Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ghosts of Christmas past

Not sure why I feel like jotting some of this down, maybe because the holidays don't feel like they used to...

Before I went to school, and maybe even after in the early grades, choosing the toy to ask Santa to bring was a big deal. We usually got inspiration from the Sears Christmas catalog. I remember one year very much wanting a Thumbelina baby doll, and I did get it. There were usually not lots of toys, we might get some other nice things, but generally just the one special toy. It may be because we were not that well off, but I think it was less common to try to buy more toys in those days.Even the fabulous electric train set we got in early grade school was built up gradually over the years.

Economics also figured into maintaining the Santa myth. One year my sister and I had asked for some other kind of dolls, and we saw our mom making clothes for them before Christmas. She explained Santa was having a tough year and needed some help getting doll clothes. However, I remember one year we knew of a toy that was coming from her and not from Santa- she was making us teddy bears! She tried to not let us see them before Christmas, but Diane figured out where hers was, still unfinished, and got so excited she ran into a wall!

We did not grow out of our nosiness quickly. Packages under the tree were always picked up and shook to see what we could guess about them. One year we noticed we each had a small square box under the tree, It was after school time, we were old enough to look after ourselves, and our parents weren't home yet. We agreed to carefully unwrap them together for a sneak peek- they were they guitar straps we'd asked for! Then we even more carefully re-wrapped them so no one would know we had looked.

Christmas TV specials were important annual events to us. We never missed A Charlie Brown Christmas  and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I persisted in trying to see Rudolph every year well into adulthood because I identified with him- always felt like I didn't quite fit in. I probably started watching Miracle on 34th St as a young child too  This is not just my favorite holiday movie; it's my favorite movie period. "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to" There was no TCM or AMC then, I think I probably saw it on WGN- they showed many classic movies in those days.

In addition to sewing doll clothes and toys, my mother was into crafting ornaments. She made a whole set of clothespin people in different costumes like angels, witches and fairies. I hope those are still around somewhere.. She also made some stuffed felt ornaments with elaborate decorations; I do have a few of those.

When I was a teenager, she started making some really involved ornaments based on styrofoam balls and old Christmas cards. and showed us how, so I made some along with her and continued making them, sometimes for gifts, as a young adult. First we covered the ball with foil. Then we glued a kind of collage of small things taken from the cards, and we had to peel these from their backing so they could be glued on to the round surface. Next came the pantyhose layer! Old hose were treated with gold spray paint,  then stretched over our creations and pinned in place.The pins had to be lined up so we could cover them next with a fat velvet ribbon. The ribbon was glued and also pinned, but these pins went through tiny pearl beads at regular intervals, A smaller piece of ribbon was pinned in a bow on top to make a loop to hang it. Finally gold ric rac or braid was glued on either side of the ribbon.  I am trying to remember how we had time to do all this! Perhaps because we did not yet have social media or smartphones. there was more free time for crafts.

Despite her love of crafts, my mom was not that enthusiastic about actually setting up the tree. I always loved it though, and took the job over at some point. I even went in my own direction with felt one year and made a tree topper that looked like our cat, Muffin.

Muffin thoroughly enjoyed Christmas and would usually "help" decorate the tree. Besides the expected ornament bashing, he was a champion package molester. His favorite was gold elastic string that he could snap and make noise. He still had fun when we humans finally got to the official unwrapping- then he could attack the crumpled paper and sit in the boxes. There were probably more chances to beg or steal delicious food, too.

Once my dad became head of the Foreign Language Department at Hinsdale Central, we also had an annual holiday party for all the teachers in it and their guests. These were kind of posh affairs with me and Diane acting as servers of sorts. I think the guests brought all sorts of beverages, mostly alcoholic, and we did the food. A few menu items I recall were Cassoulet and Coq au Vin. I also got to assist with some incredibly putzy canapes, they involved bread cut-outs and flavored cream cheeses piped out of a tube. but I liked them well enough to make a batch of my own for a New Years party when I was old enough to be going out.

These parties were also the likely reason for my mother's numerous Buche de Noel experiments. We really did get tired of it after a while, but only a few years later, you would have found me doing the same to get Black Forest Cake just the way I wanted it!

So there are potentially 4 recipes I could edit into this post, might have to see if I can get at the Coq au Vin on the very old recipe cd my dad made.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Buyer Beware of Outdoor Concerts in Chicago

Especially Lollapalooza... This should have been a post about an epic return to the festival for Muse. Their 2011 gig at Lolla was on fire, and it was clear they enjoyed being there. So I was really looking forward to this despite my difficulties with the heat in 2011. I had a more sensible plan to stay cool & hydrated and settle for a spot where I could see reasonably well, but not on the barrier like I do for arena gigs.
Linda Zehr's photo from Lolla 2011

I had a feeling this would be out of the ordinary, but I had no idea how. A Tarot reading in advance of the gig warned about deceit, with the trickster symbol of the coyote. Another omen may have been our delayed start ... but we had the moon above and it started well enough.
travelling with Crystal and Janelle again
And it's true there is way less traffic at night, we got through construction zones easily that I imagine were major headaches during the day. However, the wildlife apparently also thinks it's easier, about half way on our journey we hit a coyote! Yep, same animal as the Tarot cards showed. Luckily the car seemed to be OK after a quick check, so we carried on. More road construction added a detour to our route, so I texted my sister, who lives conveniently near Grant Park, that we'd be way past her bedtime. And it ended up being about 2 am by the time the doorman let me in to her high rise! I got a free sofa bed at her place, Crystal & Janelle had a gorgeous room at the Congress Hotel a few blocks away.

Since I didn't plan to queue, I caught up on sleep a little. I didn't really need to be in the park until Temples started, one of the few bands I cared to see other than Muse. There was a chance of storms in the forecast, and it was cloudy off and on, but nothing threatening for most of the afternoon.  I did the silly selfie at Buckingham Fountain thing.

 First I located my friends on the barrier at the Grant Park Stage. I could see the taller members of the group, but it was already too crowded to get near enough to say hi. I considered trying for some Lolla swag early, but the line into the air conditioned shop was horrendous. Next I took note of where the porta potties were located! Then I noticed my phone had far less charge than I expected; I must not have plugged it in right the night before. So I spent some time at the State Farm free charging station, and enjoyed a nice slab of Connie's deep dish. At $5 it was also one of the more reasonably priced food choices.

I got back to the Grant Park Stage in time, our road playlist had included a lot of Temples, so  I was more interested than ever in seeing them live. They delivered- excellent musicianship and an understated & quirky, yet still sexy stage presence.

I was in front of the sound booth, but not super close, so I tried shooting the big screen too. It sprinkled lightly during this performance, but not even enough to get me to break out the poncho.

I had no use for Liam Gallagher who was up next on this stage; I heard later he had a tantrum and left after 3 songs! On my way to the facilities, I ran into Mandy, my original guide to queuing for Muse in Chicago. We agreed to try to meet up for Cage the Elephant later, the last band before Muse.  

 So I spent the in between time resting in the shade, getting water and food, including this $8 hot dog! It was good, and a fine example of a Chicago style hot dog, but not really worth the price.

I knew I would not want to line up for more food later, so I coughed up $3 for a Clif bar too. That's at least  a dollar more than I'd pay at my co-op. In case you are wondering, we are not allowed to bring in our own food unless you have a doctor's note that it's medically necessary.

The crowd for Cage the Elephant grew rapidly. I tried to stake out a space with my towel & texted Mandy, but soon people were trampling it. I ended up getting pushed behind the sound booth in order to have a little breathing space. Mandy couldn't get near me either. I could not see the stage there anyway, only the screens, which they chose to do in b & w. 

It was a high energy, emotional set, not hard to see why there was such a huge crowd. You might not be able to see in my shots that Matt Schulz started in a purple sequined dress! Crystal got one of the best photos of the whole day of this! 
Crystal's photo of Matt Schulz of Cage the Elephant

The dress came off later, but the short shorts and fishnets stayed πŸ˜„

I made one more dash to the facilities to get back to try for a decent spot for Muse. Much of the crowd had cleared out, allowing the Rock & Recycle people to pick up their cans. This time I was able to get the side of the sound booth so I could see the stage and have something to lean on. But it filled in pretty quickly after that, so Mandy went for the other side and I didn't get to see her again 😞

At dusk , Muse finally took the stage with the new single Dig Down. I was ready to rock! 

visuals at the beginning of Dig Down 
Matt Bellamy's blinky glasses from the big screen
I am not sure if it started raining again during Dig Down or Psycho. I heard people yelling "Ponchos" and it did finally rain hard enough that I put mine on, but I was still jumping up and down and screaming "Aye Sir!" at the appropriate moments of Psycho. The folks in the sound booth lowered protective flaps, but the show went on. 
rocking out in the rain

Matt on the big screen

Next came Hysteria with its epic bass line.
Dom, Matt & Chris

It continued raining steadily & we saw some lightning in the distance to the south, but I did not feel it was nearby or severe, and as a tornado survivor, I am usually skittish about that  I got one last shot of Matt on the big screen, then the show abruptly stopped after Hysteria.

Matt came to the microphone briefly to say they had been told to leave the stage and didn't know why, and they hoped to be back. He looked baffled. After all, they have played in much worse weather, here's how they handled it in France in 2010.

My heart sank when I next saw the signs to evacuate the park, at best it would be a hassle to get back in. Then we got the word the performances would not resume πŸ’” so both Muse and Lorde fans did not get what they came for.  I later saw comments that you should not get a festival ticket for one particular band, but if so, why even have headliners? If we are only there to have some kind of live music while consuming overpriced food and beverages and seeing people in ridiculous outfits, why not use some cheaper local bands? No, they know people come for the headliners, but they did not care enough about fans of non-American bands to bother resuming, because the rain had completely stopped by the time I reached the gate. 😠 My sister told me the same thing happened when she went to see Don Henley. City officials are too scared of weather related lawsuits. Lollapalooza knew they didn't have to give us refunds, and we were unlikely to buy more $8 hot dogs if they let us back in, so why should they care? I did later try asking for a refund anyway, just so they would know how furious I am.

We got 2 tweets from Matt on our way out :

Gutted. City/police made us leave the stage tonight 3 songs in at . Due to weather/lightning. Nightmare!

Crowd awesome, we'll be back, hope lolla book us next year to make up.

Of course I'll want to see them if they are there next year. It might be my only opportunity for a while. They have a few more US shows in September of this year, but that's a very busy time at my job so I did not try to get tickets to any of those. Lolla was supposed to cap off my summer. I am still furious at the authorities who made these poor decisions 10 days later.  If I do return next year, I will be sure to spend as little money as possible to avoid further enriching these greedy jerks.

I'll admit this is a first world problem, and there are far worse things happening in the world. In fact, I am going to a protest tonight. However,  Muse lyrics and music fuel my activism; part of the reason I love them so much is that we share political values. This is my profile picture on most social media platforms.
carrying Matt's lyrics at the Women's March

So I am not sure what to hope for now. If Muse returns to Lolla in 2018 I hope they take steps to make sure we don't get cheated again, whether that is a clause in their contract, or a good-sized aftershow location booked just in case.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Red Hot Muse, Red Hot Musers

sweaty Dom, Matt in red hot skinny jeans, and the always hot hunk Chris

The closest Muse gigs for me on this 2017 tour turned out to be in what I consider the South; Kansas City and St, Louis.  Being perpetually broke, I at first only had a ticket for St. Louis, chosen because it at least had a general admission pit and KC did not. I also have plans to see them at Lollapalooza, but St, Louis looked like my best chance at a barrier spot.  I figured I might have to ride along to KC with no ticket to be able to share a ride to St. Louis, and this became a more interesting prospect when I heard the Westboro Baptist Church might be there to entertain me! However, Stephanie saved me from potentially getting in their faces by selling me her ticket that she could not use.

My fellow road warriors this time were Crystal & Janelle. Crystal graciously let me stay over the night before the long drive to KC-I had wanted to meet her pets for a while anyway. 😊 Muse chose to stream their gig in Austin that night, so we were able to watch with the sound on good speakers and get extra excited for what was to come. We ended up waiting for some storms to blow through the next morning, but were soon on our way in Crystal's very up to date Kia Soul that could simultaneously tell us where to go, play her excellent Spotify list, give message alerts, and offer to find gas stations when the fuel was low. 

We arrived the night before the KC gig and had dinner with an old friend of Crystal's. Then we had the whole day for Muser shenanigans. Since the Starlight Theatre in KC has only seats, there was no reason to queue. Soon we had a message to meet the rest of our gang at a downtown Starbucks. I think it had been 2 years since I saw Cath, and also my first time meeting several other Musers, so I am glad we had this time to hang out. I got an iced mocha, and once we had all arrived, we decided to do some sight seeing/hoping to run into Muse and/or 30 Seconds to Mars who are on tour with them. We sort of lucked out right away, crossing paths with Shannon Leto on his way to Starbucks! We kept on though, even though one of our bunch, Kayla, had an official meet & greet later, and downtown KC is rather pretty, and we rested in the shade when necessary. Here is a pretty hotel we just happened to walk by. πŸ˜‰

Heidi wisely organised some group photos while we were out and about.


P.F. Chang's was nearby, handled our large group well, and in my mind was just the thing to be eating for a late lunch/early supper on a hot summer day.

Then we headed to the venue,  I was shocked to find security would not allow my Lumix in, luckily Crystal and Janelle had run back to the car already for sun screen, so I was able to put mine away, and warn them. So we took steps to make sure Crystal's camera got in by deploying "female supplies" as camouflage! πŸ˜„ While in line for merch, we got the excellent news that Kayla could take Crystal in to the meet & greet! It was finally her turn to meet the guys! Later we found that Muse posted it Snapchat too.

I had a very good seat, dead center, front row of the plaza level, so I could see the stage well enough, but my phone was not up to the task of getting good pics from that distance. Muse began with the new single Dig Down, which of course sounds even more awesome live when you can feel the bass & drums.

Sometimes it worked better to look at the screen though. At least everyone around me was on their feet and rocking out too, though security continued to be annoying, trying to prevent people from trading seats. I also noticed other people with better cameras than mine walking in plain sight, so they were not even consistently strict.

Getting the wide view of Tom Kirk's amazing visuals was some compensation,too.

However, I'm very glad Crystal got some better shots!

Matt came out in the crowd to sing Starlight, but his path did not bring him near me unfortunately. I did manage to grab one of the red streamers during Mercy for a souvenir. Even not being at the front, this felt like a good high energy show.

Some of our group were not going on to St. Louis, so more shenanigans and refuelling our bodies was the next order of business. Catherine has been to the US many times before, but is continually astounded at some of our food habits. πŸ˜€ Kayla caught this moment:

Group shot of our hot, tired, but still amped up selves!

Then it was time for an insane overnight push to St, Louis. I begged off driving due to mistrusting my night vision on unfamiliar roads, but tried to be conversational to make it easier for Janelle. We arrived at the Hollywood Casino shortly after dawn, and thought we could perhaps stash our bags somewhere that would not be blistering hot until actual check in time at 4 pm. However, the wonderful woman at the front desk said we could have our room right away if it was ready, and likely in part because it was a Tuesday, it was! So we decided to cat nap before queuing. I also inquired further into the possible usefulness of the hotel shuttle to the amphitheatre which had its own private entrance. We also heard LiveNation was selling fast lane upgrades for $5. 

While we were snoozing, the heat index got up to 100. Janelle was ready to go to the queue first, so I went with to see if I could scope out the private entrance deal. It was indeed closer to the barrier and on Matt's side, too. I thought one of us should try it to see it would be an advantage, and since I don't do well with heat lately, figured I should be the one to risk it. I took the car back, and soon Crystal was ready and took the car to the amphitheatre, I got cleaned up and attempted to eat an early supper, but the gigantic Southwest salad would have been too much even if I wasn't stressing about the barrier. I kind of missed being with everyone, but I heard later someone else had passed out and cracked her head open 😬That could have been me, so just as well. The shuttle worked pretty slick and I was with a small group of other people who had chosen this option, many did it to avoid parking & traffic hassles later on. There were also about 60 people with VIP passes lined up and I knew they would go in ahead of us. Security was much better here, they wanded and inspected bags ahead of time. I also heard my friends in the queue were given cold water and access to bathrooms; a vast improvement over many concert venues I've been to. So entry went smoothly and I power walked to Matt's side of the barrier.  The rest of the group had made it before me, but there was still room on the left, kind of where I wanted to be anyway as it might make it easier to hold the spot. Melodie soon joined me; we were both looking like red hot mamas! Mel had the foresight to bring a cooling towel and a small cooler full of ice cubes and she shared, so I have nicknamed her Our Lady of Mercy of the Ice Cubes! I also got my t-shirt wet and had it around my neck until the sun set.

There was no fuss about my camera this time, but I took very few of Paris and 30STM mostly to conserve energy. I enjoyed both bands, and no one can accuse Jared Leto of being boring! Unfortunately , the one shot I got while he still had the nightgown on didn't come out, so he looks relatively normal here- don't be deceived! 😁

Jared has a great voice and pretty blue eyes, too, but nothing to compare to Matt in my book, even when he's hiding those pretty eyes behind blinky glasses. So a much better view for Dig Down for me this night.

It was also nice to be close enough to attempt close ups.

And at times I had a good view of Dom, too. 

Chris came over to the left side once in a while, this is probably during Hysteria.

I always say I don't care about the set list; I want to hear whatever the guys feel energised about performing. Still , it was nice that they chose to rotate in Map of the Problematique and Bliss for Resistance and Plug In Baby. I would not want to have to choose any one of those over another though.

Dom likes to keep us riled up during Isolated System.

A good view of Matt's sparkly shoes. Jared Leto has a similar pair, so we think they went shopping together!

The Wolstenbeast

More fun with special glasses for Madness.

And about here, I lose track of what song goes with the photo. But you can see Mat is getting hot & sweaty too. 😊

Matt went into the crowd for Starlight again, and again I was not on his path. I had to use maximum zoom to get this. 


I noticed something missing a couple days after I originally posted this- Morgan! I truly could not see him at either gig, but I heard him. He makes the live show possible, especially times like this when Matt is concentrating on singing.

And here I lose track of the songs again; between photos I was also busy jumping, fist pumping and singing along.

But when you see the confetti, you know it's Mercy!

 The Globalist

The next 4 are probably all Uprising, I chose not to try to take pics during Knights of Cydonia.

I was ready with another pair of socks for Matt though I wasn't really hoping for another hug. The stairs didn't line up right and I was all gross and sweaty anyway. I hoped he might see them and pick them up though. I landed a solid throw after Knights ended, but alas, he didn't see them. We then started going after picks, and some of the crew helped us out. Then I saw the missed socks and got them back to maybe try another day, but Kayla pointed out Oli was still around. So I got over to him and asked if he could get them to Matt as a late birthday present. He said he would make sure of it, with a huge grin, so I am confident they were delivered. πŸ˜€  

Here's what we heard, but the set list is truly only a fraction of the experience.

Hydration was critical after this gig, Melodie actually left our barrier spot to sit down after a while , but she also had a better view of Chris from that spot! πŸ˜‰ So I popped for an expensive bottle of cold water and sucked it right down. Kayla had a slightly different method!

We were in no shape for any more shenanigans after this. Kayla and Catherine had originally planned to drive right back to KC, but wisely crashed in our room for a few hours instead (even though I now know I snore "like a freight train" I hope they got some rest) .

Crystal, Janelle and I slept  a bit later, but made check out time at 11 am. I finally did some driving on the long stretch back to Rochester, it was fine weather though and we made good time, so I was able to hop in my car and get home to my cats the same night .  As I unloaded my laundry, I was horrified to discover my Psycho shirt was missing. That was the one I had dunked in ice water, then I hung it in the closet to dry and forgot it at the hotel! However, the consistently helpful Hollywood Casino staff found it and have shipped it back to me. Phew! That was the shirt I was wearing the time I did get a hug from Matt, can't believe I was that careless with it, sure sign of some heat exhaustion!

A little of the loot I collected in the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre.

So 2 great shows, and good times with old friends and new friends. Can't wait for Lollapalooza in August, I doubt if I can handle barrier there, but will get as close as I can for Muse!