Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sweet Lou, Don Mattingly, Mike "Pagalulu"... and my Mom

My mom was a rabid New York Yankees fan. She embraced the team wholeheartedly when she moved to the US with my dad from Korea in 1963.

Forget that she barely knew English.
Forget that she barely knew baseball.

Her new father in law (my Grandpa) was the biggest Yankees fan on the planet (or at least, Edgewater, New Jersey). He found a willing recruit in the petite woman his son brought home as a bonus from a stint serving with the Army in Seoul. Forget that her husband was a Dodgers fan (Brooklyn, then Los Angeles). My mom saw the Yankees pinstripes and was hooked from day one.

As her command of the English language grew, so did her knowledge of baseball and her love of the Yanks. Her favorite players were Lou Piniella (as a player, then later as manager- we used to take "Sunday drives" past his house), Don Mattingly (I gave her a Cabbage Patch doll dressed in Yankee pinstripes for Mother's Day one year. She named him "Donny Jr." and held him at every game she watched. I inherited "Donny Jr." when she died), and, as she called him, Mike “Pagalulu”.

I have to insert a confession here. I, too, am a Yankees fan. I’m not as rabid as my mother and there were times I didn’t know the entire starting lineup (let’s just say my brain was a little addled at times, with help from foreign substances). My favorites (Bucky Dent, Rick Cerone <-circa 1970's) were not the same as hers. And although I was very familiar with Donnie Baseball and Sweet Lou, my unfamiliarity with a certain other player leads to the story that is being recorded here for posterity.

The year: 1985. A friend set me up on a blind date with this guy I had admired from afar. His name was Will and he was a surfer. Okay, he was really a waiter (but he surfed on the weekends). He was tall, sandy hair, nice build. (Ladies, you get the picture). Very athletic and into sports. So was I. Except… my sports knowledge lay with the New York Giants at the time, not the New York Yankees. Still, I decided to “borrow” from my mom’s expert ramblings in an attempt to match his enthusiasm for the Bronx Bombers.

Things got off to a good start. I knew enough about Sweet Lou and Don Mattingly to keep the conversation going. Then, I got a little cocky.

Me: Oh yeah, and let’s not forget third base. Mike Pagalulu

Will: Who?

Me (coyly): You know. Mike Pagalulu

Will (scorn creeping into his voice): You must mean Mike PAGLIARULO

Me (face burning beet red by now): Oh. Yes. Of course, that’s what I meant.

If I remember correctly, our date ended about 10 minutes later. That’s how long it took to get the check and leave the beachside cafĂ©. I remember it had been a balmy night and I was sure we would have walked on the beach after dinner, had things gone well. Not a word was spoken during the drive home. I didn’t even get the customary, “I’ll call you.” Wow. Who knew that Yankees fans could be so damn prickly?

The next day, my mom asked me how the date went. I told her it went fine, then paused, trying to figure out the best way to broach the topic of Mike “Pagalulu.” Finally, I just went for it.

Me: Mommy, I have to tell you something. You’ve been pronouncing a player’s name wrong.

Mom: What you talking about? What player? Who player?

Me: Mommy, the third base guy. His name is Mike PAGLIARULO, not PAGALULU.

Mom: That’s what I say. PAGALULU

Me: No, Mommy. Listen to me very carefully. pa-glee-ah-ROO'-low

Mom: That’s what I say. PAGALULU

Me: No, really. Listen: you’re saying: PAGA-LULU. It’s really: pa-glee-ah-ROO'-lowShe started to get annoyed.
Huffily she said, THAT’S what I SAY: PAGALULU

I gave up. “Okay, Mommy.” And I went to do the dishes.

As I worked, I thought about Will and how uptight he had become because I mispronounced a player’s name. I wondered what else would he get uptight about.

What Flag Day means to me

(Written on June 14, 2013)

When I see an American flag:
  • I remember military bases in Virginia, Texas, South Korea and (then) West Germany.
  • I remember my dad stopping the car at 5 (or 6)pm every evening if we were driving on post at Fort Belvoir so we could get out, stand at attention and listen to taps as the flag was lowered for the night. I remember the cannon boom that was the signal for us to get back in the car and continue driving.
  • I remember four years without my dad as he served two tours in Vietnam and I lived in Korea with my mom.
  • I remember 3 elementary schools in 4th grade, 3 junior high schools in 8th grade (in two countries) and my dad extending his tour of duty in Germany so I could graduate with my friends instead of finishing senior year at another stateside post with kids I wouldn’t know.
  • I remember friends following in their parents’ footsteps and enlisting in the military.
  • I remember visiting one friend at West Point several times, including a memorable weekend surrounding the Army-Navy football game.
  • I remember working at my first TV station when the first Gulf War broke out. I remember anchoring hourly cut-ins to update the war (even though I’m a producer). I remember editing video of US troops in Kuwait at sunrise, while a radio in the newsroom played the Oleta Adams song “Get Here” and realizing how fitting it was for the situation.
  • I remember singing the National Anthem at a UAH hockey game versus West Point the night the ground war broke out and having a near-capacity crowd at the VBCC sing along.
  • I remember writing stories about US troops losing limbs and lives.
  • I remember September 11, 2001
  • I remember working at my final TV station when the second Gulf War broke out.
  • I remember watching constant newsfeeds from CNN and NBC, along with everyone else in the newsroom.
  • I remember watching CNN even when I wasn’t working.
  • I remember watching an NBC reporter I’d worked with in Miami and was fortunate to have become friends with, report live for hours from onboard a tank as the US military crossed into Iraq.
  • I remember reading that my friend had died from blood clots formed from sitting in the same position for hours as he reported live for hours from onboard that tank.
  • I remember writing countless stories about countless casualties.
  • I remember our reporters placed in the difficult situation of trying to interview families of servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price for defending our country.
  • I remember days, weeks, months, years of coverage as the war dragged on and on in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • I remember “Mission Accomplished” - but not really.
  • I remember producing interview segments with servicemen and women who suffered physical, emotional and mental injuries as the result of numerous deployments and not enough support.
  • I remember producing interview segments with mothers who lost their sons in Iraq or because of it.
  • I remember producing an interview segment with a young soldier who worked through his own demons - and remember his lost brother by painting scenes that were both violent and beautiful.
  • I remember producing segments with organizations that work tirelessly to help give wounded warriors and their families the help and support they desperately need.
  • I remember my father’s veterans benefits shrinking as he struggles with health challenges after giving nearly three decades of his life to Uncle Sam.
  • I remember teenagers enlisting in the military, knowing yet not fully realizing the challenges they face in this changing world.

When I see the American flag flying from every federal and public building, and in many front yards, I remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating our Star Spangled Banner.

And I think, the words “THANK YOU” seem insignificant to express the gratitude for centuries of victories, sacrifice and loss that have gone into keeping Old Glory flying.


(written: May 5, 2007)


That’s what she wanted us to call her, no matter how old we got.
She was strict.  She was hard.  She was tough.  And dammit, did I love her!  I pushed all her buttons, and I know she pushed mine.  Criticized me, but praised me behind my back.   She didn’t want me to get big-headed, you see.

I triggered her temper on many occasions.  I seemed to have the knack for it.  “Who pissed Mommy off again?”  “Susan.”

I wanted her approval desperately.  I never knew that I’d already had it.

She hated heavy metal, but she came to see my first band.  We played originals and also covered Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Ozzy.  That night, I forgot the words and swore into the mic, “Shit, I forgot the words to this song.”  She didn’t leave.  After the show, she said, “I don’t know how you stand it!”  To her friends, she said, “My daughter sings in a band.”
I appeared in a video for a band called Raven.  I was in the crowd.  You could only see the back of my head and my arm.  I caught her pausing the video to show a friend.  “That’s my daughter’s head.”

I got a job as a secretary at CBS.  I got the chance to get her and her bowling team tickets to “The Price is Right.”  They got the royal tour. Mommy was treated like a queen.  Her friends told her, “Your daughter must have an important job at CBS.”  She said, “My daughter is very important.”

I got hooked on cocaine.  I lost my job, lost weight, lost hair.  I lived in an apartment without power for several months, ashamed to go home and show my family what I had become.  My father begged me to come home. I finally did.  My mother said, “What did I do wrong that my daughter is on drugs?”  She didn’t say, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I promised her that I would never do it again. That was almost 19 years ago and I haven’t touched the stuff.

I couldn’t hold down a job.  I had the reputation of staying for a year at a time, then getting bored and moving to another job.  My mother called me “Queen of the Part Time Jobs.”  But she didn’t kick me out of the house.

I moved to Alabama, got a job in TV news.  I got promoted, again and again.  One year stretched to two, three, five.  Mommy was proud. I was moving up at the TV station.  But she missed me, she said. “Come home.”  I said, “No, Mommy.  I found a job I really like.  I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I didn’t go home for Christmas.  I couldn’t afford it.

The next year, Mommy asked me to come home again.  “Mommy, I’m the 10pm producer now. I’m producing the main show.  I can’t come home.”  My older sister helped me fly home to surprise her for Thanksgiving.  I wondered why our dinner tasted so bland.  “Mommy can’t have salty foods,” said my sister.  “She’s sick.”  Mommy was happy to see me.  When I left to fly back to Alabama from New Jersey, she said, “I love you.”  She rarely said that.  When i would tell her, “I love you, Mommy,” she would say, “Me, too.”

I didn’t go home for Christmas.  I had to work.  January turned to February, March, April.  At the beginning of May, my father called.  “You mother needs a liver transplant.  We’re flying to Pittsburgh for the surgery.”  He put Mommy on the phone. “I love you and everything I ever did was to make you the best you can be.”  I shushed her. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk about that.  You focus on getting better. I love you, Mommy.”  “Me, too.”

But she didn’t get better.  She was sicker than we thought.  She couldn’t have the transplant.   Instead, on May 8, several days before Mother’s Day, our mother left us.  Our strong, tough mother couldn’t beat the illness that ravaged her.

Here’s where I’m a bad daughter. I can never remember whether the year was 1990 or 1991.  Did I have her a year less or a year more? It seems like yesterday.. and it feels like forever.

Dammit, how I miss you, Mommy.

The Unhappy Friend

I’ve been spending the morning thinking about situations and people, especially those who are not happy in their current situations.

I wish I had the courage to tell them that when they are unhappy, they make those around them unhappy as well.  But because we care about our unhappy friends, we try to coax them out of their unhappiness, which adds more stress all around. What makes this worse is that UF (Unhappy Friends) don’t realize this and continue to be unhappy.

I used to be that Unhappy Friend (and in some ways, I still am).

I wallowed in situations I felt I could not control or overcome. When friends suggested happy alternatives, I found explanations as to why those alternatives would not work/succeed. It finally took someone who didn’t know me very well to state rather baldly that I was a huge downer and poisoning my work environment because friends were too nice to tell me off and instead tiptoed around me, hoping they wouldn’t set me off.

Rude awakening? You betcha.
Time for self-reflection, STAT? Absolutely.

Do I still have unhappy moments? Without a doubt.  But now, I try to identify the source of my unhappiness and also try to think about how my mood will affect those around me. It doesn’t always work, and I don’t catch my unhappy mood in time to not affect my friends and loved ones. But I DO get there in the end, and also apologize to those around me for causing them discomfort.

The Unhappy Friend in your life may be unable to do that right now, because they’ve either been stuck in their unhappy situation for so long, they don’t know how to get out of it;
Or (Harsh Fact) - they may actually ENJOY being the center of negative attention and thrive on the fact that they can control their friends, co-workers, ______  (fill in the blank) through their unhappiness and negativity.

In which camp does YOUR Unhappy Friend fall?

More importantly, how much do you CARE about your Unhappy Friend to find out and help them find a way out of their situation?

The Real "F" Word

Four little letters.
One syllable.
For me, the “F” word is not “FUCK”.  It’s “FEAR.”
And I have been controlled by that word for far too many years.
When did it happen?  When did FEAR move into my heart and hold me hostage?

It wasn’t in my 20’s.
Then, I was FEARLESS.  I moved into New York City with a box of records, a 25lb bag of rice and a huge jar of kimchee.  I lived with a roommate who turned out to be kind of psychotic.  I made $250 a week (before taxes) and still had money to eat and go out on weekends. 

I rode the subway at 3am.  I walked many places I would cringe to pass in a taxi now. I wore sunglasses at night.  I got mugged twice. It didn’t make me scared. It made me mad enough to carry a can of Raid around.  I went to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, even Staten Island on my own.

I auditioned for bands.  I made friends with singers and ended up on stage, week after week. (One sweet man, Al, called me up on stage with him, 6 years after I left NYC and went back for a visit)  

New York City was a giant playground and I enjoyed every second of my time there; the good, the bad and the indifferent.

It wasn’t in my 30’s.
Alabama.  A change of scenery.  A return to sanity, so to speak.  I needed to clean up my act, but even that thought didn’t scare me. I called my best friend Pat (who saw me through so many drug-induced nights when I would call her at 3am and ramble for hours.  She even called in sick to work some days, because she had been on the phone with me).  Pat lived in Huntsville and said, “Come down.”

I researched Huntsville.  Rented an apartment and lined up an interview at a temp agency before I even left New Jersey.  I drove down, pulling my worldly belongings (2 boxes of records, 3 boxes of books, some clothes, a battered stereo, a 25lb bag of rice and a giant jar of kimchee) in a U-Haul trailer hitched to my 1978 Chrysler Cordoba.  My dad and my friend Claudia drove with me.

Once there, I set up- my apartment across from Pat’s.  I loved my one-bedroom apartment.  I experienced joy there. I nursed heartbreak.  I made a life-altering decision that I carry around with me still. But FEAR? FUGGEDABOUDIT.

Huntsville was a different playground, but once again, I climbed aboard for the ride.  Community theater, temp jobs, unusual boyfriends (one had another girlfriend on the side who started calling me at all hours of the night, high on cocaine.  I took her calls.  I remembered a time, not so long before that, when I was the rambling voice on the other end).  I broke up with Ryan, but remained friends with Tara until she vanished into a world of stripping and drugs.

I made friends with musicians. I ended up on stage, singing with some very fine people (Thank You, David, Antony and Andrew). I learned about tarot cards, crystals and Spirits That Should Not be Evoked.  I learned about Wicca, Paganism and the need to nourish the earth.  I started my TV news career.

Did FEAR appear then? Nope, the only “F” word for me then was still “FUCK”.  I carried it around every day in my car- a button dangling from the rear view mirror that read: “FUCK YOU VERY MUCH”.

I got pregnant.  Got married.  Got a job in Miami. Traded that one for a job in Seattle.  Moved to Seattle. Got promoted. Again, then again. Won my first Emmy award.  Won my second.  Successful, right? But…somewhere during what should have been a time for celebrating success, FEAR moved into my life

Now, I’m afraid all the time.  Afraid to go to work.  Afraid to show my feelings.  Afraid to speak out. Afraid to believe in my own talents.  Afraid to believe that should I fall, caring hands will catch me.

Each day, FEAR wakes me.  “Well, good morning, Su!  What can I make you fear today?”
Pat used to tell me that should a helicopter drop me in the wilderness somewhere, I would have a place to live, a job and daycare within three days.  She said she never doubted that I would land on my feet, no matter what Life threw at me.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I am a Military Brat

   I just read dozens of Veterans Day messages on my Facebook newsfeed, the majority from former classmates at Kaiserslautern American High School. They brought back memories of moving to new cities, states and countries; enrolling in new schools (sometimes 2 or 3 in the same year); making new friends; learning new customs; all the while, our fathers, mothers, or both parents doing their duty for Uncle Sam, in the US, South Korea, Germany, the list goes on.

   Sometimes, I dreaded starting a new school, especially mid-year, but deep down I knew that every student I would meet, was living the same lifestyle I was, which made it so much easier to make friends. Unfortunately, I lost touch with many cool kids when I moved away. I found it hard to write letters, although I tried very hard. They tried, too, but letters petered out and new friends took the place of old pals.

   Years have passed; decades, in fact. Then, Facebook comes along and suddenly, here are familiar names! I knew this person from Fort Belvoir, that one from Fort Bliss. Here are a number of people from K-Town, Sembach, Ramstein, even one from Bitburg. The next thing I know, we’re having yearly get-togethers in different cities, the most recent “reunion” taking place right here in Seattle. The years melt away. We may be older, wiser (or not so wiser), stressed, carefree, depressed, bubbly, busy with family or blissfully (or not so blissfully) unattached, but in many ways, we haven’t changed a bit. Age-old conversations pick up where they left off. New conversations spring up. Old flames reconnect. New flames ignite.

   My husband commented recently about the people he met at my recent reunion, who welcomed him as a member of the K-Town family right away and treated him as though they’d known him for years. This is not unusual. It’s the way we are, the way we grew up. We’re military brats. We’re used to making friends quickly. And now, thanks to social media and this wonderful thing called the internet, we don’t have to worry about losing touch ever again.


(I wrote this several years ago. Posting it here to keep it with my other posts. Sometimes, I still feel like this)

I must confess, I am struggling and have been struggling for a little while. I’ve been writing like a fiend to mask my inner turmoil, but that turmoil seems to be clamoring more and more for my attention.

I don’t need to talk about why I am struggling. I know everyone here has some issue that they are dealing with. I am certainly not unique in that respect. But, as I tell friends who are having troubles and feel guilty because there are other people who have worse troubles, we can only deal with our own shit. And make no mistake, our shit is very real, no matter how much worse someone else has it.

So… I’m struggling and I take my sister to an exhibit and special 35th Anniversary screening of the Bruce Lee movie “Enter the Dragon.” It’s an amazing night, peopled by Bruce Lee fans from all walks of life. Martial artists, collectors, former co-stars, his widow and daughter (who spoke so eloquently about Bruce as a man, a philosopher, an actor and a legend). Watching the movie on the big screen for the first time was pretty cool. Watching my sister take in the sights, meet the legendary Taky Kimura and relive the film on the big screen, was even more rewarding.

When we got home, I took several items that I wanted to keep out of my goodie bag and gave the rest to Kim to give her son Cody. Then I came in, chatted with my friend Tiara for a bit and went to bed feeling guilty that I made Tiara feel bad because I was feeling so down and she could not help me. Tiara is very caring and feels others’ pain very deeply. I tried to put it down to the fact that by that time (after midnight), I’d been up for 24 hours, with only a 45 minute nap in that time frame.

I had a troubled sleep, despite a comfy new mattress and woke feeling as gray as the sky outside. No energy. No interest in the Garden Tour I signed up for with my best friend Pat. Not even coffee could perk me up. To distract myself, I went through the items I had saved from my Bruce Lee goodie bag. One thing caught my eye. It was a key chain with a little strap. I took it out of the bag it was in and looked at it more closely. The words “WALK ON” were etched into the side. Then, I noticed the bag also contained a slip of paper with lots of writing on it. I took it out and saw that it was a story. Here’s what it said:

"The years between the Green Hornet and the Hong Kong films were often difficult for Bruce Lee. In Hollywood, he wasn’t getting offered the roles he felt he deserved, he struggled to support his family and he injured his back very seriously and was told that he would never be able to participate in martial arts again. He turned to many self-help books during this time for inspiration.

One day, he took hold of one of his own business cards and wrote the phrase “Walk On” on the back. He bought a special stand for this card and kept it on his desk as a constant reminder to keep moving forward. With this as his mantra, Bruce Lee worked himself into the best shape of his life, wrote volumes of notes on many subjects and ideas, and further developed and named his art of Jeet Kune Do. The rest is history. When life gives you obstacles, you must summon the courage and…


Now, I have to insert something here. Before I fell asleep, I asked for a sign that my life was worth living, my work worth doing, my writing worth continuing and sharing with the world. I woke up to find this note. Now, I’m trying to figure out if this is the “sign” I asked for.

I guess I shall start walking… and find out.

"Supermarket Karaoke" - a new game show!

I’ve found myself doing something a little strange lately, and I must admit, its improving the quality of my grocery shopping. I park in the parking lot, hit the Starbucks next door to arm myself with a latte containing lots of caffeine, grab a cart, buckle my purse in, and away I go!
It happens as soon as I aim my cart toward the produce aisle. The music piping in from the overhead speakers permeates my brain, which blurts out, “Hey, I know this song!” Brain communicates with mouth and soon I am singing along. By the time I hit the cereal aisle, I’ve crooned two and a half songs. (The other half of a song was ruined by announcements about fresh bread and a deli special.) On that song, I kept singing and as soon as the announcement finished, the song resumed at the precise point where I was. The more comfortable I became, the louder I sang. I even broke into harmony on several songs.

As I unpacked the groceries at home, an idea struck me. This would be a great game show! We’d call it Supermarket Karaoke. Contestants would win free products for every song they sang correctly. Extra points (or products) for those brave enough to harmonize. I think David Lee Roth would be a great host for this show. He’s already shot one music video inside a small grocery store. I can’t remember the name of the song but the video is very stark in my brain.

I was shopping the other day when the song, “What if God Was One of Us,” came on. I started singing along enthusiastically, when something odd happened. As I finished one line, another voice joined in! We sang in unison until the chorus, when I broke off into a harmony. As the chorus ended, I rounded the corner and came face to face with my duet partner, another middle-aged mom like me. We finished the song, gave each other a high-five and moved on.

Hmm. David Lee Roth, where are you?

How a pair of shoes gave me FREEDOM

My sister gave me the most awesome birthday gift: a pair of VANS sneakers. I have coveted these shoes since the new boy showed up in English class wearing a pair. He also wore ripped jeans, listened to punk music and was from Southern California.

Back then, in the stuffy classrooms of Kaiserslautern American High School in Germany, those shoes represented more than the hippest of “hip” in style. To this awkward girl raised by a strict Korean mother, they represented freedom; a type of freedom I dreamed about when closeted in my bedroom, listening to KISS and Judas Priest and Duran Duran.

I already knew about the skateboarding craze lighting up Southern California; knew about the tremendous feats of guys like Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta (Note: if you want to learn more, I highly suggest you check out the documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys” – very aptly put together by Peralta). I even dragged my friend Pat to see the cheesy movie “Skateboard” because, well, it featured the guys named above, plus it starred Leif Garrett (don’t ask). I learned how to skateboard. It wasn’t easy but boy was it fun (Hint: it’s all about balance). I learned about the punk rock movement; about bands like Black Flag, TSOL, X, the glorious Sex Pistols and PiL.

I moved to New York City at 19. Saw the movie “Surburbia” and longed to live like the homeless kids depicted in the movie, who squatted in abandoned homes and buildings by day and haunted the LA punk scene by night. I managed a little of that lifestyle when I lived in an abandoned apartment in Alphabet city for a few weeks with my friend Rebekah, who lost her apartment. We lived on free coffee and day old bagels that the guy who worked the counter at the Astor Place diner gave us. I eventually found other places to live, and Rebekah went back home to the Midwest.

I dove into the heavy metal scene and never looked back. Sang in bands. Went to see bands. Wrote about bands. Worked at record companies. I truly did live a life of freedom for several years, then moved on. Had to, really, but that’s another story.

I moved south and got myself a career and a family. We moved and moved again to further my career. Somewhere during that time, I grew up. Responsibilities and all that. You know how it goes.

Where I once reveled in a brush with homelessness, I now strove to make sure my son has a roof over his head and food in his stomach. Where I once reveled in a carefree lifestyle, I now stressed over quitting my job without a new one waiting in the wings. I stressed over budgets, groceries, gas, new glasses for Ian. I stressed more than smiled. Hid in the house, going out only when I needed to, to conserve gas.

My sister and I went out to lunch for my birthday, using a gift card I received from Schwartz Brothers Restaurants. Later that week, she called and excitedly urged me to come to her house so she could give me my birthday present, which had just arrived. When she called, I had been stressing about something (I don’t remember now) and didn’t want to leave the house, but I did. She made coffee and thrust a big gift bag into my lap. First, I opened two birthday cards (one funny, one heartfelt). Next, I opened the “smaller” gift – a beautiful book filled with the wisdom of Bruce Lee, accompanied by beautiful photos and artwork. Then, I pulled out a big, oblong box with the familiar “Vans” logo, and stopped. Not only had Kimberly gotten me Vans, she had gotten me special, limited edition “Iron Maiden” Vans. Slip ons, just like I’ve coveted for a long, long time.

I stripped off my socks and jammed my feet into the shoes. Immediately, the years melted away. I’ve worn my Vans grocery shopping. I’ve worn them to go pay bills. And even though my situation hasn’t changed (I still haven’t found a job; we still have budget issues), my problems don’t seem so insurmountable anymore. I know I’m smiling more. There’s definitely a spring in my step.

Today, while standing in line at Starbucks, a woman looked at my shoes and gasped, “Are those Iron Maiden Vans?”
“Yes. Yes they are!” I proudly replied.
“Where did you get them?” she demanded, keeping her eyes trained at my feet.
“My awesome sister got them for me for my birthday,” I answered.

The woman finally looked at me. She seemed to be my age and as our eyes met, I knew exactly what she was feeling. She was coveting my Vans… and dreaming of freedom.

Matching Purse and Shoes

I found a photo of me dressed smartly in a light green spring coat, ruffly white hat, white socks, black mary janes and matching purse. As you can see, I look ever so thrilled to be a pint-sized fashion plate. This photo was among several of me dressed quite fashionably - and looking quite dour.

My mother tried. Oh, how she tried! She could have turned the photos of me into catalogs advertising smart clothes for tots. But among the smartly-dressed photos, are other snapshots. One features me wearing a frilly dress, plopped down in the middle of a dirt pile, white hat askew, legs splayed, a joyous grin on my face. Another shows me in a matching coat and hat (winter white, with rosebud buttons (gag). In one photo, I’m standing stiffly. In the next, I’m crying, my mouth wide open in a howl of misery. And so on. And so on. You get the picture.

I don’t know how old I was when my mother finally gave up on me. The photos stop after I reached age 8 or 9, so maybe then. No… wait. I remember a photo of a 10 year old me, hair cut in a shag, wearing a purple mini dress dotted with orange, yellow and white geometric shapes. I have white patent leather shoes and a goofy smile, hiding my true thoughts (“Kill me, please!”).

The last time my mother bought me anything frilly, the year was 1988. I was going to my first Grammy Awards, representing our small jazz & classical record company (one of our artists, Louie Bellson, was up for an Grammy <which he=”” won=”“>). The Grammys were taking place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. My mom bought me this frothy concoction that fell to just below my knees. It was an irridescent green, sleeveless, v-neck, cinched waist, full, flowy skirt. I told her it didn’t fit and took it back to Macy’s to exchange it for a severe suit-dress. I convinced myself that it was more “practical” and that I could get several wears out of it. My mother was disappointed, but agreed that I had made a smarter choice.

The night of the Grammys, I never felt so underdressed. I spent the entire evening longing for that frothy green dress. I longed for that dress even more when I found myself sharing the red carpet with U2 to walk from Radio City to the Hilton Hotel for the afterparty.

Oh, I got several wears out of that suit-dress. In fact, I still have it packed away. But I still think of what might have happened had I let myself be more feminine, for just one night, and wonder, what would it take now, for me to trade my jeans and t-shirt for a frothy green dress

Who F*cked Up My Chocolate?!!?


   Just saying the word brings to mind stolen moments of bliss, sitting in a corner, in a car, in bed, savoring a truffle, a piece of fine dark chocolate, a Hershey bar. Just like there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s nothing you can do to ruin a fine bar of chocolate.

    Or at least that’s what I thought.
    Until last week.

    One of my good friends, knowing I was having a stressful week littered with mines called “deadlines,” dropped off several bars of chocolate to help fuel my brain and ease my consternation. Looking at the wrappers, I knew she had taken some time and care before making her selections. The bars were not cheap. They were also organic (although I’m not fussy). They were waiting for me when I staggered back to my desk following back-to-back meetings about topics I know nothing about and care about even less. I spotted the bars on my desk and alighted on the first one, clutching it in my desperate hand. Doing a quick sweep of the room to make sure no one had seen the confection on my desk, I opened my drawer and swept the other two out of sight. Then, leaning back in my ergonomic office chair, I unwrapped the bar in my hand and took a huge bite.

   And promptly spit it out.

   Simply put, it was AWFUL. I smoothed the wrapper out to see what this chocolate was made of. The label read: 85% cacao (okay, it’s really really dark. I can live with that). The label continued: Contains: chunks of crystallized ginger.


   Crystallized ginger??? Why, in name of all that is sacred in the world, would anyone put crystallized ginger in chocolate? I grabbed my cup of 6 hour old coffee and chugged, trying to get the taste of said ginger out of my mouth. I loathe ginger on principal. The fact that it somehow sneaked into my mouth via an innocent piece of chocolate makes it more vile.
   Looking for respite, now, I yanked open the drawer and pulled out the other two bars. One was milk chocolate with chai. Chai. That’s Middle Eastern tea. Hmm…. I eyed the chocolate. 
Dare I try it? I finally decided to give it a go, thinking it couldn’t be any worse than the dark chocolate with ginger.

   It was just as bad.

   After washing my mouth out with even more 6 hour old coffee, I threw the two opened bars of chocolate away and placed the third bar on a table we affectionately call “Ingestation.” It was formally known as the “trough”. Any food that gets placed there disappears within moments. Picture a cloud of locusts descending upon crops and decimating said crops in mere seconds. You get the idea.

   A week has passed. That chocolate bar is still sitting at the Ingestation.  

   Seems even broadcast engineers with cast-iron stomachs steer clear of chocolate with questionable things added to it. Or maybe we’re just not sophisticated enough to enjoy it.

  Eh. I don’t even want to find out.

  Just pass me the Snickers and shut up.

Confessions of a Java Hussy

    I’m having an affair and I don’t feel one bit guilty. Actually, if I’m truly honest with myself, I’m having several affairs. At the same time. I know! I live dangerously!

    There’s the Colombian. Ah… what a way to wake up. He’s rich, smooth and knows just how to get my brain cells going. I need the Colombian before I hit the shower. Buenos Dias, indeed!

    At lunch, I have a quickie with the Frenchie. My friends say Frenchie comes on too strong, but I like strong! Sometimes, I only have ten minutes for Frenchie, but boy does he make those ten minutes count—and sends me off with a buzz to beat the band!

    Before dinner, I might take a nip from the Indonesian. Ooh, spicy and light. Five minutes with the Indonesian and I’m perky and ready for any dinner conversation.

    After dinner, though, it’s always the Italian. He’s from Verona and knows how to get right into my veins. And stay there. The Italian makes me forget about dessert— because he is the dessert.

    I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “You brazen hussy!” (or maybe words to that effect) Go ahead, point your finger at me and hiss. I don’t feel ashamed. I even flaunt my love affairs in front of my husband. He doesn’t even notice. Well, once, he said, “What’s that smell?”

    I played dumb, mostly because I couldn’t tell if it was the Frenchie or the Indonesian. I’d had both by that time and both were affecting me, although their aromas had blended together into one heady scent.

    I’ve pretty much kept to those four for awhile now. Until today, when I came face to face with the Cajun. Hmmm…. I grabbed other items then circled back for another look. The Cajun looked strong. Nice lines. Bold, hard to ignore. I try to walk away but swing my cart around again. The Cajun stood his ground. Was he taunting me? Obviously, this Cajun doesn’t know me very well. I push my cart right up to him and say, “Jump in, baby, let’s go!” The Cajun topples on top of the yogurt and Pop Tarts. Oh, he’s a player, this one.

    I got him home and went in for the kill, can opener in hand. As soon as I heard him sigh, I knew he’d become part of my java harem. There’s just one question. Where does he fit… and how? Time to reshuffle the lineup…

Metallica, Maiden and the making of MotleySu

First, the Metallica: I met their original record company honcho at a flea market in New Jersey in 1984. He ran his label at the flea market! He gave me their “Kill ‘Em All” album, which I played on a heavy metal radio show at the time. He started giving me more albums and I started learning about more metal bands that were trying to break through during that time, including: Anthrax, Raven, TT Quick, Manowar and Venom. I played them all. Met Metallica a few times and have a poster signed by them. They called me “Su-No-E.” Others picked it up for a while, but a party in 1985 cemented “MotleySu” as my permanent nickname. My friend Brian continued to call me “Su-No-E” for years, though, and a small part of me misses that.

Next, the Maiden: My friend Mary, who worked with me as receptionists at PolyGram Records, got us tickets for a week of Iron Maiden concerts at Radio City Music Hall. Queensryche opened. We had the most amazing time! We got to go backstage a few times and meet the guys in Maiden. The nicest guys: drummer Nicko McBrain and bassist Steve Harris. I’ve loved the band since ’85 and have seen them in concert a number of times; most recently in 2008 at White River Amphitheater in Auburn, Washington. This band has only gotten better with time.

The making of MotleySu is a little more detailed. I didn’t discover metal until 7th grade, when I heard the album KISS Alive II. I LOVED IT. I went to see KISS in concert that year. I told my mom I was spending the night with my friend Janice and her dad drove us to the Capital Center to see the concert. A-MA-ZING. That was the same year that I saw a picture of Steven Tyler on the cover of the rock magazine CREEM and realized that he looked a lot different from Leif Garrett, whose posters papered my walls. I think that was when I truly realized that there was a monumental difference between “boys” and “men.”

I moved to Germany in 8th grade, but it wasn’t until high school that I discovered even more great hard rock/heavy metal music to like. AC/DC’s “High Voltage.” Judas Priest’s “British Steel.” Van Halen’s “Women and Children First.” I loved it all and made room for them in my collection alongside my mainstay KISS. The music set the soundtrack for my high school years. It consoled me through heartbreak and tragedy. It buoyed me through success and accomplishment. It brought new friends into my sphere. During junior year, I was introduced to punk, via the California band “Black Flag.” They and singer Henry Rollins remain a favorite to this day.

I still live my life with a soundtrack running through my head. I look forward to sharing that soundtrack with you. In turn, maybe you’ll share yours with me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Longing for Sweet Harmony... again

The past few weeks have plunged me back to the 60's and 70's, music-wise. Folks like Jackson Browne, James Taylor, CSN, Neil Young (solo & with CSN), Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, Janis Ian, the Eagles, etc. etc. (Okay, I've sprinkled in some Ben Taylor, Marcus Eaton and James Morrison for good measure, but I think you're getting the drift).

These artists all have one thing in common: they write and perform songs that invite harmonization. They also bring back some wonderful memories of days gone by - spent onstage at one club or another, lending my voice in a backup role, making up harmonies where there were none or adding another layer to the voices already there. As I sing along to my aptly named "SING TO ME" playlist, the songs have the power to transport me back: to New York City where I joined talented performers like Wendy Wall, Al Rosa, Greg Aulden, and The Shane Gang (Shane Hue, Racine Romaguera, Benny Landa, Joe Glennon); to Huntsville, Alabama, where I joined talented performers like David Anderson, Antony & Andrew Sharpe, Linda Wood, and various musical theatre companies, as well as the University of Alabama, Huntsville choir, where I sang second soprano or first tenor parts (and served as the school's "official" anthem singer for 2 years).

(with Rocky, left & Al, right - at The Back Fence, 1986 - I think)

Singing takes me to a very happy place. Even songs that pierce right to the soul, crush my heart and take my breath away manage to fill me with joy at the same time, especially if the singers' voices mesh so perfectly, it almost feels as though I'm intruding on something extremely intimate just by listening. (If you've heard Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Brown's live duet of "My Opening Farewell," you know EXACTLY what I mean. If you haven't heard it, click the video below. Go ahead. I'll wait.)

When I lived in Huntsville, my voice had that type of relationship with Andrew Sharp. Notice I said my voice. He was and continues to be a very nice guy - we were friends, but nothing more. There were songs we'd sing and at the end, look at each other and actually let out blissful sighs. I loved singing with David Anderson because he's so damn talented, he'd follow me or I'd follow him. Either way, each song I sang with him felt like a lovely musical journey. Every so often, I sang backup on a couple of songs. Once, I somehow ended up singing lead on a cool version of "Atlantic City," with David on backgrounds (we even recorded a version. The tape broke, so I no longer have it). I didn't mind singing lead, but I preferred to sing backup and harmonies. I especially loved singing harmony for a song he wrote called "Every Moment In Between." So poignant. SO, so poignant. I don't know whether he still performs it, but I've been working with a friend here to record a version just to have it. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, yet hopeful at the same time.

Since I moved to the Seattle area in 1995, there haven't been many chances to sing. I had a wonderful time performing with co-workers in the KING 5 band for about a decade, but it was frustrating to practice for months, only to perform once a year. 

(with the KING 5 Band, 2004 - I think)

The bulk of my musical fixes come from anthem performances at various sporting events. I enjoy singing the American and Canadian anthems (sorry, I sing them very straightforward - you won't hear any vocal acrobatics here.) 

(Performing the US anthem at a Seattle Thunderbirds game, 2011)

(Another T-Birds game - 20010, I think)

(Performing at a Seattle Mariners game, May 9, 2012)

(Canadian anthem at an Everett Aquasox game - 2011, I think)

(American anthem at Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships, 2012)

However, I miss getting out to open mic nights, lending harmonies to singers, accompanied only by a guitar or piano. Or a full band, like the fun times we had at The Bitter End with Shane, Racine, Benny, and Joe (otherwise known as "The Shane Gang").Those guys taught me to appreciate Bob Dylan and John Prine (Shane had a wonderful smoky voice - imagine Tom Waits with fewer marbles in his mouth and slightly higher pitched tone). 

I'm rambling now, because it's late, I've had a LOOONG day and I'm entangled in memories of wonderful times; memories I want wrap around me like a security blanket or a rocking chair that will lull me gently to dreamland and beautifully sweet harmonies. 

I only wish I could find opportunities to create more sweet harmonies when I awake.