anecdotes, which I’ll try to relay for my fangirlfriends 🙂

(Side note: “Let Me Go” is one of the only songs on the album not written by Christian, and when he heard it he immediately asked the writer if he would trust him with recording the song, he loved it so much. At the time it was on hold for George Strait, but it ended up being given to Christian)

One of the questions was what will happen if his music really takes off and he starts touring, will he give up on TV? His response was that, except for Leverage, he already has. He has turned down numerous roles and doesn’t plan on taking on anymore acting jobs. Once Leverage is done he will focus on the music. He actually wasn’t too interested in Leverage at first, but the role was written specifically for him and he couldn’t turn it down (“It was the role I’ve wanted to play since I was 15!”) He also mentioned he was the one who asked to leave Close to Home, which is why he was written out (and it sounds like he really didn’t get along with the actress playing his wife, “she was a b***h to work with”).

One of the few guys in the room jumped on his response and asked if that means he wouldn’t be willing to make an appearance on Supernatural (“as a lawyer with tattoos…”) Totally stealing my question! Haha. Christian’s response was that Jensen has to come down and make an appearance on Leverage first (I could totally get behind that).

He then went into a story about being in Jensen’s wedding, and the two of them arguing over who has killed the most vampires (“Dude, I worked on Angel, what do you mean you’ve killed more vampires than me?”) I wish I had been more prepared because he did a hilarious impersonation of Jensen being pompous (with the frown, voice and everything, it was great).

When asked about Trace Adkins recording one of his songs (“Happy Man”) he shared a story about bumping into him (literally) in the airport on day. He turned around to complain and act all tough (“nobody bumps into me”) then realized the guy who bumped into him was huge, THEN realized it was Trace. So he introduced himself and thanked him for recording his song.

He talked a little about Leverage, how they were struggling a little on Sundays (not in any danger, just not doing as well as they had been) until “The Studio Job” when they got their highest ratings ever, and he pointed out to Dean Devlin that means their fans are country fans (previously Dean hadn’t allowed him and Timothy Hutton off work to present for the CMT awards when he was asked, now he’s pretty sure he’ll be allowed).

Christian told us the rest of season 3 of Leverage is going to be epic (my word, not his, but same thing). Especially the two-hour finale, which according to Christian may show us a not-so-nice side of Eliot. Actually he brought this up several times, so I’m inclined to believe it really is gonna be huge. He said it’s the biggest thing they’ve done. He also said Goran Visjnic will be in that episode (at least, I’m pretty sure he meant that one). Apparently there are some other good guest stars coming up, but he didn’t name anyone else.

One of the ladies asked about the great hair debate, and he told us he’s been fighting Dean about that, because Dean wants it cut but Christian says its part of the character. He has a feeling Dean may win and it’ll get cut before season 4 starts filming, but not cut too much. Apparently he has a team of 8 people to tame his hair every morning.

He also shared a story about how back in the `90s when he was on Rescue 77  he used to have to go to Aaron Spelling’s office on a weekly basis because he would never let them fix his hair the way they wanted it fixed for the show. Then one week he was sent to Spelling’s partner Duke Vincent, who scared Christian into cooperating.

Each of us were given photos that Christian then signed, and he signed anything else we may have brought. He thought it was pretty cool I already had Aldis’ signature on my Leverage DVD set. Then posed for photos with all of us. I told him my friend wanted to go to the BOB 94.9 while he’s there tomorrow to try to meet him, and if I could get off I might see him again tomorrow.

Overall it was an awesome way to spend an hour of my time! He was incredibly nice and friendly, and so very gracious. He’s very thankful to all his fans for all their support, and one thing that’s noticeble is when talking about his music he never said “I” always saying “We,” referring to his entire band. He seems very humble about taking credit for the music, it’s a team effort, or “family” as he calls them. And he loves that his fans refer to themselves as Kaniacs (and he’s very thankful he’s not the one who thought of it, “because that would cocky.”)

I think that about covers everything. It was an awesome experience, I’m so glad I went (even though going by myself honestly terrified me). Of course I owe a HUGE thank you to my friend Matt, if he hadn’t texted me this morning I never would have even known about it.