Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Baby!



I pulled off yet another Christmas! Gifts, decorations, good food. I even managed to look OK for church on Christmas Eve. I'm tired and am treating myself to a hot bath. Right now. Enjoy a little Bruce while I soak. See ya on the flip side!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Album Cover Ideas

Since I wrote about what I don't like for the cover of Taylor Hicks new CD, I thought I'd share some ideas that I DO like.

I posted these last April, so if you've seen them before, I apologize. I'm very big on recycling!

These first few are derivative of classic album covers:

Inspired by Led Zepplin's untitled fourth album:


Inspired by Michael Jackson's "Thriller":


But perhaps Taylor should be thinking of making a more obvious attempt to reach fans of genres other than soul. A few examples:


In that vein, maybe a "Duets" album, like the ones Frank Sinatra recorded? Taylor could really grab the youth with some well planned collaborations:


But, I suppose knowing Taylor as we do, he'll always return to the sound that sparked his passion for music: soul. Pop music may dominate the charts, but I believe there's a market for soul music as well. One very successful musician in particular has had a lot of luck with a distinctive look that just may work for Taylor as well. He might want to consider it:








Then again, I could be wrong.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sinead O'Connor - You Do Something To Me (Red Hot + Blue)

This song has been swirling around in my head all day. It's a sweet old song, given a cool 45 degree turn with Sinead O'Connor's voice. Love it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bruce Springsteen- "I'm On Fire"

Here's a performance where the song is taken to another level by a bit of acting. It's often said that making the switch from emotive singer to actor isn't such a stretch because the greats are already acting when they show us what the lyrics make them feel.

Taylor Hicks seems interested in acting in the future. But, Taylor, before you take on a dramatic role, I want to see you act this song. (In my opinion, the sexiest song ever written in the history of music.) Though, I'm afraid if you acted as though you were quietly and desperately "on fire," the audience would spontaneously combust.

Do it anyway. I'm willing to risk it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Somehow" Rewrite

Yesterday I offered up a new verse to “Somehow” for Taylor Hicks. The song kept running through my head though, so I decided to wrangle my muse before she got away. (She can be a little bitch that way.) The result is an entirely new, updated version of “Somehow” to reflect Taylor’s career today. An homage, as it were.

I respectfully present, “Somehow 2008”. Feel free to sing along:

There’s too many fans
Who want to touch my hair
Some hide in a dark hole
And jump out of nowhere

But I’m all right
I’ll run by
Somehow

You wanna sneak out for pizza
Sometimes even catch a band
But they're spotting me round every turn
The hat’s not working, man!
Need some disguiiiiiise
Then I’ll slip by
Somehow

Look at the cameras all around you
Blindin' with their flash-yeah!
But you still smile in kindness
Cuz they might wind up on Splash

When the touring has ended
And you’ve lit up the towns
And there's no space at home
As you go lay their gift baskets down

They want to feel you in person
Sometimes even hold your hand
But you give ‘em nothing in return
Cuz they’re scary, man!
And they’re wiiiiiired
Drunk and or high
Sometimes

Look at the women around you
Staring at your jeans-yeah!
But you still smile though frightened
Hoping security’s on the scene

And the concert has ended
As you sing the last encore
And it’s time to go home
But they tackle you by the back door!

*Saxophone solo*

There’s too many things
Left for me to sign
Some want a weekly blog
And shots of my behind
But the pay’s all right
So I’ll oblige
Somehow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A&M Campus Visit



A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took our son, Jamie, to visit the A&M campus at College Station. It's about a two hour drive from our house.

Upon arrival, I felt excited and nostalgic for my college days back at SUNY at Geneseo. We were signed up for an application workshop, so we followed our map to the designated building and settled into our seats in one of the lecture halls.

"Howdy!" a member of the faculty announced from the stage.

"Howdy," the group replied.

"Aww, you can do better than that! HOWDY!!"

Greg, Jamie and I hunkered down in our seats while the rest of the folks in attendance (most of whom were wearing the school colors) yelled back, "HOWDY!"

That is the official A&M greeting, we were told. If that makes you feel a little nauseous, it's just the tip of the A&M iceberg that we collided with during our visit.

The workshop was very informative and Jamie asked a few well thought-out questions. We left feeling satisfied that we understood the application process. There was a walking tour scheduled in about 30 minutes, so we set out to find it.

Our visit coincided with a football game, so as we walked we saw people setting up for tailgate parties and mingling about, laughing with friends. School colors were in abundance:



We hooked up with our tour guide and the other forty or so people who would be walking with us:

.

The crowd quieted as our leader took her place in front of us.

"HOWDY!!" she boomed. Jamie rolled his eyes.

We were given a brief history of the early years at A&M and then suddenly she whooped or growled or some such thing. She explained that this was the Wildcat yell. You can see how well that went over:

And then our tour began. As we walked, she explained the stories behind the monuments and statues we passed. Aggies have an endless supply of traditions...

"HOWDY!!"
Oops, sorry! We were interrupted by some members of the Corp giving us the traditional *sigh* A&M greeting. Those people in our group sporting the colors gave a hearty "Howdy!" right back.
Our tour ended in front of the huge football stadium that sits right in the middle of campus.


I had to stand on Greg's shoulders to get this shot (har har!):


We happened to arrive as the football players were getting off the bus to enter the locker room. All the players were dressed in matching suits.


A fairly large crowd was already beginning to gather on campus even though the game was still about 2 1/2 hours away from starting.


My feeling of excitement and nostalgia by now had given way to annoyance. I was sick of maroon and I was afraid Jamie might punch someone in the nose if he heard another "Howdy!" We decided we had seen enough.

The truth is that Jamie still wants to apply to A&M and we want him to. It's a good school and we realize we just overdosed on school spirit. But I'm tellin' ya, if he's accepted, it's going to be a loooong four years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coldplay- "Yellow"

I can't sit still when I hear this song:



Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah, they were all yellow

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

So then I took my turn
Oh what a thing to have done
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah, your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
You know, you know I love you so
You know I love you so

I swam across
I jumped across for you
Oh what a thing to do

Cos you were all yellow
I drew a line
I drew a line for you
Oh what a thing to do
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
And you know for you
I'd bleed myself dry for you
I'd bleed myself dry

It's true, look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And all the things that you do

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kathy Griffin in Concert

Saturday night I went to the Kathy Griffin show in Houston. I'm a big fan and apparently so are a lot of people in the area. They had to add a third show last weekend because the demand for tickets was so great.

I took a friend of mine to the show instead of my husband so that...well, so I could enjoy it! If it's not a sporting event, it won't hold his interest.

So I picked up Sue and we made it downtown without any problems. Unfortunately, minutes before the show was to start we were stuck in a snarl of traffic right outside the theater. We finally made it into the underground lot, but continued to sit in this slow-moving line of cars as it wound around, underneath the theater district.

By the time we found an empty parking spot and took the elevator up to street level, we had no idea where we were in the city. A woman who had been in the elevator with us was also going to Kathy's show, so we all figured it out together.

When we finally entered the Verizon Wireless Theater, we could already hear Kathy's voice followed by an explosion of laughter. (damn!) We found our seats in the dark and settled in. I have no idea how much of the show we missed, but luckily for us, she ran long on purpose.

She said at one point that Tom (her road manager) was signaling her to wrap it up. She turned towards the wings and said to him, "I'm gonna keep going." And then in an uncharacteristically demure way added, "They...love me." She entertained us for another 20-30 minutes!

The show was great. Kathy's charm is that she talks to the audience as if we're old friends. It's as if she's our own personal correspondent, sent out to mingle with celebrities, so that she can report back to us all of the gory details.

At times she drops her voice, as if she's sharing a secret with us and once she said, "This doesn't leave this theater, OK?" And I'd love to tell you what she said next, but I promised her I wouldn't. (hee hee)

When we reluctantly had to leave (because she had said her goodbyes, the lights were up and it was over, darn it!) it was 9:20. Her next show was starting at 10:00. Crazy! What a crazy schedule. I told Sue before the show that I wanted to go to the stage door afterwards to get an autograph, but we decided that Kathy probably wasn't coming out since she had another show starting soon.

I'd really like to go again when I can see her show from start to finish, but we did get to enjoy her stand-up for about an hour. By the way, she's really cute. She has that flaming red hair and a tight little body. Adorable. Well, adorable until she opens her mouth! Here, have a listen (explicit content! you've been warned!):

I didn't take this video, but it is from the show I went to. I'm having a problem uploading my video, but a small portion of mine follows this one. This clip is very short but visually, it's better than mine.



video by wxshamrock


video
sucky video by Caryl

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jamie, The Football Player?



My son, Jamie (#25), is an excellent soccer player. He's been playing since he was five. About six weeks ago, while I was saying goodnight to him, he turned the knob on his bedroom door, looked back at me, said, "Oh, by the way, I'm on the varsity football team," and went into his room.

What? What did he say?

Turns out the football team needed a kicker because their usual guy was injured. They tapped into the soccer team, looking for someone with a "strong foot." (Note: I am COMPLETELY ignorant about all sports. Yes, I've been on the sidelines of Jamie's soccer games since he was five, but I still don't know what's going on. I'll be quoting other people a lot in this blog entry.)

Jamie has been "taking the kick for the extra point" since then. (Yes! I'm that bad- I didn't know what that meant until Jamie started doing it. What happens is this: When Jamie's team scores a touchdown, he puts on his helmet and runs onto the field. Some guy passes the ball to another guy who holds the ball for Jamie so he can attempt to kick it through those big posts in order to score one more point. Jamie then leaves the field. Isn't my ignorance adorable? I'm smiling and winking at you right now in an attempt to win you over. Kinda like Sarah Palin.)

Jamie taking the kick for the extra point:



Last Friday was an important game. If Jamie's team, Elkins, won, they would go on to the playoffs. If they lost, the season was over for them. Much to my dismay (because it makes me nervous), they used Jamie in the game more than ever. I don't know why, don't ask me. He kicked for the extra point (we know what that means now) AND took the kick-off:



Later on in the game, when Elkins was down, they had Jamie try some special kicking-offing-thingee that he's never done before- not even in practice!! What the heck?!! My husband, Greg tells me he did well, even though it didn't have the exact outcome they were hoping for.

I just looked it up. Here's what they wanted Jamie to do (in the last game of the season, with absolutely no experience doing it!!)

"The Onside Kick

A kicking team can attempt an onside kick. The ball must travel ten yards from the spot of kick, before the kicking team can recover it. Therefore, a kicker can try to kick the ball in such a way that it pops up, giving his unit a chance to recover it. The success rate of these are very low, and it tends to be a desperation move."

Hey, look! I have video of Jamie:
video



Despite Jamie's best efforts to help the team, they lost. I'm told they should have won because they were the better team. The mood as we all left the stadium was somber.

When Jamie came home that night, he was obviously moved by his brief experience on a football team. He told me he had never seen such dedication before in his life. He was impressed by the rituals, the traditions and the devotion the players had to the game.

"I saw kids at practice who I've passed in the halls at school and wrote off as losers, work their asses off in hopes of getting a scholarship in order to lift themselves up out of poverty," he told me.

That's SO Jamie. He gets on the football team in his senior year in their last six weeks of the season as a lark and winds up having a profound experience. That means more to me than all the times they announced his name for making the extra point. (Though that was pretty awesome!)

If Henry Could Speak


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Recap

This is a quickee recap for my family who thinks I have no life because I have no job outside my home.

Friday night Chris (everyone remembers Chris! http://a-caryling.blogspot.com/2008/11/chris.html) picked up me and Greg and took us to eat at Candelari's. We had a nice dinner of pizza and salad and then headed over to Jamie's football game:


(This is a High School football stadium, you guys! They are serious about football in Texas.)

At the game, we sat with Chris and Barb (who showed up late with their daughter) and two other couples. People are still asking me why they never see my column in the paper anymore. I'm a local celebrity (*cough*).

So you can see that Friday night Caryl interacted with a lot of people who enjoy her company. (Remember I'm writing this for my family who live 1500 miles away and think I have no friends.)

Saturday we left the house at 6:30am and took Jamie to tour A&M University at College Station:



We left campus around 12:30 and during the drive home, passed a huge warehouse fire in Houston:


I later heard this mentioned on CNN.

That night I went to see Kathy Griffin perform in downtown Houston:



I went with Sue because Greg probably would have been such a downer, he would have bummed out Kathy herself. Instead, he spent the evening with Joe watching some football game on TV. Got back to Joe and Sue's around 10:00 pm, had a beer, returned home.

Today was spent dealing with the usual migraine I get after I've been busy. (FYI: I'm seeing a new neurologist and we're going to get these puppies under control.)

I'll write about each event in greater detail tomorrow, family, because I know you're curious. The rest of you will have to wait until Tuesday for a blog entry that interests you! (And I'll write it as soon as I figure out what that is.)

Peace.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Taylor Tuesday- On The Radio

While I don't consider Taylor Hicks to be an unsuccessful musician, that is the perception many people have simply because they aren't hearing him on the radio. I'm OK with someone who says they've lost track of him, but I won't allow anyone to say that he's dropped out of sight because he lacks talent.

The music is good. I know it is. I'm not hanging around just because Taylor can be adorable in interviews or because he takes a nice picture. The guy knows music. He can write it, play it, sing it, arrange it, conduct it when it's live and mix it when it's recorded. He creates a quality product.

But in order to sell this particular product you've got to have radio play. Here in Texas, I've occasionally heard "Do I Make You Proud," but I've never heard any other Taylor Hicks song on the radio.

Out of curiousity, I contacted all of the DJs in my area who work at stations with the right format for Taylor's music and asked them why I've never heard this AI winner on their airwaves.

Now, I'm not an idiot (not completely, anyway). I believe payola is alive and well and living in a gaudy mansion in L.A., but I sent out my naive-sounding e-mails anyway just to see what the DJs would say. Most ignored me or wrote a quick note to say that they played DIMYP, but here is one response I received:

I do remember hearing about Taylor having problems with the record company. He wanted to do things his way and didn't want any record company input.

If a record company doesn't believe in an album they are not going to throw their money behind it. So it would not surprise me if there was a bigger record company push with Daughtry.

The artist and the record company both have to be on the same page for any chance of success. Without record company money the artist can't succeed... and without artist appeal the record company cannot succeed.

And then I read that Daughtry was very cooperative with the record company:

From http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20047251,00.html:

Ironically, the best model for how to play nice with Clive might be the guy who's made the most of his rebel persona. Daughtry's success as a public badass and private compromiser may provide a template for future Idols: Save the glowering for the stage, not the conference room.



I don't begrudge Daughtry his success. He's good at producing music that appeals to the masses and I'm fine with that. Really. But just because another guy (Taylor) wants something more meaningful than that doesn't mean he's a failure.

Here's hoping the next CD gets radio play. But if it doesn't, I'll remind myself that there's a very ugly side to this music biz and that it doesn't always reward the best and the brightest. Maybe knowing that Taylor reaches some of us out there in the darkness will have to be enough.

PAYOLA BLUES
by Neil Young

This one's for you Al Freed,
Wherever you go, whatever you do
'Cause the things they're doing today
Will make a saint out of you
Payola blues.
I've got the payola blues
Even though I already paid my dues.

Listen to me Mr. D.J.,
hear what I've got to say
If a man is making music,
they ought to let his record play.
Payola blues
No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

Well, here's three thousand,
that ought to get it on.
Well, thanks a lot man!
I love your new song.
Payola blues
No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

And it goes like this.

I got a brand new record company,
new manager too.
Got a great new record,
I can't get through to you.
Payola blues
No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

How about this new Mercedes Benz,
that ought to get it on.
Well, thanks a lot man!
I'll play it all day long.
Payola blues
No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

I've got the payola blues, payola blues
I'm paying those payola blues
No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

FYI: Just to be clear, I have no idea if payola was involved where Taylor is concerned.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

He Dissed My Blog! :)

We were having a perfectly lovely time at my son's high school football game when I decided to check out the concession stand. I got myself a little bag o' chips and returned to the bleachers, ready to continue our lovely time.

As I approached, my husband and our friend, Chris stood up and moved about, discussing who should sit where and next to whom. Chris remarked that he didn't want to sit next to me because he was afraid he'd wind up in my column. "Oh, wait, you don't write for the paper anymore." he remembered. "I don't care if I wind up in your blog. Nobody goes there."

"Oh, you're in the blog," I told him. "Just for that, you're definitely in the blog." I grabbed my camera and threatened to take his picture. He countered by posing. Of course I snapped the photo and to exact my revenge (for what? I forget), I'm posting it here.



So there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ghosts?

During the week leading up to Halloween I become sufficiently spooked watching everything and anything on TV that has to do with ghosts. I enjoy getting the creeps from such shows as, "Scariest Places on Earth," "Haunted Hotels" and "Ghost Hunters," just to name a few.

I tune in for amusement. It's fun to think that there may still be some mysteries in this world that can't be explained by science or logic.

My family has experienced something we can't explain but are happy to share with anyone foolish enough to wind up in our clutches. We tell our stories, offer the evidence, and shoot down whatever theory may be presented. No one has been able to explain what has shown up in our photos. I can only give the facts and will let you draw your own conclusions. Prepare to be spooked.

My dad died a few months before my sister's wedding. His absence was heavy on the minds of all who attended, especially as my nephew escorted her down the aisle. When we developed our pictures, some were dotted with bright circles of light in varying sizes. They weren't dust particles or some kind of glare.

Paranormal investigators call them, "orbs." One of these orbs floated right above my sister's head as she walked back down the aisle with her new husband.

Since then these bright, perfect circles of light have appeared from time to time in photos we've taken of significant events. We've never had them show up before my dad's death. But now, despite different locations, different times of day, even with different cameras, the orbs appear.

The truth is, I don't want to know what they are. Let me go on believing that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" and that maybe love really does conquer all. Even death.

(I can't post any of our photos at the moment. I'll have to add them some time tomorrow. Sorry 'bout that!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whatever Happened To...?

I was thinking about the good ole days in Taylorland when we would stay up way too late in GC chat because it was just too much fun to leave. We made friends there. When GC shut down, some of us met at a closed blog for a while. For different reasons, people started to peel off, getting back to their lives.

So I was wondering if anyone has heard from any of those regulars that don't show up anywhere anymore? I'm also nostalgic for a few posters from GC who weren't necessarily friends of mine, but who used to contribute a lot to the conversation there. Here's my list (in alph order). Tell me if you have any news about them. Add to the list, if you like:

basenji
DebSays
E!!!!
OhKay!
squeebee
six (6)
soultrain
texan
tojo
wompuss

P.S. Look what I found when I did a google image search for "Gray Charles."
http://www.zazzle.com/graycharles

Friday, October 17, 2008

Swept Out To Sea

You may remember that we were planning to buy a beach house (with another couple) that we could rent out and use ourselves when it was empty. I haven't written an update because my heart is broken. It looks like it's not going to happen.

Here are some photos I took in August of one of our favorite houses:









A lovely woman owns this house and filled it with photos of her kids and grand kids enjoying the beach throughout the years. She was sad about selling the house. Sweet.

Her house is down there somewhere in the wake of Hurricane Ike:



I contacted our real estate agent just to check in and make sure he was OK, but all I got in return was a short e-mail telling me their office is closed until further notice. And as far as I know, officials aren't letting anyone except residents on the island.

So I don't even know if that house is still standing. I don't know if the owner is OK. We've heard terrible stories about people who chose to ride out the hurricane and were last heard from on their cell phones, saying that the water was rising and the roads were impassible.

Another area we looked at:


We drove up and down the streets, parked the car and took a look at the beach.

Outside one adorable little house, I said to Greg, "Let's make an offer right now!" I wasn't completely serious and in the end, we wound up crossing this area off the list because (as you can see in the above photo) the beach itself was kind of small. But here's that area now:



Yeah, it's that famous photo of the one house left standing. That's the main road we drove down as we looked for street signs, trying to locate specific houses.

I'm sad for me, of course, but it pales in comparison to how I feel for those people on Bolivar Peninsula. I think about the people we met on our little jaunts down there- the smiling women at the real estate office, the friendly home owners, the waitresses who served our food- and I wonder what they lost in the Hurricane. I wonder if they're among the missing.

So I've avoided writing about this because I can barely comprehend it. My folder still sits here on my desk holding pictures of the houses we liked. I can't bring myself to throw it away, as if keeping the photos and all of my little notes will make the devastation less real.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Analytics

I installed a tracker on my blog months ago but, no need to worry, I don't know what any of it means! The only reason I decided to use one was because I was curious to see how many people come here in a day. You can't tell by the comments.

It's surprising how many people pop into my blog from all over the world. Look at the list: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, Mexico, India, Trinidad, Tobago, France, Puerto Rico, Germany, Philippines and Spain.

The number of daily hits and the list of countries they come from is about all I can make sense of. I'm not a very serious blogger, so the rest of it doesn't matter to me anyway.

But I have become self-conscious when I visit other blogs. I know that some of my favorite bloggers keep track of who stops by, when and how often. Frankly it's annoying. Nobody needs to track me. I'm harmless. I have no hidden agendas. But I know you'll do it anyway so I feel I have to explain my computer habits.

This drives my kids crazy. They say it slows down the computer, but I like to open up everything that I want to take care of at one time and then work my way down the list. In other words, I've been known to have 10-20 (!) websites, blogs and e-mails open at the same time. I get a big, hot cup of coffee and get to work, starting at the top and working my way down.

I know! It's weird and it's wrong, but I get satisfaction out of closing the last page (is that what you call it?) and knowing that I'm done online. So if I seem to be lingering at your blog for an hour or so, I'm not actually there. Your blog is waiting in line for my attention.

Another thing I do is refresh, refresh, refresh if I leave a comment somewhere. I've just got to know if someone responded to me! So you may sit back and wonder why I'm so obsessed with your blog that I visited ten times that day, when in reality, I'm just obsessed with myself. (ha) I worry too much about being misunderstood, so I have to keep up with how people react to my comments.

So, in a nutshell, Yes-I have a tracker but I don't know how to use it. And Yes-I know you're tracking me even though it's useless information (I'm not up to anything!).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Big Birthday Extravaganza!!



If you read here obsessively (and who doesn't?) you know that I've been planning MBBE (My Big Birthday Extravaganza) for a long time. Here on my blog, we had that controversial vote on what kind of patio furniture I should buy (still referred to today as "The Great Firepit Brawl of 2008"), I wrote up a riveting piece about getting the house ready for company and I've mentioned MBBE whenever the conversation seemed to be steering away from ME. So, yeah, you should be aware of it.

I received six confirmed "yeses" from out-of-town guests and made up a list of our favorite local friends to include in a party. I considered various venues and finally settled on "The Swinging Door", a restaurant/Texas dance hall.

This past month was the big push. I sewed curtains, cleaned out closets, planted flowers, made lists and learned a new language (hey, you never know where an extravaganza might take you). I came up with an itinerary for my visiting company so that the weekend would be dazzling and awe-inspiring- the kind you return to in your memory for years to come. (Hey, I can say whatever I want now. Who's to know?)

And then we had an unexpected visitor one week before company was arriving: Hurricane Ike. Damn you, Ike! (I'm shaking my fist at my computer screen.) I called off the BIG party before Hurricane Ike hit and put the out of town folks on hold. I wasn't sure what conditions would be like here after the storm, but I wasn't ready for everyone to cancel their flights just yet.

Ike swept through, our house and those of us inside it survived, but we were without power and phones. Most stores, restaurants and local attractions were closed. By the third day of this, I still wasn't sure what to tell my guests. And even if I knew what to say, I wasn't sure I could get in touch with them.

We were finally able to get through to my Mom the day before she was to fly in and she said she still wanted to come. She was coming a few days ahead of our other guests because she wanted to be available to help me around the house. Lucky for her, our electricity was restored as she drove with my husband back from the airport.

Lucky for her, not such great timing for me. The lights came on and I could see the dirt and leaves tracked through my house. Laundry was piled up, bathrooms needed attention. The frig was empty. I did what I could before Mom walked into the house and then all I could do was stay out of her way as she took over.

I would have been happy with making sure my guests had clean bathrooms and sheets but Mom was going for perfection. She cleaned walls and blinds and ceiling fans and anything else that couldn't run away from her disinfecting sponge. By the time my three sisters, one brother-in-law and one college friend arrived, the house was gleaming.

We had a great time. We managed to find a Mexican restaurant and a Texas bar-b-q place open for business for a couple of our meals. We even pulled off a small-scale Extravaganza!! back at the house with about ten local friends in attendance. The requisite embarrassing stories and photos were shared, good food was consumed and drinks flowed.

I'm still a bit disappointed I couldn't have a party with loud music, dancing and ALL of my favorite people, but I got a more intimate version of what I wanted. Despite Ike's best efforts, we managed to throw together a gathering that filled my house with good vibes that I can still feel today even though the gleaming spaces are now empty.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!


Note: See that little girl, top, left? I got a present in the mail from her yesterday. She's a sister from another mother.

I never cared about age. Every birthday was a celebration and the opportunity for something special to happen. But this birthday is bothering me. I feel time slipping away, I feel anxious and antsy. There's something I was meant to do and I haven't done it yet. The problem is, I don't know exactly what it is.

I watch for signs, I try to seize opportunities. All I know for sure is that I haven't done my best work yet and the years are ticking down. If I throw myself headlong into those projects I always wanted to finish, the thing I was always meant to do may become obvious.

I've never told anyone this, but ever since I was a young girl, I've felt special. I quietly watched the world go about it's business as one person after another shouted their importance, tripping over their shoelaces as they went off to boast about their greatness to someone else. I'd smile to myself and think, "Just wait. Have I got a surprise for you."

I don't mean to say I felt superior. Just special. But now I fear I'll waste the gifts I've been given. I think it's time to roll up my sleeves and see what I'm really capable of. I'm scared, though. I'm not afraid of failure, I'm afraid to succeed.

I don't like drawing attention to myself. In fact, I'm becoming uncomfortable writing about myself now. So let's end it here with a promise to myself to work harder, to dig deeper and to face my fears. I have some ideas in the hopper that may pan out to be that one great thing I was always meant to do.

Just wait. Have I got a surprise for you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Henry's Got A Squirrelfriend

I haven't been online much lately for several reasons, but I plan to work on a new blog entry today or tomorrow. I had to post a quick little sumpthin' about my crazy dog, Henry, though.

A squirrel lives in our yard and Henry is obsessed with him (her? Let's go with "it"). He loves to patrol his property looking for the squirrel and when it makes an appearance, Henry will gleefully chase it up a tree. They both seem to enjoy the game because the squirrel occasionally hops closer to Henry to look down at him, before taking off in the other direction.

It's fine, but an interesting thing has happened. I've noticed Henry has started doing two strange things:

1. He tries to climb one of our smaller trees. He doesn't stop at merely putting his front paws on the trunk, he hops inside the tree where a bunch of branches shoot out and tests them to see if they'll hold his weight. He hasn't gotten any further than that yet.

2. He's started gathering nuts!! C'mon, that's weird for a dachshund. I don't know if he's gathering them so the squirrel can't have them or if he's copying the squirrel's behavior, but pecans have been showing up in my kitchen:




If he goes to live in a hollowed out tree trunk, I'll let you know.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

To Quote Tina: I've Had Enough Of You, Ike!



We're fine. I'm not sure the rest of the country realizes what's going on down here, though. Millions of people were without power and though it's slowly being restored, there are a lot of communities that will be without electricity for weeks.

Galveston Island is completely off-limits. It's uninhabitable at the moment and no one is allowed on. We were looking to buy a beach house east of Galveston, on Bolivar Peninsula, which was the area hardest hit by Hurricane Ike.

We were literally weeks away from making an offer on a house. and now the houses we walked through just a couple of weeks ago may be completely gone. We've seen video of the area and it's just one cement slab after another where houses once stood. It's so sad.

My little family went without electricity for 3 days, so we got off easy. The only damage we sustained was to our fence. No biggie.




The hurricane hit during the night. We slept in the living room because it was the safest place to be and at times the wind rattled the boarded-up windows so loudly, I was afraid they were going to crash in on us.

Henry started to cry at one point, so I went inside his penned-in area to comfort him and fell asleep with him on his dog bed! That's where my husband found me in the morning.

I missed fresh brewed coffee in the morning. I missed TV. I was surprised by how much I missed my blog! I wound up putting pen to paper like a freakin animal! That's right! An animal!

Here is my pathetic missive:

Day 3: No electricity and no phones. Not even cell phones. We have water, thank goodness and natural gas, so we can boil water on the stove.

Need some boiling water? I'm your go-to girl! Actually, we're OK. We have plenty of food and water. We have a battery-powered TV, so we can keep up with the news.

It's driving me nuts though, being cut-off from family and friends. Our neighbor's friend had a phone that worked the morning after the hurricane, so I did speak to my sister up north to let her know we're OK.

This morning, Greg's blackberry rang for the first time in three days. It was my other sister, so he was able to give her an update. But after he hung up, his blackberry went dead again. He can feel e-mails getting through occasionally (it vibrates) but if he tries to respond, his message won't go through.

Occasionally, I glare at my impotent phone and it looks back at me, ashamed. Good! I charged the damn thing the night before Ike hit, so it has plenty of juice, but no signal.

I miss my blog. I'm sure people are worried by my silence. I think Taylor should come down here and do a show to lift my spirits. That's right, a show just for me! Right here in my backyard (which has become our living room). Think of the publicity! On my blog! haha. At least I haven't lost my sense of humor.

But seriously, I think he should get right on that.

I miss RHS, too. See what you've done, taysharmonica? I'm sitting here in my yard (because it's dark and hot in my house) with today's food in a cooler next to me, an impotent phone staring at me and what am I jonesing for? A peek at your blog.

Well, we did find a newspaper yesterday, so I'll sit back and enjoy it while I sip on a hot cup of coffee. Damn! Now I miss Starbucks. Guess this tepid bottle of water will have to do.

Day 4: I've lost the will to clean. Maybe you read about my Big Birthday Extravaganza that I've been planning for months? Well, guess the friggin what? It's this weekend.

My Mom arrives today and I don't even care that the house is dirty and we still have no power and no phones. Cell phones work occasionally. You can manage to get about one call thorough a day. I got through to Mom last night and she said she still wanted to come.

I have five other people flying in in three days!! Mom says they still want to come as well. The bathrooms work and I think we can find beer, so they told me they're good.

My son just yelled that the electricity is back on, so I'd better go see if it's true!


Glorious electricity! That night I had a cold soda and watched the finale of Big Brother. It's all going to be OK.

Some photos from my neighborhood:




Friday, September 12, 2008

Before Ike (No, it's not a Tina Turner biography!)





(Look at the clear blue sky.)

Well, it's Friday morning. All is calm. Some of our neighbors are still boarding up their windows. We don't expect to have any flooding here, but we'll have to deal with some wind. We were told on the news that our area should "shelter in place" and leave the roadways clear for those people who are under mandatory evacuation.

Yesterday we saw the flow of traffic go by our neighborhood as people left the coastal areas. Late in the day, after working outside in the heat to secure the outside of our house, my husband said he felt like a beer. I told him I'd venture out to see what I could scare up. Traffic was back to normal by then.

I went to the nearest convenience store and found it still pretty well stocked. The line was long, and I noticed that just about everybody was buying beer! A woman in front of me had so much that a man behind me offered to help her carry it to the register. Everyone was friendly. She said to me, "well, might as well start drinking now!" Everyone within earshot nodded in agreement.

What can I say? We've done everything we can and we honestly expect to come through this just fine. The beach houses we were looking at to buy are another story! I worry for those people, but the only thing they should lose is "stuff". They should all be out of there and somewhere safe by now.

We expect to lose power, so don't look for a new blog entry right away. I'll check back in as soon as I can.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike


Well, now it looks like that sucker is headed right for me. Damn. We don't live near the water, so we aren't being told to evacuate. We live south of Houston, near Sugar Land.

Yesterday I started to prepare. I went out to fill our gas tanks and the gas stations were already running out. I was able to get both gas tanks filled up, but I had to wait on long lines.

This morning I worried that I didn't have enough water in the pantry, so I went out to the grocery store. Mad house! Everyone was very nice,smiling as they passed and sharing advice on what to have on hand. I bought more water, bread, milk, sandwich meat, batteries and finally, a candy bar.

I never eat candy, but that thing was calling my name. I'm nervous. I'm afraid I'll forget something and my family will wind up wandering the streets destitute because of me. All I can do is follow the instructions they're giving us on the news. I've done that.

I'll do my best to let you know how we fared, but we expect to lose power when the hurricane hits early, early Saturday morning.

Just now, on the news, they said Houston needs to stay put and let the people who live right on the water use the roadways to evacuate. Will do.



"Hurricane" Bob Dylan

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ray LaMontagne

I see in the paper that Ray LaMontagne is coming to my area in October. Wonder if I should go?



And just because I love Kelly Clarkson's voice:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Taylor Tuesday- How Do You Talk To An Angel?

This past Friday, I was privileged to speak with Taylor Hicks on the phone. Though I had won the call at taylorhickshq a while ago, it had taken time for his management to work it into his schedule since "Grease" had come up pretty suddenly.

The reason no one ever heard about who won was because of me. I apologize for that. I asked the administrators at HQ not to announce my name as winner and they were great about working with me.

I accepted the delay and in fact, wonder if it may have contributed to Taylor's unhurried manner while talking to me. If he had called me in the midst of rehearsals and costume fittings at the beginning of the summer, the call may have been a quick two minutes, instead of the chatty twenty minutes he gave me during the show's last week.

I have to say, I wasn't expecting that. I had jotted down some questions and comments weeks ago, assuming the call would be brief. During one uncharacteristically quiet moment in my life, I asked myself, "What do you really want him to know?"

It all came down to the music. I wanted him to know that he has the ability to take a sound and turn it into a feeling. I don't understand it, but it happens. He opens his mouth to sing and my body reacts with goosebumps, tears or a smile.

So I picked one performance to talk about first and foremost in case that would be the only thing we got to discuss. Then I listed some questions should he be in a talkative mood.

Finally, the phone rang and Kevin from HQ connected us:

Taylor: Hey, Caryl, what's happening?

Me: Hi, how are you doing?

Taylor: I'm doing well, sorry it's taken so long to get connected, but now we're here.

Me: Yeah! So, how are ya feelin?

Taylor: I'm feeling great, I just went in for a check up. I'm ready to hit this last weekend on Broadway. I'm pretty excited about that. I have friends coming up. There's gonna be a party for everyone and the cast after the show.

Me: That should be fun. I have a couple of questions if that's OK .

Taylor: Sure.

Me: But first I wanted to tell you that I recently saw a video of you sitting in with Spoonful James at Ona's in May. You sang "Bring It On Home To Me" with Wynn Christian and it was sooo beautiful. It stuck in my head for days.

Taylor: Our voices compliment each other. We've had that kind of chemistry since college. Wynn's a great songwriter, too.

Me: I thought your version with the quiet harmonies was just so beautiful.

Taylor: That's a good version. We've always done it that way, since we were younger, you know, at Auburn.

Me: I read that your next CD will have a country influence. Is that true?

Taylor: Well, just because you go to Nashville and write songs doesn't necessarily mean that they're country. I think they're more Taylor than anything else. You can take a country song and...here's an example, did you know that all of Gladys Knight's hits were written by a country song writer? A lot of her Motown hits were country songs, they just made it fit her style. A great song is a great song, whether it's country, blues or rock, it doesn't matter. You just have to make it your own.

Me: Yep, I agree. I also read that you were thinking about adding a verse to "Somehow".

Taylor: Yeah, I was...I think it needs it...but then again, if it's not broke, don't fix it, ya know?

Me: Sure. You've got more life experience though, maybe you have more to say.

Taylor: That's very true.

Me: You looked great, by the way, at the Kentucky Derby. Did you work with a stylist?

Taylor: Yes, I do have somebody. If I have an event to go to, we go shopping. She helps me facilitate my ideas about clothing.

Me: That reminds me, what you wore to A Capital Fourth was pretty nice, too. I couldn't quite figure out what kind of fabric the suit was made of. It almost looked like leather.

Taylor: It wasn't leather! (laugh) If I'd been wearing leather you would have seen me drip completely off the stage. It was about 98 degrees.

Now I started blabbering about a show I went to where I thought I saw his brother. (Yeah, I agree, who cares? But gimme a break. At this point I was wingin' it!) He said, yes-indeed, his brother was at that show.

Me: He looked like he was enjoying every minute.

Taylor: He's a great guy. I keep in touch with everybody, ya know.

I asked him about the Otis Redding album he stole because I've never heard specifically which album it was and I want to check it out. He said it was a compilation of his greatest hits.

Taylor: But you know what's great. An album I was listening to this morning...Sam Cooke, Night Beat. There's a song on it called, "Mean Old World", a very cool, haunting number. During the "Somehow" time period I was listening to a lot of Sam Cooke. So I guess you could say it inspired "Somehow". You should look for it: Night Beat and the song, "Mean Old World".

Suddenly lots of sirens.

Me: What's going on over there?

Taylor: This is called what you hear in New York City when you're walking down the street. There's like 25 different cop cars that cruise around New York City, you know, for security. I ducked down the other way so I could talk to you. You hear all kinds of stuff.

I didn't realize we were talking as he walked through the streets of New York. I'm assuming he was walking from the doctor's office to the theater, but I didn't ask. (None of my beeswax.)

Me: Can you move around the city without being bothered?

Taylor: Yeah, all in all. The hat is key. I've loved living up here, being able to do the Broadway thing and that being such a success has opened a lot of doors for me, not only in theater but in music, too.

Me: That's great! I wasn't so sure about it when I first heard about it, but you found a way to make it cool.

Taylor: Yeah, I wanted to definitely make the part my own, that's kind of the reason for the suit and the harmonica. It's worked out really well. It also allowed me to be in front of new fans. There's people who come to Broadway from all different parts of the world and they see me play harmonica and it's been able to broaden my fan base. It's a really cool thing.

Me: Well that's great, I'm glad it all worked out for you .

Taylor: Yeah. I'm excited about the next chapter. It will be... unfolding...before our eyes...very soon. (He said this mock-dramatically.)

Me: *giggle* I hope it's not too long.

Taylor: Yeah, well, I gotta get into the studio. I got a couple more cowrites to do. I don't want to make the record like I made the last record. I want to take the time and be able to find the right players to fit the song. You have to really get it right. You have to get the music right. That's kind of where I'm at. I'm gonna take a little break and then get into the studio and make the songs that I have in my repertoire right now that I want to put on the record. I really want to make them right.

Me: Well, that's what we want from you. We want... what you want the music to be.

Taylor: This time around I'm in complete control of that. It's going to be awesome for my fans and I.

Me: I know that you're under contract where you can't talk about some things connected with AI but will you ever be able to talk about those things?

Taylor: It depends on what they are. I think the next record is definitely the most important thing right now. And it's really cool, there's no bad blood there at all.

Me: Really?

Taylor: Not at all.

Me: That's good.

Taylor: Everything's great. I'm gonna take a little break and I'm definitely excited about getting back into the studio.

Me: Do you think you'll do any shows before the CD is finished ?

Taylor: Possibly. But my main goal is to create the best record I can. That's where all my focus is going- to make a really good record. You don't want to stray too far from what you want to get out there next.

Me: It seems like this is really your time because now you've got the resources and you've got the freedom.

Taylor: I do have that. I think in the long run that's gonna be beneficial for me and my fans, to go into this thing with a clear, stream-lined concept with people around me who have my career in focus.

Me: Yeah. *pause* Do you go anywhere online?

Taylor: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I do. I definitely am aware of what the fans are saying and stuff . I'm tuned in. As long as you guys are tuned in, I'm tuned in.

Me: Well, good. Hey! I've got a silly question. Why do you sometimes play the harmonica with your nose? (OK, I'm cringing. That was a stupid question!)

Taylor: Uh...

Me: Is it just because you can? *nervous laugh*

Taylor: *laugh* Well, yeah, ya know. It's fun for the people in the front. And it's fun for me.

Me: Oh, OK.

Taylor: Listen, Caryl, I've got to run.

Me: OK.

Taylor: I've got to go to the theater. It was so nice to talk to you.

Me: You too, thanks for calling.

Taylor: Sorry it's taken so long, but I'm glad we got to talk.

Me: Me too, take care.

Taylor: Bye.

What I hope you'll take away from this is that Taylor really does seem to be all about the music. He became the most excited talking about Gladys Knight, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. And he said many times how important it is to him to get the next CD right.

I'm sure Taylor feels the pressure from his critics and frankly, from us as well, to create a CD that's a true representation of him as a musician. Maybe we should all take a break, like Taylor. Push away from the computer, work on something you're passionate about. And when he's got the album "right", come on back and celebrate. That's what I'm going to do.

I'll leave you with the song Taylor recommended. I imagine some of you will want to read too much into the lyrics, but the impression I got from him was that he just thought it was executed really well. So, enjoy it for what it is because, after all, "a great song is a great song."

http://www.last.fm/music/Sam+Cooke/_/Mean+Old+World?autostart

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wake Me Up When September Ends



September used to be my favorite month. As a girl, I looked forward to buying a new outfit and supplies for a fresh start at school. It was a month for new beginnings, since my birthday is also in September. In fact, with four birthdays and two anniversaries in my family, September has always been a month of celebration for me.

Now there's a thick, gray, gritty cloud hanging over my favorite month. Flipping August away on my calendar, my heart sinks and I see that cloud rushing through the streets of Manhattan, sending everyday people like you and me screaming for their lives on September 11th, 2001.

My sister and her family live close enough to the city that they could smell the cloud that stretched out over Long Island that day. But they were touched by it in an even more personal way. On September 11th one of their best friends didn't come home from work.

We didn't know it at the time, but while we waited for some news, Ed's driver's license was fluttering down from Tower Two and landing in the street below. It was recovered and returned to his wife months later.

The summer after 9/11, I visited Ground Zero. There wasn't much to see. It looked like an ordinary construction site. But to those of us familiar with New York City, it's not about what you see there, it's about what you don't see. It's all about that vast, gaping empty sky.

We left Ground Zero and walked around outside Trinity Church which had been set up as a triage center and later, a respite for rescue workers. The church itself was closed while cleaning crews readied it for normal services.

But all along the fence which surrounds it was a makeshift shrine of flowers, photos, cards and origami peace cranes. Typically loud New Yorkers and tourists viewed it in silence. With a sick feeling, we passed vendors selling World Trade Center souvenirs.

I don't know how to make sense of it even now, all these years later. I think about the stories I heard, and it doesn't seem real: a friend of mine who was supposed to be very near the World Trade Center that day, but canceled his meeting the day before; my sister who works in Boston and thought a woman she knew may have been on one of the planes; my cousin who works at the pentagon but was mercifully out of town that day.

And details about Ed Lehman who didn't make it out of Tower Two. He had been in a meeting on the 92th floor when word came to evacuate. In the stairwell somewhere around the 78th floor, he was told that no one was sure if everyone had gotten out. He wanted to go back up to double-check but was urged to stay with the group moving down. He broke away from a coworker's grasp and was never seen again.

It's just too much. So I'll observe September 11th the way I lived it in 2001: horrified, baffled, nauseous but deeply connected to my larger family: those of us who proudly call themselves American.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav

Since I live in a suburb of Houston, I thought I'd share what our local paper is saying about Gustav today.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5975899.html:

In Houston, Residents Wait and Watch

By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON, TODD ACKERMAN and CINDY HORSWELL Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Aug. 31, 2008, 11:39AM

Memories of Hurricane Rita's devastation prompted evacuations along Texas' upper coast, while residents of Galveston and Houston took a more wait-and-see approach Saturday as Hurricane Gustav mushroomed into a monster storm.

Gustav, now a powerful Category 3 hurricane with forecasts of strengthening over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, turned slightly east overnight and was now expected to barrel into eastern Louisiana Monday afternoon.

As many as 55,000 Louisiana residents were expected to flock to Texas, including 10,000 people who needed government help to evacuate, according to Gov. Rick Perry's office. Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio were each preparing to shelter about 4,100 of them, with the rest headed to Amarillo, Lubbock, El Paso and San Angelo.

Hotel occupancy rates in Houston had reached more than 70 percent Saturday morning and were increasing, Mayor Bill White said. It was unclear how much of the business was related to the holiday, versus the storm. Business was especially brisk at Houston-area hotels that have kitchenettes and allow pets. The Willowbrook-area Extended Stay America, for example, had a few rooms remaining Saturday night, but none for the rest of the weekend, an employee said.

Across Houston, families stocked up on the food, water and generators they would need if Gustav hit Texas and the power went out. The Lowe's store in Kingwood ran out of generators but was hoping to get more soon, clerk Doris Thomas said.


I've made zero preparations. Nobody in my area is worried about the hurricane. They usually turn eastward, which would be away from us. But if you see no new "Taylor Tuesday" entry, well...then I guess it surprised us! Don't worry, I'll be fine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

Henry is nothing like our previous canine friend, Sparky. Sparky was quiet and sweet. Henry is the opposite. He's LOUD! He's AGGRESSIVE! He's always into something.

I love him, but he's a handful. Sparky used to follow me around all day and sleep by my chair when I finally sat down. Henry FOLLOWS me around ALL DAY, yippin' and chewing on my chair even before I sit down. Luckily, when I need a break from him, he's happy to amuse himself in the yard.

First, he runs out into the grass and wriggles around in it:



Then- after inspecting the trees for squirrels- he runs to the back fence to see if the neighbor's dog is out:



After spending a good hour barking at anything that moves (and occasionally things that don't-like a lawn chair), he will sit by the back door until I let him in.

It's a lot of work being a nine-month old puppy. You can't blame the guy for needing a nap:



Next time: Henry goes toad-hunting.