I saw Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field and all I got was some guy’s sweat on my arm.

Prologue

I wrote and rewrote this recap of the Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley, and I couldn’t get it right. It was boring, it was a play-by-play of the night, it didn’t have the spark and sass I needed it to have. And then I read a few YouTube comments (always a great idea), yelling on the internet about who “real” Pearl Jam fans are, and if you’re not a “real” fan, you need to be escorted out because you don’t deserve to be there. These comments are few and far between, but they’re there. A pet peeve of mine is the silly demarcation people make up between “real” fans and “fake” fans. This applies to sports, this applies to bands. I intend to write a whole post later about it.

For now though, I wanted to write this from the view of someone who is experiencing Pearl Jam live for, essentially, the first time. And not only did I experience Pearl Jam live for the first time, I did it at a show that the band put together for the loyal fans, the ones who have all the B-sides, the ones that have been members of the Ten Club since its inception, the ones that know every word to every song on every album, even the ones they don’t like that much. That’s a special experience, and it’s hard to write about. I can’t write about it from a long-time fan perspective, I can’t write about it as a knowledgeable fan — I can only write about it as someone who’s been converted.

So keep in mind that I’m not thumbing my nose at all PJ fans. Just the 3 who are yelling dumb things on the Internet. They’re probably not even real fans. (I’m kidding. Kind of. No, I’m kidding.)

Dear Pearl Jam fans,

I know, I know, I’m super lucky to have been at Wrigley Field on July 19, 2013. Yes, for some of you, I probably didn’t “deserve” to be there because I didn’t know more than half the songs they played that night. Yes, I should have been singing my guts out to “Release” just like everyone else, but I didn’t know the words, you guys, and I wasn’t about to start mouthing “watermelon, cantelope” to look like I was. Instead, I closed my eyes and took it in. And it was exciting and emotional and urgent.

So, please, forgive me. I’m not even a “fake” fan who only knows the songs from Ten. I grew up in a shitty little town, and our only radio stations were NPR, country and some station called “Magic.” They played “Last Kiss” 800 times a day, and that’s all I knew of Pearl Jam until I watched Singles. And then I was like, “Pearl Jam? LOVED those guys in Singles!” I said it as a joke, of course, but I enjoyed them, and I loved the song “State of Love and Trust.” And, in the movie, I thought they watched that bee program with an intensity that was convincing and hilarious, and that was cool. I’ve never pretended to be a “real” fan or a die-hard fan, and I’ve never pretended that I’ve been there since the beginning.

My boyfriend, however, is legit. He’s the real deal: the ultimate die-hard, card-carrying Ten Club member, who’s loved Pearl Jam since they were birthed into the world. He owns all the bootlegs (official and unofficial), all the concert t-shirts, all the albums, all the stuff. Every copy of Deep that’s been made since we moved in together is stashed with our literary journals. He describes Pearl Jam shows as his religious experience. He almost didn’t want to take me with him to this concert because he didn’t want me to see him losing his shit for Pearl Jam.

So listen, y’all. I KNOW. I’m lucky.

You should also know that, even for a fan who only knows a few songs from the Pearl Jam catalogue, they put on an epic fucking show. No, I didn’t shit my pants when they played “Bugs” because theyneverplaythatsonglive. I *did* pee a little from excitement, though, because Eddie Vedder was playing a goddamn accordion. And “Bugs” is a weird song, you guys. Let’s be real. Doesn’t mean it’s not good, but it’s a little kooky.

Mike McCready — a fucking rock star. He guitar soloed the shit out of his guitar solos. Played behind the head, upside down, sideways, what-have-you — amazing. I don’t have to be a “real” Pearl Jam fan to know that Mike McCready is one of the greats. Everything he did on stage that night blew my mind.

Yes, they played new stuff from their upcoming album, and it sounded good to me. It sounded raw, like they’re going back to the basics. But what do I know. I don’t even know all the songs from Ten.

One of the highlights for me was hearing them play “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.” Yes, I know this song from Singles, but that doesn’t make my love for it any less. And yes, I know about Mother Love Bone. This song is aching and gorgeous, and so tremendous live.

So even for me, a newbie Pearl Jam fan, it was worth it to be on my feet for a million hours, sweating to death and crammed in like sweaty, quickly-spoiling sardines in the bowels of Wrigley for a 3-hour rain delay. I’m sorry I had to sit every now and then for the epic set and epic encore that followed, but even the dudes who were the most into it had to sit and take a load off every few songs.

Every Pearl Jam fan I brushed sweaty arms with in that concourse during the delay was wonderful. Y’all were polite and good-humored about our situation. Only once did two big drunk dudes try to duke it out in our section of the sardine can, and it was quickly ended by a seven-foot-tall bearded lumberjack stepping between them and shouting to both parties, “Walk away. Get out of here.” After the delay, from what I could see when we all went back onto the field to our seats, not one person had left. Those are some loyal fans. Most of the people around me knew all the words to every well-known song and every obscure song, and they sang their hearts out, and it was awesome.

And here’s another thing: Pearl Jam put together that setlist as a present for the loyal fans. The ones who know that this song is a B-side on this record. The ones who know that PJ never plays this song live or in its entirety. That’s love. That’s real love. That’s a special thing to experience, and I get why you might be protective of it. I felt like I was in a room where everyone was sharing secrets with each other.

I had “Even Flow” stuck in my head for a week after the show. I’ve listened to Pearl Jam almost every day since. Next time, I’ll be singing my heart out with all of you.

xoxo,
R

The setlist: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/pearl-jam/2013/wrigley-field-chicago-il-3bc6acbc.html

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Last week’s Link-a-palooza, a few days late

Oh gosh. There are so many things to rail about today (the Voting Rights Act, SCOTUS generally) and so many things to celebrate (Wendy Davis, DOMA’s defeat). I’ll get to that in future posts once I have a chance to dial down the excitement/rage and write coherently.

And so, I realize that my Link-a-palooza for last week is a little late, but last week was an intellectual wringer for me. My mind is full of stuff about PRISM, privacy, protest. And then it’s full of things about Ag Gag laws and the treatment of the animals that I eat and what kinds of responsibilities I have to the universe and to feeling creatures as a person who eats food. And it’s full of breakthrough moments about who I am as a writer, my voice, who I’m trying to be and who I don’t have to be.

There’s a lot going on in my brain. I will probably write some things about it. That will come later. When the world becomes overwhelming to me, I tend to retreat. I absorb in isolation and then come back out with my ‘guns blazing,’ so to speak.

For now, here’s a round-up of what I was paying attention to last week (aside from everything else).

Two Videos and One Thought-Provoking Read

Bitchy Resting Face
For serious, “bitchy resting face” is what I privately called my default face until this video made it public. Yes, y’all. This is real, and I’m not going to change my face and walk around with a gigantic creepy smile instead. Deal with it.

Russell Brand Destroys MSNBC Talk Show Host for Treating Him Like Shit
I don’t know enough about Russell Brand to be a fan of him or not, but this is pretty fantastic. It gets uncomfortable reeeeeeeal quick, and I’m okay with that. In my limited experience with morning talk shows, it seems like many hosts really don’t have their shit together. Maybe they haven’t had enough coffee yet? Or is our society too used to passive-aggressive and/or indirect confrontation? It is startling to be confronted directly and to be called out on your bullshit, for sure, and I’m glad Russell Brand creates these moments of friction for the hosts and for the viewers.

VICE Magazine got all Necrophilic on Female Writer Suicides
This…okay. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure you can find it on the interwebz somewhere. Everything surrounding this VICE spread is gross.  The glamorization of suicide, of the deaths of female writers, that it’s a fashion spread.  And I’m tired of the non-apologies. The “sorry-I’m-not-sorry-you-can’t-understand-my-art” and “sorry-if-you-felt-like-this-was-offensive-and-hurtful” apologies.

Your Long(ish) Reads

Why is Contemporary American Poetry so Good?
I’m also really tired of the sentiment that poetry is “dead” or that poets only write for other poets or that poetry has no relevance in contemporary times. I’m tired of the idea that poetry as an art is impenetrable intellectually or emotionally, and that poetry is inaccessible. Poetry is alive and well, and the good shit is for the people, by the people, and it’s an act of revolution. This article is a good starting place in learning why poetry is not “dead” or “bad.”

A Closed Letter to Myself About Thievery, Heckling and Rape Jokes
This will probably happen at least once a week, but I haven’t read this all the way through yet. But I am 99% sure that it will be worth your time. (Last week’s Paisley Rekdal article, “Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry,” was definitely worth it.) Patton Oswalt is becoming a hero to me.

Well, this edition of Link-a-palooza felt a little rant-y, but I didn’t go too far (I hope). Read the stuff, watch the vids. I’m at work on compiling good resources for getting informed on all the rigamarole going on this week. Happy reading! Also, happy thinking!

Saturday Link-a-palooza

I present to you my favorite articles and interviews from the week. Check these out as you drink your morning coffee or do whatever you do when you read stuff.

Your Fun Reads

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me About Sara, Crazy Kid Drummer?
Now you know.

Behind Kanye’s Mask
Okay, so the Kanye thing is worth a read. There’s no denying that he’s talented and, like it or not, he’s a big deal in the music world. I wouldn’t say he’s the “nucleus” of culture, but he would disagree. I don’t know who’s buying into Kanye’s hype anymore, but the New York Times seems to be into it a little. Kanye says some genuinely interesting things and some genuinely inspired things — and then he undercuts it with a little bit (a lot) of narcissism and some (a lot of) statements that require a re-read, a pause and then “What does that even mean?” Read it.

And then read this: 14 Life Lessons from an Awesomely Batshit Interview with Kanye West

Dave Eggers “Anoints” the Next Literary Stars
Listen, guys. Sally Mao. She’s terrific. I’m sure the others on the list are too, but Sally is extra fabulous.

Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction
I mean, yeah. Basically.

Your Long(ish) Reads

Print ‘em out, set ‘em up on your tablets or your e-readers or what-have-you, and spend an afternoon reading these.

The Public Life of Poetry: An Interview with Natasha Trethewey
Jennifer Chang, one of my favorite poets and people, interviews poet laureate Natsha Trethewey. It’s a great and infinitely intelligent discussion, and no summary I write will do it justice. Just trust me and read this.

Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry
I’ll be honest with you — I haven’t read this one yet. It’s printed out and I’m ready to read it with my morning cup o’ coffee. But I’m certain this will be great because it’s written by Paisley Rekdal, and so, it goes into my recommended long(ish) reads for the week.

Happy weekend, Internetz!

Comedians I Love: My Humble Recap of the Limestone Comedy Festival

I’ve been processing the three days of awesomeness that was the Limestone Comedy Festival, and I still can’t get over how incredible it was to have so many hilarious and brilliant comedians in our tiny town of Bloomington, Indiana. This was my first time at a comedy festival, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I’ll break it down into my favorite moments.

Tig Notaro: The first time I saw Tig Notaro was when she opened for Sarah Silverman, and she was hilarious then. I remember the showering baby bit and, of course, “No moleste.” For this second show, I laughed so hard I cried. I love the absurd alternate realities she creates out of such small details in the ‘real’ world — creating an explanation for why her hair looks crazy when she wakes up (I won’t ruin the bit, but it has something to do with a horse). Her comedy takes small details or moments and magnifies them to absurdity, and she takes our metaphors and similes — our ways that try to describe the lived world — and creates a strange, literal world from them. Amazing.

Further reading/watching: Tig Notaro: You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry

Maria Bamford: This was my second time seeing Maria Bamford as well, and I just adore her, especially after listening to The JV Club episode that she is a guest on. Some people aren’t into her “voices and characters thing,” but listen.

Okay, so I had this whole thing about Maria Bamford’s voices and characters being vehicles for satire, but you know what? If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. You won’t change your mind because of anything I write about her. She’s fucking brilliant and hilarious and an amazing human and she brought it to the Limestone Festival. End of story.

Further reading/watching: Stand-Up Comedy and Mental Illness: A Conversation with Maria Bamford

John Roy:  My dude said it best: “That was the tightest set I have ever seen. There weren’t as many people there as at other shows during the festival, but he performed as if the room were packed. He brought it.” Abso-fucking-lutely.

Further listening: The Official Site of the Comedian John Roy

Al Jackson: We went to the Friday night second show, and Al Jackson killed it. Here’s the thing about Al Jackson and John Roy — neither are afraid to bring race to the table, and that’s refreshing to hear, especially in Bloomington, a mostly-white town (I was one of maybe 3 or 4 ethnic people in the crowd that night). In fact, that was a thing that was so refreshing about the entire festival — that comics weren’t afraid to talk about race, and do it the right way and respectfully. During the taping of Pete Holmes’s You Made It Weird podcast, Pete wasn’t afraid to take the conversation to asking about ‘black’ crowds and Al wasn’t afraid to explain. It was a rare space where true dialogue about race happened. In my experience anyway. Maybe I’ve been living in the Midwest too long; that’s entirely a possibility.

Further listening/watching: Al Jackson at the South Beach Comedy Festival

And feel like you were there: listen to You Made it Weird, live from Bloomington.

I’m in that extra malleable, super clappy audience. The crowd was a little too applause-y for my sensibilities, but it was so much fun to be there. Totally worth skipping out on the last couple hours of my work day.

My other favorites:

  • Jackie Kashian! Agh, Jackie Kashian, how could I forget her? She seemed to be trying out new jokes on our crowd, and she crammed them full of literary references. My favorite reference: Allen Ginsberg. Oh man, how could I have forgotten that? She’s awesome. I’ve also just discovered her podcast, The Dork Forest.

  • Watching “Breaking Away” with Doug Benson, Jackie Kashian, Graham Elwood and Geoff Tate for The Benson Interruption. “Breaking Away” is a terrible movie, but it was fun to see bits of Bloomington as it lived in the ‘70s. And, of course, the comedians. I can’t emphasize enough how bad the movie is. So bad it “cycles” (see what I did there?) into Good and then dives repeatedly back into the Bad pool.

I’m terrible at conclusions. So I’ll end by saying, thanks, Limestone Comedy Festival. It was your first year and you rocked it like it was your 10th. I’ll see you next year.

An accidental book “review”

Prophet Volume 1: RemissionBy accidental, I mean that I intended to just say that this book was weird but I still liked it. And then the following happened.

Prophet Volume 1: Remission by Brandon Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not even sure I can give this stars because it defies a starred rating system. What I do know: it’s post-apocalyptic but completely and absolutely removed from the world we know. The world is strange and disorienting and unfamiliar, and we spend the entirety of this volume knowing as much as John Prophet, who wakes up at the beginning of the novel and follows a voice or urge within himself on a journey through this desolate and shit-filled landscape (literally). Everything he sees for the first time, we see for the first time as well. At least once per chapter, I found myself audibly saying, “WHAT?” or “What the hell is THAT?” or “What the hell is going ON?” I’m still not sure I know 100% of what’s happening here, but I’m okay with that.

What I love about this as well is the full realization of this wholly strange and new world. The world feels ancient and futuristic at the same time, and I sense that the author has completely imagined the history of and a future for this universe. In my version of the book, there are artist sketches at the back of some of the different creatures and structures that appear throughout the book, and some have parts that are labeled. I love to observe artistic process, and it looks like some of these completely unfamiliar structures and creatures are comprised of very familiar pieces. I appreciate that the artist took such familiar things (such as Pomeranians) and transformed them into unrecognizable creations of this other world.

Even if the post-apocalypse/graphic novels/sci-fi/completely bizarre isn’t for you, at least give this one a shot. It’s weird, but I kind of love it.

View all my reviews

Introductions

I had this dream last night about returning to my elementary school. There was a little boy standing on the roof and everyone was trying to get him to come down. I thought he was so young to be on the edge like that, and then I went inside the school. For some reason, I wasn’t worried about the boy — I knew he would come down soon. The principal turned out to be a guy I grew up with, who, in real life, was always a little mean to me. Sometimes he was nice, but most times he laced the niceness with meanness. So he was the principal and we greeted each other like old friends. I asked him if I could take the boy on the roof out to dinner once they had convinced him to come down, and my apparent old friend, the principal, said, of course! He thought it was a great idea.

There are other parts of this dream, like my gym teacher telling me I was his best PE student ever. In real life, there is no way this could be literally true. I disliked gym so much that even in junior high, at the age where every little thing that happens to you is humiliating, I was willing to risk that embarrassment by letting my male gym teacher know I was “on my period.” In those words.

My point is that I rarely remember my dreams. When I do, I take it as a sign that I’m going in the right direction, that I am doing something right. I haven’t entirely parsed out what each part of my dream might mean. Maybe that little boy is my writing life. Maybe my old friend the principal embodies my relationship to my weird childhood: once contentious, now like an old and dear friend. Maybe the gym teacher… I don’t know what he symbolizes. Maybe he’s just a gym teacher.

And so, here I am.

Some things to know about me: I grew up in rural Nevada with an entomologist father and a mysteriously green-thumbed agronomist mother from the Philippines. I’m the oldest of the kids in my family, and I’m also the only girl. When I was small, I wished fervently for Barbies and instead got ant farms and chemistry sets from my botanist grandmother (I am incredibly thankful now for both). I watched Power Rangers too much and staged fights in the backyard with my brothers. My first black eye was given to me by my youngest brother, who was a toddler at the time. We’re very close today.

Now, I live in the Midwest. I miss mountains and the desert intensely, but I’m trying to love this skyline, too. I write poems. Poems remain the best way for me to express my inexpressible things. I read my ass off — blogs, novels, short story collections, poetry, YA fiction, graphic novels, sports writing, memoirs, whatever. I’ll read it all. I watch television more than I should, but there’s so much good stuff out there that deserves attention and discussion (and just as much bad). Some favorites: Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, The Vampire Diaries (I ain’t ashamed!), Grey’s Anatomy.

I will also say that I have been so, so inspired by Janet Varney’s podcast, The JV Club. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve listened to her podcast and nearly wept because she and her guest are discussing something I thought had only happened to me. Unpacking the stuff of growing up is so important and so…okay. Putting words to those weird and formative experiences is absolutely necessary. Looking back helps me see The Now more clearly, and that helps me go in new directions, move forward with life and who I choose to be.

So, there it is. I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a long time, and the time feels right. So, here I am. And whatever happens, happens.