Low Places

The smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes coated the air and Bob Seger’s “Main Street” played on the staticky speakers when Jake spotted me standing in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. He wore a purple button-down and jeans. And that smile. Always that smile.

That memory about a junior college crush led me down a rabbit hole of journal entries and early 1990s music. Back then “big-hat” country played on all of our stereos, and Garth Brooks was its king. Listening to him, 20-year-old me swore the connections I made then would last forever.

Read the rest of my piece on how Garth Brooks shaped my college memories at Kelly J. Baker’s Cold Takes as part of her Albums Series.

Beer and ball

For me, music and sports go together like milk and fresh-from-the-oven brownies. Whether it’s hearing Alabama’s Rammer Jammer cheer or “Crazy Train” when Atlanta’s Chipper Jones steps up to the plate or “I’m Bad” while working out, music gets me fired up.

So as the Boys of Summer get ready to make a run for October and the Boys of Fall kick off their season, I’ve got singer/musician Chris Blake here to talk about how music makes the sports we love even better.

Chris, whose latest EP Girl is just out, explains why sports and music are so intertwined. “Music does so much to bring the game to a new level–particularly baseball,” he says. “Music accompanies celebration, loss, traditions like the 7th-inning stretch. It adds to the tension, like when the organist plays Charge! during a two-out, bases-loaded situation.

“Music also keeps us entertained in a big way during the breaks between innings–like when the little kid starts playing air guitar to Don’t Stop Believin’ at Dodger Stadium!”

While Chris enjoys a few college football match-ups each year, baseball is his real love. The Southern Cal Trojan says, “The only reason I ever really watched football games back in college was to drink beer.”

However, he figured out that baseball was much more conducive to beer-drinking. “You could lose an entire inning waiting in line for a Coors Light and still come back to your seat and not have missed anything.”

A Chicago White Sox fan, 2005 was a big year for Chris and his family as the team won the World Series. “Along the way (catcher) A.J. Pierzynski brought (Journey’s) Steve Perry along for the ride, and now, even though I had such strong childhood memories attached to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ ’, all I can think of when I hear it now is how amazing it was at that moment when the Sox somehow managed to go all the way.

Want to know more about the 7th sexiest man on Twitter? RSVP for The Music Mamas Twitter Party happening Friday night from 8-9:30 Central, and join us for a chat with Chris and a chance to win an iPod touch and his CD Girl.

Playing ball when you’re deaf

She’s come a long way since she got her first glove.

Riley’s had two softball practices with another set for Saturday. She’s paying better attention this year, but we still need to figure out a better way to communicate than just yelling at her. It’s hard for anyone to hear a coach yelling from the dugout during a game and even harder when you’re hearing impaired. That’s one reason we’re considering an FM system … so she can hear easily whether she’s on the field, in the classroom or out in the backyard.

Another family offered to let Riley try out the system their children no longer use, so I think a phone call is in order. Of course, the system will have to be tweaked to complement Riley’s hearing and programs, but we should get started on this soon.

The first two practices were COLD – the poor girls were bundled up so tightly they could barely move! And you know how much it hurts when you swing the bat and don’t hit the ball solidly. Ouch!

She batted right-handed the first practice and did OK, but she switched back to being a lefty the second day and did even better. I’m going to let her decide how she’s most comfortable at the plate. Lefty or righty, it’s her choice.

The coach worked her out at second base and Riley did really well for her first time on the field since May. Several of the other girls played throughout the fall and are also playing on a travel team during the community season, too. They’re getting a lot more reps, but Riley will catch up.

I’m the dugout mom again – keeping the batting order; making sure helmets, batting gloves and bats are where they’re supposed to be; helping the catcher get dressed; bandaging any scrapes or strawberries; and yelling for mom or dad if I can’t help. Basically, several moms are tag-teaming to take care of everything from uniforms to snacks to picture day to concession duty.

We’re all ready for spring and softball and warm weather.

Happy Birthday to Jon Bon Jovi

JBJ as seen through my 12x optical zoom lens and the big screen.

Today is my rock star fantasy’s birthday: JBJ is 48 and still rockin’.

Here’s a bit about how this love affair started:

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My journey into infatuation started in the mid-1980s. I was about 14 and just getting into MTV. Long hair, tight leather pants and ripped shirts were all the rage. And I’m not talking about the ladies.

One band surpassed all others in every way…music, looks, number of cans of Aqua Net … Bon Jovi was the baddest, the coolest and the hottest. To use the slang of the day, lead singer Jon was fine. And I was hooked.

As a teenager, I didn’t have the means to buy the albums or go to the concerts. I started my collection by obsessively listening to the Top 40 countdown shows on the radio, tape recorder at the ready. “Casey, would you stop talking over the intro!” I wore those cassettes out, playing “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Bad Medicine” over and over and over.

I taped their videos, their appearances, anything I saw. I have no idea where those tapes are now, but I wish I could find them.

Yes, I changed the words to “I was born to your baby, you were born to be my man.” Yes, I imagined getting backstage and meeting Jon. (Get your minds out of the gutter – he was always a perfect gentleman. And back then I wasn’t as well educated as the kids are now.) Yes, I begged my mom to let me go to their concert in Huntsville just before I turned 16 … no dice.

Fifteen years later, just as I was about to turn 30, part of my fantasy was fulfilled. I was in the same building as Jon. Oh, my gosh … finally I got to see my Jersey boys in all their glory! And I was not disappointed.

It was like going back to high school…I felt like a schoolgirl, screaming and dancing and singing every song.

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I’ve seen Bon Jovi twice more since then, and unless I hit the jackpot, I doubt I’ll see them in April in Nashville. Ticket prices continue to climb, and I can’t justify $150 for a ticket stuck in the middle of an arena, where I can barely even see Jon, where my camera batteries will die five minutes into the show because I’m so far back I have to use the flash, where my photos will come out grainy because I have to shoot the big screen in order to even see Jon’s face, plus finding someone who can afford to go with me … and so on.

They’re pricing fans out of their shows, and it’s unfortunate. Even being a fan club member got me no perks … unless you consider $1,500 for a front-row ticket a perk. Sure it’d be a priceless experience, but sometimes the price is just too high.

The ever-increasing cost of seeing my favorite band live tends to dampen my love a bit. It’s disappointing that longtime fans have to spend so much money just to get decent seats. Meanwhile, bands and brokers and promoters are raking in the dough. It’s frustrating and unfair.

At least I’ll always have my fantasies.

As close as I’ll likely get to JBJ, and with a 12x optical zoom. Sigh. In Nashville, 2008.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights

Kim and I headed to Crossroads in the pouring rain to hear Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights. I have been waiting for this day for more than a year now.

We got there early and headed for the bar and a drink. We camped out in a booth near the sound board and waited. It wasn’t long before I spotted bassist Nick Jay and introduced myself. We chatted for a moment then he went to change clothes for the show.

A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy walking up to the bar. Yep, it was Jonathan Tyler. I waved and went to say hi. Bless his heart, he remembered our conversation on Twitter, and he came over and talked to me and Kim.

Soon we were hanging out at the pool tables watching JT, Nick, Jordan Cain (drums), Brandon Pinckard (guitar) and Jimmy (tour manager) rack ’em and break ’em before showtime. The guys were easy to talk to and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say.

Once onstage, joined by fabulous vocalist Mo Brown, the band did not disappoint. Opening with a cut off their upcoming album Pardon Me, slated for release in April, they got the crowd, though sparse, moving. From my post leaning on the stairs, I could see folks bobbing their heads, tapping their toes and doing that little shoulder shake we all do when we hear something we like.

They played two of my favorites Slow Train and Gypsy Woman, and though I’m sure I looked a fool, I couldn’t help but dance while shooting some photos. Good music always makes you move.

Their music? Gritty, honest, soulful, Southern, bluesy rock. But listen yourself. And don’t let Jonathan’s soft-spoken, sweet voice fool you. This man can sing, with power. JTNL are not some little bar band hoping to make some cash. They have played with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, AC/DC, even drawing a huge crowd, and an unheard of encore, at the Austin City Limits Music Fest.

After the much-too-short set, Kim and I finally met Mo and Brandon, took advantage of photo ops and the merch table, and shared a round of shots with the band. Maker’s Mark. (And I managed to stay upright.) We got the scoop from poet, playwright, author and singer-songwriter Mo, chit-chatted with the dudes and watched a few games of pool before it was time to load out.

All in all, it was one of the best music experiences I’ve ever had. Not only are they great musicians, they are nice, asking about our lives and including us in the conversation. Now that’s how you connect with fans … and keep them.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights are going to make it big. Right now, they’re touring the country, and if you get a chance to hear them, take it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Vegetarian clarification

Football is for Girls pointed out an error in my last post when I said that my friend and I weren’t vegetarians like the Cullens.

“Actually, you are vegetarians exactly like the Cullens. Haha.”

And she is right! I couldn’t help but giggle when I read her comment. Something in common with Edward. Imagine that …

By the way, I read the first three books in the series in a week. I’m about three-quarters of the way through Breaking Dawn with plans to read Midnight Sun once I’m finished. Then I must give my eyes a break! Probably by watching the movie again. 🙂

Edward lives up to the hype … so far

My friend Devilish Southern Belle brought over her copy, um, copies of Twilight this morning, and after grabbing a couple of bacon, egg and cheese biscuits (we’re not vegetarians like the Cullens) we settled in to watch Edward and the rest of the vampire gang.

Yeah. It lives up to the hype … Edward is more than I expected. However, I do wish the lighting wasn’t so dark. I would like to see his face and his eyes more clearly. And I totally dig the sparkly skin. If I saw a dude sparkling like that, I’d probably ask what kind of makeup he was wearing. The effect was nice.

Bella wasn’t nearly as annoying in the movie as she is in the book. Really. No one can be that clumsy; it’s such a predictable setup to draw blood.

The plot seemed to jump from one event to the next too fast; it wasn’t cohesive enough and didn’t give the characters time to grow, but that’s the movies for you. Only 2 hours or so to cram in the story.

I’m going to watch it again and pause on sparkly Edward. Bella was right about that: He is beautiful in that scene.

I finished New Moon and just started Eclipse last night. New Moon was a bit over the top but interesting. I did miss Edward. So far, Eclipse is keeping me reading … I hope it answers some “creation” questions. But don’t tell me … I HATE spoilers!

And I’m sure when New Moon hits theaters I’ll be there this time.

Twilight takes me back

I resisted all the hype and hoopla … until Sunday when I picked up Twilight. I finished today (Tuesday) sitting in the parking lot of Books-a-Million, and immediately after, I walked inside and bought New Moon. Yes, watching the movie is on my list of things to do. I think I need to watch it alone, though, to take in the glory that is Robert Pattinson. Thanks to the trailers that I watched just a few minutes ago, I’m sure he’ll live up to my expectations.
Although the writing isn’t the greatest, it’s the story that drew me in and kept me turning pages until 3:30 this morning, when I realized I had a knot in my stomach and that the wind was rattling the bedroom windows. I knew I better stop reading or I’d scare myself silly. I need to read the next book during the day or at least make sure Ryan is still awake.

Even at 37, I could relate to the love story … I remembered feeling that way about a boy back in high school. Giddy and nervous when I was around him. Disappointed if he wasn’t at school. Even though we never got together, the tension was there and I remember it well. But as far as I know, he wasn’t a vampire. 😉

The story is every high school girl’s fantasy: the boy who loves you more than life itself.

Barbie and her townhouse


That’s me with my Barbie townhouse from the early ’80s. It’s still at my parents’ and my daughter plays with it when she visits. My dad made wooden furniture for my dolls to go with the inflatable pieces I bought, probably at Kmart.

Today, the furniture is all new, from Target. Instead of Western Barbie or Beauty Secrets Barbie (I still have both, but Western is missing a blue-shadowed eyelid and Beauty is missing a hand), my daughter has Space Camp Barbie and Hard Rock Cafe Barbie and Veterinarian Barbie and Ballerina Barbie … a Barbie for every dream.

To offset all the blonde, she also has the Disney Princesses, including Mulan, Pocahontas and Jasmine and multi-ethnic Barbie dolls. She doesn’t care about color; she just loves the dolls and the clothes.

I’m glad we can share memories of Barbie, who turned 50 this year and continues to makes little girls’ dreams closer to reality.