Friday, December 18, 2015

Belle Isle Holiday Stroll 2015

My fiance Greg and I are always on the lookout for new and unique experiences, especially involving local towns and attractions. After enjoying with our families Midnight Madness and KindleFest this year in Ann Arbor, which was extra mad because the weather was so warm, bringing more people out, we discovered another yearly December activity that we'd never heard of before, though it has been going on for some time, the Belle Isle Holiday Stroll. It's a festive night with free admission to the Conservatory, Aquarium, and museum from 5pm to 8pm, holiday lights here and there, and free hot cider and donuts while supplies last. 

We arrived a little after 6pm and were shocked by the number of people. We waited in line for half an hour to get into the Conservatory, then weren't allowed the luxury of lingering, instead dutifully trudging along with the rest of the herd. There was a choir singing beautifully, but there was no time to sit and listen. The free cider and donuts were long gone. A man in front of us in line asked a volunteer how many people they get every year, and she answered, "If we get 500 to 600, we consider it a good year." This year, "thousands" (a direct quote from the Conservatory's Facebook page) turned up. 

Another 20 to 30 in line, and we were inside the Aquarium, the oldest public aquarium in the U.S. I enjoyed the fine architecture, but the tanks for the animals seemed small and minimally decorated. Fish get bored, too! I did see a lot of water creatures that I had not seen at other aquariums, so that was neat, and some areas were under construction, so perhaps the less than stellar habitats are to be improved. The numerous children around us certainly were enjoying themselves, and that is what aquariums and zoos are all about, getting people interested in the world around us. 

Unfortunately, after all that waiting, we did not make it to the third stroll location, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, before it closed. Maybe we will return to check out some other time, but honestly probably not. 

Belle Isle has been the focus of a lot of attention in the past few years, what with making it a State Park and preserving all the old structures and all. I am glad I got to check it out, if only a teeny, tiny bit. I'll bet the gardens are beautiful in the spring and summer! So maybe we'll return. Greg never seems keen on a visit, though. 

If the crowds in the future will be anything like this year, I don't feel the need to do the Holiday Stroll again. With so many people and the majority of the night spent outside waiting in line, the fun is sapped pretty clean away. It wasn't very cold, which was a blessing and a curse. It made waiting outside not so terrible temperature-wise, but is also to blame for all the people. KindleFest also was absurdly crowded due to the usual cold not being there to keep people away. Fighting against wall-to-wall people does not put me in a particularly festive mood.

Maybe next year they can hire street performers to entertain people while they wait in line. We were amused by the young fellow in a World War I uniform who kept walking by, and the man wearing a light bulb on his head who seemed to be acting as the information station. I know some hoopers and acrobats who might be interested in the job!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo 2015

Along Lake Michigan's eastern shore is a large, steep sand dune officially named Mt. Baldhead, but affectionately called Mt. Baldy. My grandparents took us there as kids. If you climb the 282 stairs up one side, you are treated to a spectacular view and the opportunity to run pell-mell down the other side of the dune to Oval Beach. As kids, we loved nothing more than to let physics take over, pulling us down that dune, legs flying as fast as they could go because if we didn't run, we wiped out, which probably would have hurt. I wouldn't know. I never fell. I ran, giving myself over to the out of control feet frenzy as I was pulled inexorably downward.

That is how National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) felt this year. 

This was not my first novel, I've written several, and writing a novel isn't nearly as hard as it might sound. In fact, as a published author of a number of short stories, what I usually hear is "How do you make it so short?" It's easy to spend 100 pages developing one character, writers are quite verbose, but to devote 30 pages to not one, but several characters and a complete plotline? What? An interesting NaNoWriMo twist for some would be not to reach 50,000 words in one month, but to restrain yourself to 50,000 words! 

This was also not my first NaNoWriMo. A friend challenged me to do it with her in 2009. She was more successful than me. I learned that a full time job as a grocer in November in the U.S. is not compatible with marathon novel writing, so I did not repeat the challenge in ensuing years. 

But I am no longer a grocer, I work in a bookstore, literally surrounded by inspiration and motivation 20+ hours a week, I've had success with quite a few short stories since then, and my article deadlines are all passed for the winter issue of the Journal. November is now a great month to write! I thought.

I did meet the goal finishing November 30th at 50,025 words, but November was not a great month to write. Work stress from October and early November conspired against me in the form of mono. It's difficult to write 1666 words a day when you're sleeping for 14 hours and still managing to work full time. I almost fell asleep on the drive to work one day when I rested my eyes at a red light, no joke, and napped a lot at work. I still wrote something every day, but at times, it was only 200 words. This lasted about two weeks.

Then, on Thanksgiving, I started to get a frog in my throat. The next morning I woke up without a voice. My voice would not return for 4 days. The nasty cold that had felled many friends and coworkers got me, too. Sitting at my desktop computer for hours was painful. Even writing on my tablet proved difficult. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch Star Trek: the Next Generation. But I forced myself to write, and honestly, it made my body feel worse. I hurt more, felt more exhausted, and ate and drank less. It was a tough business!

As I said, though, I did it. I wrote up until the last second and I completed my goal. The novel isn't finished, but most of the key scenes are down, and I have a clear path to completion. How did I do it? I ran:

1) Normally when I write, there is no initial rough draft. I edit, revise, and rewrite as I go. Edit-as-you-go is practically a death sentence for NaNoWriMo. You might end up deleting an entire scene that takes away valuable word counts, for one. Second, every minute spent revising is a minute taken away from writing. You aren't producing anything new, and the story is not progressing. 

2) I also stopped worrying about dialogue. Who cares if a conversation is lagging, or you're repeating a similar conversation from earlier? Keep them both and decide which you like better later. Same with the dialogue itself. Write everything, sort it and cut it later. You never know when your character might say something brilliant that may give you insight or change the course of the plot. Stream of consciousness that stuff and let the words fly! 

3) Dialogue is also a great word eater. If you're having trouble meeting your word goal, sit your characters down and make them have a conversation. I breezed through 2,000 words one day doing this. This novel so far is extremely dialogue heavy. That comes from running. I just wanted to get it out, chugging along like a high speed train that ain't got time to stop at every station. I'll fill in the pretty details later. Description takes time and a lot of thought because you want to get it just right. Dialogue is more intuitive. You're basically just having a conversation with yourself, which many-to-most of us do all the time in our heads anyway, especially us writers. 

4) Seriously, the biggest thing I learned was to keep running. I did have to stop for minimal amounts of research, but I eventually convinced myself that I didn't have to get it right the first time and could change what I got wrong later. Trust me when I say this really took a lot of convincing. It is truly painful to move on from a scene with details that I know I got wrong. I did it anyway.

Writing like a maniac every day for a month also creates a powerful habit. My day no longer feels complete without writing something. So even if you don't reach your goal in the allotted time, keep going. You will learn a lot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Things to do This Holiday Season

Things are still super busy with trying to get the house in order (we still haven't even finished painting), gearing up for the holiday season at the day jobs (remember Christians, if you don't spend at least 3/4 of your monthly income on presents, your family will hate you forever and Jesus won't let you into Heaven), plus I am participating in NaNoWriMo, which means a few hours a day are being devoted to writing a novel. 

I've written a few novels before, but NaNoWriMo has proven to be an interesting challenge that is stretching my usual techniques. I've learned a lot more about my writing, my habits, and broken out of some limitations I place on myself. And I feel pretty good! (Now that my mono has gone back into remission. Sleeping 18 hours a day was a big hindrance to writing.)

So rather than a full update on the house, for example, here are a few holiday activities you can participate in this end of year season.
  1. Monday November 23rd, 9pm to 2am Factory's Fall Formal at Necto in Ann Arbor
  2. Friday December 4th, Midnight Madness Downtown Ann Arbor
  3. Friday December 4th, 6pm to 10pm  KindleFest in Kernytown Ann Arbor
  4. Saturday December 5th, 5pm to l0pm Noel Night in Midtown Detroit
  5. Friday December 11th, 5pm to 8pm Belle Isle Holiday Stroll on Belle Isle in Detroit
  6. Saturday December 12th, 11am to 7pm and Sunday December 13th, 12pm to 6pm DIYpsi Indie Art Fair in Ypsilanti
I know there's a lot of other stuff going on, but that is what is on my calendar. So it looks like December will be just as busy, or probably busier than November. Sigh.

And don't forget to post #GiveaBook on Facebook and Twitter so Penguin Random House will donate a book to a child in need!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sea Life Michigan Aquarium

For my birthday/anniversary of my father's death this year, Greg and I went to the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium in the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall in Auburn Hills. I'd never been to the mall before, and I had some birthday money to spend, so we spent some time wandering around the mall, too.

What mostly amused me about the mall is that it is divided into districts. Nine instead of twelve (or thirteen), but I still found it funny. We parked in District One. Lucky for us! Being not at all impressed with the offerings, I ended up not buying anything. The aquarium, though, was fun!

The price of entry is a tad steep, admittedly. But for a mere extra $3, you can get a quick behind the scenes tour, which makes the regular admission a little easier to swallow. And there are regular feeding times you can watch, which are fun and interesting. We sat in on the feeding of the rays. Turns out they are like the hoovers of the sea. But more graceful!

We also saw their rescued sea turtle who has weights Velcroed to his shell to help him dive. There is air trapped in his shell from a hit and run accident with a boat, making it impossible for him to survive long in the wild because he can't dive deep enough, even with the weights.

Right next to the aquarium is a Rainforest Cafe. I decided to have dinner there since Greg had never been to one. It was significantly less charming than I remembered from the one I went to at Disneyland in California. The tanks were small for the size of the fish and seemed crowded, and some of the fish looked less than healthy. Maybe it's because we had just come from an actual aquarium, but I also own an aquarium, and I know a little bit about water to fish ratios. The motors were also very loud, which was distracting. 

I do have to say that the drinks were great. I could have knocked back those cocktails all night! The food was also pretty good. But the motors and the fish with the bum eye... Distracting.

So it was no Halloweekends at Cedar Point (done that a few times for my birthday), but it was still enjoyable and Greg and I hadn't been able to spend unstructured time together like that in a long time. And that was the real win.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Still No At-Home Internet

I am typing a brief update to say that although I had a partial update prepared, I can't post it because I only have a 20 minute break at work, and that is the only time I have to be online right now. Most of my free time has been devoted to unpacking and doing things to the unfinished kitchen. I also have a Journal deadline the 15th and a Gryffindor scarf to finish by, let's say, the 20th (also my birthday).

October was supposed to be an easy month. It is not turning out that way. :/ 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Home Renovation Part Five: All Moved In

Our new living room.

So we're finally moved into our house! A huge thank you to everyone who made it out to help! The house has been super crowded with the cabinets not being installed and taking up the majority of the kitchen and one key living room wall. A lot has been left in boxes and bags because there was no place for it to go. It's frustrating.

What we found in front of the old apartment
when we went to clean up after moving.
But the cabinets are being put in right now as I write this! Yay! I don't have internet at home yet, so this will be posted later. I hope to have time to post a few pictures, too. If you see them, I was successful. If not, well…

After cabinets, we still need a sink, countertops, to rip out and install new flooring, and to finish painting the walls. And I was just informed that the kitchen was mismeasured so the cabinets will extend beyond the soffit by a few inches. My choices were to cancel the install we've been dicked around over for the past 3 months, schedule to have them picked up, shipped back to the manufacturer, remade, shipped back to the house, then schedule another appointment for them to be installed, or fuck it. I chose fuck it. I would like a working kitchen before next year, thanks.

Oh, hi there!
Here is where I reiterate DO NOT have your kitchen installed through the Home Depot in Ypsilanti. DON'T DO IT. Unless you have a full year to get it done right and don't mind living without a kitchen and living room (cabinets have to be stored somewhere) during that time. And I keep hearing things like “well, that's scary” and “how stupid is that?” coming from the workpeople. Joy.

I think it's time to go back to bed. As usual, the cats have the right idea: IGNORE.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Home Renovation Part Four: The Moving Begins

We have to be out of our apartment by the 30th of September. That's just under a week away! Our big moving day is going to be this Sunday, but that hasn't stopped us from already getting stuff in. Greg's boss gave us a patio table (no chairs, though), which required using the store's box truck to move. We were allowed to take advantage and move a few more big items that same day, so there is now a table, an entertainment center, and most of our book shelves as well as most of our books. 

After some serious kitchen demolition, we got the kitchen walls half painted (the places where the new cupboards will go because heck no I am not painting with the cupboards up), and did some major, major cleaning of the bedrooms so that we could start to move things into them. The new cupboards have arrived, but are not yet installed. The inept company installing them keeps neglecting to call us to schedule that, and when we call, they tell us they can't take our call and need to call us back, so most of the kitchen and much of the living room is taken up by these huge and heavy cupboard boxes.

Side note: If you live in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area and are thinking of having your kitchen cupboards done by Home Depot, DON'T unless you plan to hang the cupboards yourself. Home Depot has been wonderful, but the company they contract with to do the install is HORRIBLE. They have delayed this project by months for reasons such as "Oops, I forgot to check my email. My bad." So now we get to live in a house without a kitchen when the main reason we stayed in our apartment and paid rent on top of mortgage rather than move in right away was so we wouldn't have to live without a kitchen. Thanks, assholes.

We also had to take up some of the tiles in the kitchen to make room for expanded cupboards in places that cupboards were not before. That was brutal! I'm guessing they were linoleum or some such other awful tile on top of the same, and the lower tiles were adhered by the Devil's Own Glue. Chipping away at them with a hammer and a spackle knife was brutal. Even pouring Goo Gone just dissolved the top layers and left the glue fully in tact. But between the two of us, we got it done. (Now that awful company just needs to call and schedule an appointment...)

That is all for now. I need to get back to packing and schlepping more stuff over to the house before going into work. Because why-oh-why would I actually get days off while moving. (The reason we're moving on Sunday is because it's the only day this month that Greg and I have off together.) And I have my first Journal deadline October 1st, which means this computer needs to be set up again ASAP once it's been dismantled and moved. Joy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Guilty Pleasures

In case you weren't aware, one of our cherished community burlesque performers Luna Legare, mistress of the tease, puts on regular shows in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. Greg and I attended the Guilty Pleasures: Feeling Hot Hot Hot show at the amazingly tasty Bona Sera Cafe in the heart of downtown Ypsi about two months ago. (The basement is available for shows and is complete with its own bar.) 

It was phenomenal! Possibly the best performance I've seen yet this past year. The host was celebrity comedian James Pequignot, husband of one of the dancers. He was funny! Reminded both Greg and me of John Hodgeman from the Daily Show. (And me of my friend Will, who also reminds me of John Hodgman in looks and occasionally humor.) 

My new favorite dancer Dusty Bahls was also there! Really bummed he won't be back for Guilty Pleasures LIVE on Saturday, September 26th (mark your calendars!!). Celebrity comedian James Pequignot will be reprising his role as host, though. This next show will also feature Cruel Valentine (keep an eye on her, she's good), Florence of Alabia (gotta love that name), Gala Delicious, Miss Kitty Bourree, and more! (Those are just the names I recognize and love.) 

Only $15 at the door for what promises to be a terrific show! See your there. ;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Home Renovation Part Three: Demolition and more Painting

Nearly every spare moment I have had over the last few months has been devoted to working on the house. We relinquish our apartment at the end of this month, so it is crunch time! (I'd actually like to be completely moved out before then, which means there is even more to do in less time.)

The three bedrooms, or as we call them the library, the bedroom, and the jungle room (it's painted green), are all painted, the floors are cleaned up, and we've already started moving stuff in. We also brought over the chairs from our balcony, a small table, and set them up on the front porch where we've since enjoyed a couple of meals and a few drinks. This past weekend, I even sat and enjoyed a drink while chatting with friends. It feels like home already! 

Since this Monday was Labor Day, we obviously devoted it to labor. Our friend Dustin came over and helped Greg demolish our kitchen. Given that the previous owners' solution to seemingly every problem was cover it in caulk, and one of the main things holding up the previous dilapidated cupboards was caulk, there were a lot of caulk jokes. Surprisingly, it didn't take very long to rip out the cupboards, just a few hours with two people. The stove's hood turned out to be unsalvageable (it looks like it has caught on fire in the past), which was unfortunate, and we found a few soft spots on the wall by the sink, but nothing terrible. (Pretty sure.)

While Greg and Dustin worked in the kitchen, I finished up edging the walls in the living room, which has been tough since the edges along the ceiling are mostly uneven. After the kitchen was done, Dustin headed out and we were joined by friend Heather, who helped Greg with prepping the kitchen to be painted before the new cupboards arrive next week. A lot of crap needed to be scraped off the walls and holes (surprise, surprise, more holes in the walls) patched and filled. I suspect we’re almost out of drywall at this point. There is also a nice pile of broken cupboards in the backyard. We’ll work on hauling that away later.

More friends Red and Cassi arrived and Cassi helped me empty boxes of books so that I could take them back home to be filled up with more books so the process could repeat. We really have a lot of books to move, and obviously we can't move the bookcases until the books are moved first.

In addition to also drywalling in the kitchen, Red installed our BRAND NEW WASHING MACHINE courtesy of one of my oldest friends and bridesmaids Robin, who won it in a raffle at work. Since she lives in an apartment, she generously passed it on to me and Greg, who drove out to Benton Harbor last Saturday to pick it up. Red did discover some soft wall behind the washer, but Greg doesn't think the damage is too bad and we can fix it. I just hope it isn't the product of a drip or leak and is just from changing out the machines! 

I anticipate all of my free time over the next two weeks to be devoted to packing and hauling. And here's hoping m our cat Memphis doesn't pee in any more boxes. I need those!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Some of My New Favorite Neighborhood Places in Ypsilanti

I've been writing a little bit about the places that Greg and I have been visiting and the events we've attended in Ypsilanti as we have gotten to know our new city. Here are some of my favorite places that we have discovered.

There are so many places to eat in Ypsilanti! We breakfasted at the Wolverine Grill per one friend's recommendation and have yet to eat at Beezy's per another. One of our favorite restaurants for dinner is Maiz Mexican Cantina in Depot Town, which I reviewed for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal for the Fall 2014 issue

I also like to stop in at the Ypsilanti Food Co-op when I am in Depot Town. They carry a line of organic bagged tea that I enjoy and much more! Also in Depot Town is the Eyrie, a gift shop that sells products made only by Michigan artisans. It's located right next to Sidetrack, a bar and grill I used to frequent with friends when I first moved to Ann Arbor, and where Greg and I still like to grab drinks every now and again. We also like Corner Brewery, which hosts events like DIYpsi and occasionally burlesque.

A few blocks away in Downtown Ypsi, within easy walking distance to our house, are some more fun shops. There is the Rocket, of course, a much beloved by locals novelty gift shop with all kinds of toys, candy, and fun clothing. World of Rocks on Huron is a great place to pick up stones, gems, rocks, and beads to make jewelry - as well as premade jewelry. People tell me their prices are high, but I find them reasonable. And so many shinies!

Also downtown is the Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center, which sells books (obviously), handmade candles, incense, clothing, African imports, art, jewelry, and more. They also host and sponsor events, like in-store author signings and the upcoming black tie gala Fight For Your Life at Weber's Inn that will raise money for the SafeHouse Center of Washtenaw County. The owners are super friendly and it's great to stop by for a neighborly chat. I've already heard so many fun stories about the neighborhood from Kip - it's great! And I love my candle. Mmm...

Ypsilanti is also home to two farmers markets, one downtown and one in Depot Town. Since I work every Saturday, I will probably never make it to the one in Depot Town. Downtown on Tuesdays, though, I can do! For a half hour anyway, before heading into work. I want to pick up some handmade soaps and more scones soon. Hyperion Coffee might also be there with their delicious iced coffee. (Greg has been stalking them since he first learned of them a couple of months ago.) 

We've attended two First Fridays events thus far, and we're both looking forward to another this Friday, September 4th. Since neither of us usually works late on Fridays, we've decided to make this a regular thing for us. Hopefully, we can persuade more friends to join us in the future. At the last one we met up with a few people we knew at different points throughout the evening.

So far, Ypsi has been treating us great! I like how vibrant the community is and there is always something to do. Maybe when our families visit, we will check out the local museums, too. Both my and my sister-in-law's families have backgrounds in firefighting. She used to be a volunteer firefighter herself! (Because she's a badass.) Depot Town is home to the Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center. I have many fond memories of Christmas parties at the Otsego, MI firehouse, so I would like to check this museum out one day. 

Look forward to many Ypsilanti adventures to come!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vacation Week

Due to lots of house painting, repairs, and family gatherings, I missed my usual update this past week. Rather than try to rush an update now, I will simply say that I will be back on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. 

There will be lots of moving activity over the next few weeks, so expect another house update or two, as well as getting to know our new neighborhood. Ypsilanti is an active place with lots to do! I hope you enjoy exploring it with me. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Our Return to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium

About three years ago, my now fiance Greg and then roommate Kimmy all went to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. Yup, that's a zoo and aquarium all in one! Though the zoo part is admittedly much bigger than the aquarium part, the new expanded aquarium, which re-opened this year (we visited on the last day of its being open in 2012, coincidentally), has all kinds of sea, lake, and river life from all over the globe, and a hands-on pool where you can - gently and respectfully! - pet certain creatures. San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay has a similar area where I once pet a shark! The pool in Toledo was surrounded by so many excited children, that Greg and I didn't bother waiting for it. Maybe some other time.

The aquarium is great, and not just because of all the cool stuff, like the pitch dark room with a wall of glowing eyes looking right at you. (!!) Actually, they're called Flashlight Fish and their eyes aren't what's glowing, it's the area right below their eyes, even though it does look like they are blinking at you. But no! That's not all! The aquarium is a great way to escape the heat for a bit. In 2012, we went in October, so the weather was on the cool side. Not so in August. So not only was the aquarium fun, but a needed break.

Up near the front of the zoo, Greg and I particularly enjoyed seeing the "deadly, deadly" cassowary, natives of New Guinea and Australia. We learned about the cassowary from an episode of House Hunters International. They're shy, but territorial, and possess a dagger-like claw on each foot that can cause serious damage by kicking, but has only resulted in one documented human death.

Toledo also has penguins, though I have to say the penguin enclosure is on the small side and not as impressive (or, admittedly, as smelly) as the penguinarium at the Detroit Zoo, which I remember reading a couple years ago is supposed to get a major face-lift and upgrade. The polar bear is cooler at the Detroit Zoo, as well, because there is a tube that goes under the water and you can look up at the animals swimming. We saw plenty of seals and the polar bear at Toledo, though, and there is a submerged viewing wall.

Near to the penguins, we found a Dippin' Dots stand. Greg had never had Dippin' Dots in his life, so I decided we had to get some, not because they're so great, but because when its so easy to try something you've never had before, why not do it? Greg was also able to finally pose sitting astride the tiger statue, something he wanted to do last time, but there were too many small children having their pictures taken to compete with. (It's a Dio reference that highly amuses him.)

I am hoping that next year, my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids can join us at the Toledo Zoo. Greg had a dream this time that they met us there, and I choose to take this as prophecy. (Though in the dream, only some of them were there, and I hope that everyone comes.) It's a bit of a drive from Kalamazoo, but it's also an adventure. Adventure!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DIYpsi Summer 2015

This past weekend was the summer edition of DIYpsi! (There's another one just before the winter holidays that I am told is a great place to pick up unique gifts.) It's a pretty well-known craft fair here, possibly the biggest in A2/Ypsi (though I think it would be bigger if they didn't hold it at a brewery and allowed in people under 21). And I'd never been for the same reason I miss on most things in life: I was working. Also, events like this tend to close early, like around 6, the time I would be arriving if I opened that day. Saturdays, I always open. Lately, I've actually had most Sundays off, but this particular Sunday I had picked up a shift which took Sunday out of the picture. 

I was excited when I learned that Saturday's DIYpsi was going until 8pm. Finally, I'd get to attend this infamous local indie art fair! I know a lot of people who have sold there and I've been encouraged to get a table myself. (It sounds like fun, but I don't have enough stuff to sell at the moment, and I'm not sure I'd do well enough to make it worth it. Maybe if Greg made some things and we split a table.) 

When I got to the Corner Brewery, I found parking right away on the street. Cars are coming and going so frequently that I can't imagine parking is too big of a deal. The line to order food, however, was another story. I ended up buying a few scones from Jen Gossett of Fairytale Baked Goods, who Greg and I had met a few weeks before in the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market. She remembered me! Her scones are delicious - both savory and sweet - and the fairy tale theme is just fun. I hope to see her in the market again soon. (Scones are good for a wedding reception, right...?)

There are all manner of things at DIYpsi. I saw lots of vegan soaps and lotions, beard balm and homemade brass beard combs, jewelry, robot heads (some that lit up), paintings, clothing, and crocheted and knitted and plushie fun things! I ended up just buying a housewarming present for a friend who reads my blog so I can't say what it is. But it's adorable, appropriate, and was handmade by another uber talented and fun friend of mine, Celena Lopez aka Diosa de la Luna. I also gathered up a bunch of business cards to investigate later when I inevitably need more people to interview for my Journal column. 

Since Greg couldn't go with me on Saturday, he went on Sunday and had his own adventure of beer and ice cream. He was sorely tempted to get one of the light-up robot heads, but it was too expensive for us right now. Hopefully when the December event rolls around we can have some time off together to go and hunt for nifty holiday gifts! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

From the Coffee Shop: Black Diesel Coffee in Ann Arbor

Nothing ever goes well. Or, more precisely, when one thing, or even a few things go well - splendidly well! - other things go very, very poorly. This weekend was abysmally full. I fought through, found a way to have some fun even, but only because I didn't realize what was being overlooked. Happiness comes at the cost of ignorance. 

So here I am, sitting in Black Diesel Coffee in Ann Arbor, remembering all of the things that I should have also accomplished this weekend, but didn't because they were crowded out by other things, some dire, some pleasant (but mostly the dire). And I can't do anything about it. I am thinking of moving seats, not because the counter is crowded, or the man next to me is loudly slurping his coffee, but because my belt keeps getting caught on the chair every time I straighten up. It is really very annoying and not helping my frustration. 

I've always been mistrustful of good moods. When things go well, it is only a set up for a terrible fall. Despite the stress this past weekend, I felt like I was on top of things, tenuous as that grasp was. I should have known better. I should have known I was missing something. Several somethings. Most are related to one of my hourly jobs, which, because it's hourly, I can't just pop into and clean things up whenever I want to. (I'm told there are legal reasons.) I have to wait until my shift starts, or close enough to when my shift starts so that the wielder of the paychecks doesn't go "Why am I paying you for an unscheduled extra hour (or more)?" 

It is also true that when things matter, like when I am sitting in for someone on a specific, slightly complicated task, things will go wrong. Computers will crash, the internet will stall, or - this is the best - the website I need to complete said task will go down. Also, the store will flood with customers, delaying two precious hours to complete said slightly complicated task in addition to technology fail. So on a short list of things to get done, I complete one. In six hours. I don't even get the chance to double-check the list because once that one task is done, it's on to another set of tasks that, at this point, take priority. 

If these things only affected me, it wouldn't be so bad. It's when they domino into other people and affect their tasks that frustrates me. Where to balance? Where to focus the effort? When to say, "Sorry, but this takes priority over that." What I accomplished definitely took priority over what I didn't, but it was, to quote Mr. Knightley, badly done and I don't like when things are badly done.

A strong scent of coffee has wafted my way. I can't decide if I like it or not. Today was not a coffee day, it was a chai latte day. I'm here killing time (and gnashing my teeth) between getting my hair cut and going into work. The chai is not as sweet as most chai lattes. I was forewarned by the barista that this is so and she suggested a drop of honey to make it taste more like people are used to. Honey is not my favorite sweetener, so I decided to try the chai first. I liked it fine, so I decided against adding honey.

Now the baristas and a customer are talking about Gishwhes, which some friends of mine are participating in. They're staging a picture for something, but I'm not sure what. I don't know what the tasks are. I don't have time to participate. I don't even have time to take a vacation, which I desperately need. 

I've been getting about 3 days off per month this summer because everyone else is taking vacations and they need someone to cover for them. Greg took his vacation without me, which is increasingly pathetic and depressing the more I think about it. I haven't even gone swimming, one of my favorite activities that I look forward to every year. No time. Gotta work. I actually have a whopping 5 days off in August, but it's mostly because I specifically requested them off due to obligations I have on those days (so are they really days off...?). 

I know I keep saying that I want to cut down on jobs so as to have more time to devote to writing, getting published, and life (yup, in that order), but I think 2016 will be the year. I will be in better financial shape than previously (our house is cheaper than our apartment) for starters. I really like my coworkers, though. We'll just have to also resolve to hang out more outside of work! In the meantime, I think I'll skip ahead in the time off request books and snag a few weekends this fall and winter.

Coffee shop air conditioning is proving too much for me. I think it's time to grab a sandwich and head into work early. Toodles!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

First Fridays in Ypsilanti

When I lived in Kalamazoo, I would often accompany my grandparents to the Art Hop, the first Fridays of the month when a bunch of the local galleries, shops, and restaurants would "debut" new art collections and serve food and drinks, occasionally also accompanied by live music. Now you might be thinking that this wasn't such a cool thing to do because I was with my grandparents, but my grandfather is an artist and was a professional as well as artistic photographer, so his work was in some of these shows and he was friends with a lot of the other artists, too. 

The first nude photo I ever saw, a black and white, was when I was maybe four or five, my grandfather's latest project that my grandmother was showing to my mother. When I asked to see it, they showed it to me, and I learned that being naked is not shameful or ugly, but can be beautiful, and maybe the artist's wife will make you lunch. My grandparents also took me to my first art studio enclave, an old brick warehouse or factory in downtown Kalamazoo that had been converted into various spaces for artists of all kinds, normally closed to the public, but open for Art Fair. I met a big man with a three inch afro and huge glasses who said "shit" and my grandmother didn't chastise him. It was magical!

Everywhere I've moved, I have tried to find more events like Art Hop. But there is no singular name for such an event, so they are hard to find. While visiting Seattle, friends and I stumbled upon the Fremont Art Walk, another first Friday of the month art event. My fiance Greg and I also got to experience Arts Alive! while visiting a friend in Eureka, CA this past March. Why didn't such a thing exist in the Ann Arbor area? I wondered. 

It turns out one does exist in Ypsilanti. It's called First Fridays! How I had never heard of it in the five years I've lived in the area, I can only chalk up to bad advertising. I think Greg is the one who learned of it, and I can't remember how. Wanting to get to know our new neighborhood, we decided to attend a couple of weeks ago on the second Friday (they rescheduled due to the first Friday being the 3rd of July, thus too close to a holiday).

Since we both had to work, we missed out on a lot of events that were over by 8pm. But there was some terrific live music outside next to the library that we could enjoy from all around Michigan Ave (which serves as Ypsilanti's - as well as many other cities' - "Main St"). We got to check out the new 22 North gallery that I read about online a few months back. It's a great space! Happy to have them in Ypsi. We also dropped by Hyperion Coffee, which Greg has basically been stalking for over a month now. Coffee was tasty! You should check them out. 

We also discovered that Ypsi has been yarnbombed! (Whoot!) I've always wanted to yarnbomb something. Ypsi's out, so something else... Maybe something tiny... Like fairy-size tiny...

After visiting 9 places on the roster, we ended our evening at Sidetrack Bar & Grill, one of my favorite places to eat in Depot Town, where we came across an old pal from Ann Arbor, the Violin Monster! Awooo! We also saw, in one of the shop windows, candles shaped like the iconic Ypsilanti Water Tower, the most phallic building in the world (I am not making this up - judge for yourself). 

The next First Friday Art Walk in Ypsi will be held on August 7th. At least, I assume it will be. Nothing has actually been posted yet to the website. I shall keep an eye out, and so should you, provided you live in the Ypsilanti area. Or if you are visiting from out of town. Good times!

PS - Here is a picture of the candles because I couldn't mention them and not include a picture, right? Yes, it really is the tower and not some other object I could mention. Seriously. How much more phallic can a tower get? Thank you, Queen Anne!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Home Renovation Part Two: So Much Painting

The main thing we've been working on lately with our house is painting! We were aided in this by my mother, her boyfriend, and Greg's mother and aunt. All three of the bedrooms are now done:

The library - which we've already started moving some things into! - is painted "glazed ginger," a kind of darkish orange that most people say looks like caramel, but Greg and I think more butterscotch than caramel. (Incidentally, anything called "ginger" automatically amuses me because I grew up with a friend named Ginger and one of my mom's close friends is also named Ginger. Hilarious mental images always ensue.)

The master bedroom (the only room we're actually calling a bedroom) is electric blue (or, as the lid says, "el capitan"), pretty much the same color of my room in high school when my parents finally let us choose the wall colors of our rooms, and the same color as my bedroom when I lived with my friend Derek (ahh, those were fun years), who let me choose the paint color of my room when he had his condo painted. I had actually been going for not the same color as my high school (and college) room, but it turns out that I really like that color and chose it twice. I didn't even pick out the color this time, Greg did! Which shows how well he knows me, apparently, as I don't think he has seen either of those other two rooms. We were going for a more robin's egg blue, but... Ah, well! (PS - I have a friend named Robin, too, but I don't know that she has any eggs, blue or otherwise.)

Incidentally, one of my favorite David Bowie songs called "Sound and Vision" has the lyrics, "blue, blue, electric blue, that's the color of my room, where I will live." I discovered the song after first painting my room this color.

The littlest room has been dubbed by Greg "the jungle room" on account of its dark olive green color. Greg was very resistant to painting anything in the house green, despite it being his favorite color. This one ended up a little darker than we'd been expecting, though it's probably because there isn't a whole lot of light in that room, it being the smallest, and, really, none of the rooms on that side of the house get a lot of light as they face north.

We have yet to do anything to the kitchen aside from taking down the lights in order to patch and paint the ceiling. I did move in the free microwave that my mother gave to us because I had to sit and wait for three hours for someone to come measure for our new cupboards one day, and to do so without the ability to heat water in order to make tea is just ludicrous.

So I've already had my first cuppa tea in my new house! It was chai made from powder rather than scratch because the fridge isn't plugged in, so no milk, and I don't generally like milk in my tea, so I don't make chai from scratch anyway. I had forgotten to bring a spoon, so I bent the metal freshness seal on the little tub of powdered chai into a vaguely spoon shape because dammit! It worked and the resulting beverage was immensely satisfying. Especially since, as I said, it took the person three hours to get there. Glad I brought a pillow to sit on the floor. There is no furniture of any kind.

Remember how last time I talked about how latex paint doesn't adhere well to oil based paint? It really, really doesn't. Not only have I peeled paint off two of the four bathroom walls, but now one and a half of the living room walls and one half of the hallway, as well! Agh! What is wrong with people?? I spent a good chunk of one day edging out one of the living room walls to make it easier to paint with a roller later only to discover a corner peeling. When I tried to pull off that little bit, an entire swatch came off the size of my hand ,and it just kept going from there. Greg picked up some trisodium phosphate (aka TSP) that is supposed to give the oil-based paint, or any smooth surface, tooth so that we can paint latex on top of it without incident. This has been extremely frustrating.

I can tell the previous painters truly had no idea what they were doing by looking at the numerous layers of paint in the bathroom. In a few spots, you can see where the paint has become mottled, indicative of someone once painting oil paint over latex. I read online that latex paint, for whatever reason, will bleed through the layer of oil paint painted on top of it, leaving a mottled look, one of the reasons to never do this. The other reason to never do this (as a number of websites told me) is because latex paint, being water-based, is more flexible than oil-based paint, so as it absorbs moisture, due to humidity, for example, it will "flex" while oil won't, so if oil is on top of latex, it is likely to crack while the latex "flexes." So don't do it!

One of the walls of the living room, the one I was working on until we had to undo all of it, is going to be our one "accent wall" and we chose the most TARDIS blue we could find. I was really looking forward to painting it! Hopefully this won't set us back more than two weeks. We're trying to spend all of our free time working on the house, but there is precious little of it for one, and two, we also are still living in our apartment which needs tending to now and again (I spent my free time before work yesterday doing housework around the apartment), and we need to pack and ready ourselves to move when the house is ready. (I've already started packing up and moving the library.) Also, the problems we were having with one of our cats turns out not to be resolved, which is both frustrating and messy (he's pooping everywhere - cleaned up four piles yesterday alone, one on the couch).

We did manage to finally pick out a new hallway light that we both like and Greg installed it all on his own without electrocuting himself! He is quite proud of this. I think it's a very handsome light and also very bright. I hope to have the hallway done very soon, followed by the living room. The kitchen is waiting on Home Depot to get back to us about the cupboards, and the bathroom has turned out to need twice the work I'd anticipated, so that may have to wait until we are moved in to finish up, especially since the living room has turned out to be such a trial.

The adventure continues! Hopefully I can still get things accomplished while Greg is in Pennsylvania attending Pennsic for a week. I am relived that he will not be gone his usual two+ weeks as he used to. There is just so much to do!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair 2015

Yes, it's that time of year again. Locals, flee! Art Fair is here. My first Art Fair was also my first summer living in Ann Arbor in 2011. I didn't work downtown at the time, so Art Fair was fresh and fun! I skipped it in 2012 because I was busy starting my new job at the bookstore. Since then, I have been working downtown, so it's pretty hard to avoid Art Fair. (And find decent parking for work. I really believe they should set aside a parking lot for downtown employees rather than exploit our positions and force us to pay extra for use of the shuttles, parking structures, or walk twice as far as the usual half to 3/4 mile I can usually score for free parking.) 

In 2013, I ventured out during my break at work for dinner and to check out the Main Street branch of Art Fair. Last year, Greg and I headed out early and spent the whole day exploring the four individual fairs that make up the Big Event. We saw the DeCamp Sisters perform, who have since broken up, sadly. (I kind of wish I'd bought that T-shirt now.) This year, I didn't have the whole day to explore, but I was out of work by 6pm and was able to meet up with Greg for dinner and arting.

Dinner was via the second of the summer food rallies at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown. (Read about the first one here.) We split a falafel pita, a half and half serving of regular potato and sweet potato fries (very yummy), and got two shakes, chocolate and strawberry, from Shimmy Shack. Since the shakes were vegan, they were more like smoothies. They strongly reminded me of Orange Julius! We also grabbed some blueberry crisp ice cream from Sweet Marias.

Heading into the Art Fair, we found a lot of the usual boring stuff you see everywhere (so much generic pottery), but also some really interesting things, and some stuff that made us giggle. We ended up buying a couple of prints from The Secret Life of Toys by Marcos Minuchin on Main St (really clever stuff!) and I got some Doctor Who earrings from Wicked Whatnots (my third pair of earrings from them, plus I have a bracelet) and a leather bracelet from Vintageliz that also has stamped into a piece of affixed metal the words "possibility begins with imagination." Both of the latter two are in the alley group off Liberty.

Someone else to check out is Makeshift Accessories, also on Main St. They use a lot of salvaged metals, including from fighter planes, military equipment, and other pretty hardcore items. Greg really regrets not getting a particular ring from them last year. I love a lot of their cuffs and earrings, but they are, sadly, a wee bit out of my price range. I was inspired to use the foreign currencies I've been collecting to make jewelry, though! (We'll see if I actually find the time.)

We did not see the Violin Monster (boo), but we did see at the corner of Main and Liberty the silver living statue lady! She is cool. We saw her last year, and I saw her the year before, as well. A man standing next to me handed me $1 to put in her tip jar so we could see her turn and bow her thanks. I think he and his friend were too shy to do it themselves, hee. One of my favorite things about festivals is seeing the clever street performers. I hope to see more this week between work shifts. Maybe I will spot the Violin Monster. Awooo!

Art Fair goes through Sunday. Check it out if you have the time. And good luck parking. I suggest the metered parking in Kerrytown after 6. It's free! Otherwise, there is the Waterhill neighborhood, or taking the shuttles for $2.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

9 Women You Should Be Listening to on Spotify

One of the things I really have fun with at my job in a gift shop is messing with the stereo. We use Spotify, a program I always liked the idea of, but could never get to work on my WinXP desktop computer from 2006. (Typing on it now. Great for word processing and playing the Sims2. Not so much for newer programs.) It's opened up a whole new world, and now I can get it at home on my new SurafePro! 

Spotify has been great for finding new artists and exploring what artists I used to listen to and had sort of moved past have been up to since I last listened to them. Here are 10 women I've been listening to lately that I have really been loving! Some are old favorites I am rediscovering. Some are local or independent artists. Some are people you may already be listening to, which is totally cool. If you have anyone you'd like to share, post in the comments!

Yup, I'm starting off with someone most people of my generation are probably already familiar with. Her first single "A Thousand Miles" debuted in 2002. It's the one with the video of her playing a piano while "driving" through town. I know, there were a lot of young female singers who came out at that time (Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Norah Jones...). I remember people mixing up Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton all the time, and I feel like Michelle got more attention (liked her first album, not so much the second). But Vanessa is the one who stuck out to me. She was abundantly talented and quietly edgy with an attitude that wasn't overt or showy like Avril Lavigne's skater girl thing. Her cover of "Paint It Black" is probably my favorite version of that song. I listened to Vanessa's album Be Not Nobody over and over for years. And in 2010, she came out as "a proud bisexual woman." YES!! So I looked her up on Spotify last year, and it turns out she just kept getting better as I had moved on to other artists. 

The single "White Houses" from her second album Harmonium (2004) was banned by MTV for referring to "sexual intercourse." (Gasp! My innocent ears!) This album also includes the song "San Francisco," which I listened to a ton leading up to my vacation this past March. It was the first I'd been back to SF since moving away in 2010, so the song hit me right in the feels spot. Heroes & Thieves (2007) is a great album that I listen to a lot on Spotify. My two favorite tracks are the title song and the first track, "Nolita Fairytale." Her fourth album Rabbits on the Run (2011) is another winner with tracks like "Carousel," "I Don't Want to Be a Bride" (which has another "sexual" reference in the line "I don't want to wear white, you know it's too late for that"), and "Dear California," a song that I think many of my friends who have moved in and out of California can relate to: "Dear California, it's been nice to know ya. Tell me, will you miss me when I'm gone?" (I don't think it does. But I still miss it!)
Unless you were a big anime/Jpop dork about 10 to 15 years ago, like me, you probably don't know her. (She did the themes to the Kingdom Hearts video games, if that helps.) If you were, she apparently now goes by simply Utada, her surname (I know, weird, right?) which is how you will find her on Spotify. I don't think her new work is totally up to the same level as the old stuff in Japanese, but it is in English, making her more accessible to a wider audience. She is still our Pop Princess Hikki that we all fell in love with. And if you've never heard her before, give a listen! 

"Come Back to Me" is groovy and sounds like rain should be falling outside the window. I like the lyrics because the perspective is of a woman who cheated on her lover and now wants to get back together, not something I hear often. Part confession, part love letter, I love it. Another one I enjoy is "Apple and Cinnamon," a song about a relationship on the way out, because that simple imagery says so much about feelings of things going together easily and joyfully (the line goes "chemistry like apple and cinnamon"). "Easy Breezy" is fun, if a bit repetitive, and features the line "You're easy breezy and I'm Japanesey" that makes me giggle just a little bit. 
If you watched Glee, you may recognize Charice as Sunshine, Rachel's brief competition in an early season (two, I think). Since coming out as lesbian (and possibly trans? can't find much info here), her look has shifted to more the masculine side, so not much like the cutesy Sunshine, which I am 100% ok with. Charice is a powerhouse! She's smoking hot! Her voice is so amazing! I love her!

Her most popular song on Spotify is "Pyramid" featuring Iyaz. "Before It Explodes" is actually the first one I heard that hooked me. She also did a song for The Swan Princess: a Royal Family Tale, a direct to DVD release in the Swan Princess series for kids. The song is "Right Where I Belong" and is so happy and dancey-dancey I can't help but like it. "Unexpected Love" is a beautiful song that gives me warm and fuzzy, lovey dovey feelings. A lot of her love songs are that way, and when she really gets going and belts out the lyrics, I get tingles. Like I said above, a powerhouse!

Speaking of women who can sing out, Ameriie (also Amerie, which gets you more results on Spotify). She hit the stage in the early 00s, as well, but I don't think I was aware of her at the time. I discovered her in an article I was reading earlier this year about Asian women singers (her mother is Korean and father American). Her single "Gotta Work" (2006) really gears me up to, well, work! There is so much energy here! (In the video, too.) It's incredibly motivating. Her most popular song on Spotify is "1 Thing," a fun and funky track that she sings in a higher range. "I Just Died" is a softer song. I suggest just listening to her 2009 album In Love & War for a good groove. 

I swear, every song I hear from her sounds completely different. If I weren't looking at the screen confirming that they are all indeed by the same person, I never would guess it. I have no idea where I first got the song "Arithmetic," but it has been on my computer for years and been one of my favorites. I use it a lot for different characters I am writing. It's soft, pretty, and the lyrics feel heartfelt. Much more recently, I was introduced to the song "Something in the Water" (I forget how). I learned it was by Brooke Fraser, and it actually took me a while to connect the dots between these two songs. My mind went "Bwuh?" and I immediately looked her up on Spotify where I found "Magical Machine," which sounds absolutely nothing like the previous two songs. "Jack Kerouac" has a Caribbean beat. Her sound versatility quite blows me away, and I am loving every minute of it. Maybe there's something in New Zealand's water.

I discovered Christine Kane on a Putumayo CD of American folk music that we play at the bookstore, where we do not have Spotify. The song is "She Don't Like Roses." It's a song I can relate to on an emotional level if not literal (I like both roses and champagne), and the acoustic guitar pairs magically with Christine's ever-so-slightly rough voice and evocative - and sexy! - lyrics. Check out this first chorus:

And her bed is under her window,
And the sun's going down in the west.
And her voice whispers softly, "Go real slow."
And you watch the rhythm of her breath.

Hot! The night progresses from there, if you know what I mean. Here is another part of the song that really gets me:

And if all your dreams come true,
Do your memories still end up haunting you?
Is there such a thing as really breaking through,
To another day and a brighter shade of blue?

"How to Be Real" is another song to listen to, as well as "Falling in Love With the Wind." Really, all of them, but you can start there.

I actually wrote about Angela last summer when I saw her perform live in the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room. She is based out of Metro Detroit, so I put her in the "local artist" category. Her fourth album Will was just released July 1st. Download the free track "Natural" on her site here. (You can listen to a lot of her songs there, as well, if you don't have Spotify.) I recently heard her perform "Vinyl Voodoo," another off the new album, and loved it, so I am excited to finally be able to listen to it repeatedly on Spotify. Angela's songs play on multiple playlists at work, not just mine (they were added from mine, though). Her music has a way of grabbing people and making them sing along. I often hear customers joining in after the second or third chorus, and I doubt it's because they've heard the songs before. "Life Is Gonna Be Great!" and "You Make Me Sing" are bright and bouncy (and often sung along to). Other songs are jazzy and moody. I don't think I've heard one yet that I haven't enjoyed.
When I first heard "Your Heart is as Black as Ice," I laughed. It's delightful and reminds me of more than one man from my past. The track that had played before it was "If the Stars Were Mine," a decidedly jazzier and happier track off the same album, My One and Only Thrill. "If I Tell You I Love You" is another fantastic song. Check these lyrics: 

There are so many things I could do, my love
To convince you my love is divine
There are so many words I could tell you
There are so many moments in time
But I say 'fore we go to the land down below
If I tell you I love you, I'm lying

Now that's what I call honesty. The song is so flirty and sexy and her voice sweet and seductive. But if she tells you she loves you... It doesn't matter. I love her! The story of how she got into making music is also interesting. (I'll let you look that up yourself.) 

Does anyone remember the song "I Kissed a Girl" from the mid-90s? No, not the club hit by Katy Perry. That was 2008. I'm talking about the 1995 shocker by Jill Sobule with Fabio in the video. (Girls kissing?? Sin!!) She also did the song "Supermodel" featured in the movie Clueless. I reconnected with Jill's music when I saw her album Pink Pearl (2000) at Best Buy and bought it without listening to it first. (That was a common thing to do back then.) It remains to this day one of my favorite albums. 

Each song tells a story, including one about a teacher who goes to prison for having sex with her thirteen year old student called "Mary Kay." (Ring a bell?) There is another called "Lucy at the Gym" about a woman who is probably anorexic. Jill has famously battled with anorexia and depression in her life and these themes appear frequently in her music. The opening song to Pink Pearl, "Rainy Day Parade" is about someone with depression "getting back on [her] medication." Another song lists various ways of committing suicide. Obviously, this struck a chord with me. Jill is also openly bisexual - listen for it in her songs - a quality that endears almost anyone to me. (Yup, I'm totally biased toward my peeps.) 

Some more tracks I've enjoyed are "Resistance Song" (1995) and "San Francisco" (2009). (California is another theme I enjoy after living there for 3 years. Jill has an album called California Years that is pure poetry.) I use her song "Rock Me to Sleep" for writing a lot of my characters, also. As a writer, I love stories, and I especially love songs that tell stories. Jill is more than a singer-songwriter, she's a storyteller and her stories are real.

If you want to check out more of my music reviews, click the tag What am I Listening to?