Sunday, December 14, 2014

We're Celebrating Our Candy Year!

I'm not sure whether to reintroduce myself, make an excuse, or just keep plowing through as though nothing has... well... not happened. Let's face it, as far as you know, I could have died sometime in April, and I am writing from the grave. The reality is that I'm sitting in my favorite chair, Lilly on one side, Henri on the other (we'll get to him in a minute), listening to Frank Sinatra sing about mistletoe and holly. If you were hoping this post was going to kick off the zombie apocalypse, sorry to disappoint. The truth is, I don't know where all of my time went. I blinked, and it's ten days to Christmas. It seems like just yesterday I was lying on an operating table, trying to figure out what parts of me needed to be removed. Maybe by breaking it down, we can figure it out together? Or not, I mean, you're the best judge of your own time, man.
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I missed you, Reggie.

Thyroid removal took place May 9th, and things turned out fine in the end. I had one week to recover before the summer semester began, and I started a full twelve hour schedule -- who said it was a good idea to do twelve hours in the summer? Save yourselves. Of course, since I cannot be tamed, I decided it was a good idea, eleven days after surgery, to pull a girls only road trip to Denver to see Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl's Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. It was as disastrous as it sounds, and I might publicly air my permanent shame sometime in the next month, if it tickles my fancy (why not? You already know how horrific my band experiences are).
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Five weeks after the surgery, I also thought it would be awesome to pull a one day drive to Albuquerque to go to Warped Tour. It wasn't as ghastly as what happened in Denver, but it didn't end well, either. Maybe, one day, I will be able to meet bands and not do something I will regret. I doubt that will be anytime soon, but you never know.
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In July, I inadvertently got stuck in a four week class, which brutally murdered me, and I am actually writing from the grave. The only other time I have been in a four week class, I swore I would never do it again; I couldn't help that they rearranged all of the dates, and I was stuck with it. Of course, I don't do anything half-heartedly. I decided to do the course in two weeks. A sixteen week course, in two weeks. And I actually did it. Because I don't love myself enough.
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Rather than using my ten day break between summer and fall semesters for something fun, like sleeping, I decided it would be better to be certified in not one, but two separate leadership courses that were offered to me by the college. By the time I finished that, the fall semester had begun.
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In September, we loaded up the car, and went to South Padre Island. Yes, another island. Because we all know how much I love islands (nope, nuh-uh).
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Yet, on the way back home, we stopped at a little roadside market, and discovered a boatload of birds. We hemmed. We hawed. We drove five miles, pulled over in a church parking lot, and debated. Long story short, this is Henri. He's an orange factor canary, and he is gorgeous. I have another Pop Punk Prince, and we have been enjoying each other immensely.
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His favorite things are rice, apple slices, and Nick Santino. I am training him well.

In October, we saw this guy. Twice.
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We missed you, never get sick again, ever.

We went to the state fair and had fried cheese on a stick, because it's incredibly hard to not eat meat and go to a state fair to find something for lunch.
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This dude is scary. Do not let the innocent children view him, he will give them nightmares for life.

We went to the mountains for a weekend.
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And I was whisked away for a top secret birthday surprise, because nobody likes you when you're twenty-three.
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Since I never learn my lesson, I decided that I could get two eight week courses done in one month. After all, Christmas is coming, and I hate the college schedule. When I was a homeschooler, I would work until the week of Thanksgiving, and take my long break through the first of January; I've never cared for summer, so I would work all through the hot months to take off during the holiday season. I haven't been able to do that since I started college, and I felt like I deserved it. So I actually did finish the work for two classes in one month. I was done with everything November 21st, and have been refraining from submitting it to make it look like I've been doing everything with the rest of the classes.

In the meantime, I've been spending the season with my family. Admittedly, we don't do much, but we have fun doing nothing. Wrapping presents, decorating, baking and candy making (I made divinity for the first time ever, and it's gone over quite well), and, of course, sending Christmas cards have all been done on my schedule, not that of some deluded college professor.

What makes all of this so amazing to me is that patients who undergo spinal fusion are supposed to take it easy for the first year after surgery. I should have been moving at a snail's pace until August 9th of this year, and I've been able to keep up with the demands of living quite well, save for a few sinus infections (do you ever think you're going to become one of those people they talk about on medication commercials who are 'prone to infection'? I think I might be one of those people).

In other words, over seven months mysteriously disappeared. It isn't much of an explanation, but it's what I've got.
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The lack of posts indicates that an end-of-year poem was not doable. BUT. That would we inaccurate. I now present the 2014 Blog In Review haiku.

Thyroid debacle
and the Rolling Stones can't touch
a concert story.

What more can I say? I'm a sucky blogger.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We Slice! We Dice! Just, You Know, Later.

No one likes to hear about other people's medical problems, particularly me. I have always been in wonderment of those who become doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, and whatever else they've got these days. They see things that would completely gross the rest of us out, and then stick their hands in it. The world needs people like that. Anything beyond the polite hi-how-are-you, and it's requisite fine-thanks-how-are-you reply are the only inquiry I will probably make as to your well-being. If you've got something wrong, go pay a doctor to listen to it, 'cause that's really not my department. And then, sometimes, something is just so funny that you have to tell somebody about it.

I have mentioned before that it was discovered that I had a nodule on my thyroid, which was being checked via sonogram by a doctor who resembles this image with somewhat startling accuracy...
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He laughs too much, doesn't get to the point, and has that general aura about him that makes you want to shove him in a locker -- come on, it happened frequently in his public school years, you can just tell.

At first, he said there were two nodules, one on either side.
"Let's, heh heh, check it in another four months. You know, if it, heh heh, gets bigger or something, then, heh, we need to think about taking that bad boy out, heh heh heh."
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OK, dude.

The second sonogram showed significant growth in one of the nodules in four months, and there were some indications that it could be serious.

Everyone panicked. Well, everyone except me, for some reason. I wasn't all that bothered. I'm too busy to be bothered by that sort of piffle. Big deal, they take it out, you take some radioactive spider juice, and move to Forest Hills to live with Spiderman. Right?
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I was scheduled for a needle biopsy; the result also indicated that something suspicious was going on. Dr. Giggles scheduled an appointment with the doctor who did my septoplasty to have half of the thyroid removed. Before I walked out of Dr. Giggles's office, I asked which side was going to be taken out.
"Well, heh heh, that right side is, you know, somewhat suspicious. Let's just hope that they don't have to take out everything, 'cause, heh heh, you wouldn't need a Halloween costume. It, heh heh heh, looks pretty bad, depending on how well you scar."
Say it from a locker, buddy, the echo will make your voice sound a little better.

The right side. Hmmmmm. That's odd. At the needle biopsy, the guy taking the sample was standing on my left side, he put the nova-cane on the left side, he took the samples from the left side, and the bandage was on the left side. Are we sure that it's the right side, and not the left? I mean, they told me I had a nodule on each side, but we were only talking about one nodule getting bigger, not both. I decided to ask that question at the pre-op appointment.

The friendly nurse that discussed it with me was the same one that did all of the legal obligations for the septoplasty. She already knew about all of my special needs with the drugs, rapid heart rate, recent surgeries, that whole schtick.
"Do you have any other questions or concerns?" she asked.
"Well, everybody keeps telling me that it's on the right side, but that's not where the biopsy was taken from. How does that work?"
She looked at me with that kind of glazed over look that suggested she didn't think I was going to have any questions or concerns.
"Um. Well. Hmmmmm. You'll have to ask the doctor about that on the day of surgery. Have a nice day!"
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So, the day of surgery comes. Everything is going as planned. They've tried to put in my IV three times (I just have those kind of veins, I guess), they've had me sign all of the required papers, I've talked with the anesthesiologist twice, I've met everybody in the OR. Fine, fine, fine. We've already all had that talk about how Versed lasts about a week on me, so they tell me I won't have to take it. The doctor came in, and I asked him the same question I had asked his nurse back at the pre-op appointment.
"Well, let me just check on that. I'll see you soon."

The time comes. They wheeled me back to the OR without any medication, just as I had asked. No relaxers, certainly no amnesiac drugs. They asked me to switch to the operating table from the stretcher. They got my IV out of the way, put on a blood pressure monitor and some other devices, and wrapped me in a blanket cocoon so I didn't injure anyone. They strapped me to the table -- or, more accurately, they "belt" you to a table so they don't freak people out by telling them they're being tied down. The anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask on my face, and I could hear him getting the knock-out meds ready somewhere over my head.
"Now," said the anesthesiologist, "this oxygen is just to remove any trace elements in your blood, and we'll let you have a nice long sleep in just a minute."

Suddenly, a movie moment happened.
A nurse bolted through the door and shouted, "HOLD ON. DON'T DO ANYTHING. THERE'S A DISCREPANCY."

And everything came screeching to a rubber-burning halt.
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Don't blame me, blame the guy that originally used this as a pun and planted the seed in my head to do it, too.

The anesthesiologist quickly removed the mask, saying he couldn't give me anything until it was sorted. The nurses, already with masks, smocks, and gloves on, just stood there, staring at me like I had asked for this all to happen. Five minutes passed before the same nurse came in and told everyone it would be another few minutes.
"Go tell my mother you haven't started yet," I advised one of the nurses.

Another five minutes passed. I was still wrapped in the cocoon, strapped to the table. No one spoke, leaving only the sound of the bad pop music that was being piped into the room. Another five minutes passed.
"Are you OK with the radio station?" a nurse asked me.
"Yeah, you guys put on what you like."
Another five minutes passed. I was still tied down.

A new nurse came in, and asked me if I had had any drugs. He looked relieved when I told him I hadn't, because he needed me to be able to tell him what happened at the needle biopsy, and to sign any paperwork that needed to be dealt with. It was only at this point that they untied and unwrapped me. I told him everything that happened, and he hastily left.

Another five minutes passed. I only know this because a nurse told me that the blood pressure cuff was set to go off at five minute intervals, so I counted. One of the nurses simply left the room, and another was on her phone. The anesthesiologist told me all about when he lived in Alaska and saw Pavarotti.

The doctor came in, and, after asking if I had been given any drugs, wanted me to tell him about the biopsy. I told him everything I knew. The physician's assistant performing the procedure stood on my left side, the pin pricks were on the left side, the bandage was on the left side, everything was on the left side. He said it was impossible to take a sample from the right side of the thyroid from the left side of a person's neck. Yeah, OK, whatever, I can't help what happened. He left, and we started another five minute cycle.

I figured it would be a good idea to use our time better than just laying on the table doing nothing. All I asked was if there was a bathroom nearby. This led to many nurses sighing in exasperation. They unhooked the IV bag, moved me back to the stretcher, and began wheeling me out of the OR. On the way, I saw all of my nurses sitting in a group on a couch just outside the room, talking with a few of their other colleagues. As I was being wheeled out, another nurse asked if I had been given anything, and asked me for an account of what happened.

Eventually, I was wheeled back to the pre-op waiting room, and they went to get my mother. Nurses filtered in and out, checking to make sure I was OK. Finally, the doctor came in. He said he didn't feel comfortable doing the surgery while there was such a large issue that didn't seem to be able to be worked out.
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The worst part of that day for me was having to walk back out the door to the lobby where my dad, his mother, my sister, and her two children had been waiting. I walked out to the car and made phone calls, telling people that I was not, in fact, being sliced into at that precise moment.
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We've been waiting in this stupid lobby for an hour and a half for this? And I could have been doing something other than sitting in a stupid lobby.

So, now what?
Good question.

We've started all over. Brand new sonogram -- one not involving Dr. Giggles -- to confirm where the nodule is, including the fact that there isn't actually one on my left side. Rather than a needle biopsy, they've taken an actual tissue sample and sent it off to Houston for an expert to look at. We were supposed to get results for that on Friday, but, wait for it, there was another issue!
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On Friday morning, the friendly nurse called us up on the phone to talk about the results.
"Well, there's definitely a nodule on the right side. And they've definitely got tissue from that side. And that's all it says."
Honestly, she sounded as confused as we all were.
"Well, we're gonna hafta let the doctor look at this report. It doesn't say anything about your tissue being benign or malignant. The doctor has to look at it."
"When will the doctor be able to look at this?" I asked. "It's Friday, so..."
"He'll be out of town until Tuesday."
Tuesday. You tell me that the results I was supposed to have Friday aren't going to be ready until Tuesday? What's actually wrong with you people? Wouldn't it have been easier for the specialists in Houston to say that they had received the sample, but hadn't tested it yet? 'Cause that's so hard to do. "Results forthcoming" is such a hard thing to add to a report. Think of all the ink you waste! That has to have some kind of repercussion on the rainforest, you know, printing two little words on a piece of tree skin. Think of the polar bears, and Al Gore! No, you'll all have to wonder what we're doing, instead.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday came and went uneventfully. Tuesday afternoon, however, is when all hell broke loose.

The doctor called to tell me that the results of the tissue biopsy were inconclusive, and, if I were his daughter, he would simply take the thing out and be done with it. According to him, it doesn't matter how many biopsies we have done, it will still show an inconclusive result. He also said he has never stopped a surgery in his entire practicing years, and that the whole event was horribly botched.
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He offered simply to watch the nodule over the next six months, to schedule another biopsy, or to schedule another surgery. Deliberation dictates that we have to go through the surgery after all. To say it's been a weird medical year is an understatement at this point.

I've put all of this ridiculousness on hold until after my spring finals. I only had ten days between my spine surgery and the start of the fall semester last year, but I hope to have at least two weeks before the summer session starts as a recovery period. It will probably be the last break I have before Christmas 2015, so it's kind of important that the dates line up.

Who knows, after all is said and done, maybe they'll figure this all out once the thyroid is removed. I'm not sure we can bet on it, since the odds are about fifty-fifty that a second surgery to remove the other half of the thyroid might have to happen. Either way, these nutjobs are going to slice and dice me. Just, you know, later.
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"No, Jared, It's Because Of You!"

I'm here to be a bit sappy, really. Sorry about that.
I have mentioned that I am taking my mother to see The Maine's acoustic tour; I feel like this is going to be something incredibly special, and, going on a hunch, I assumed she would like their music, so I bought her a ticket during pre-sale. As far as I know, she hadn't ever heard a full song of theirs before I forcefully told her "I am taking you to this, because it's going to be freaking awesome". I don't think I gave her a choice to decline, actually. I have a philosophy that the right things come into your life at the right time, and there are three artists/performers that were sent to me when I needed them the most: the entity that is Paul McCartney; words fail me in describing Tom Higgenson and the Plain White T's; and John O'Callaghan and The Maine give me words when I have none. There are people and bands you like, and people and bands you love, and those are my three. If it weren't for them, I would, quite literally, have none of the things that I love in my life: my friends, boundless inspiration, triggers for memories, quiet moments of introspection and self examination. Maybe that's sappy, but it's a fact. I met my best friend on the coattails of Paul's 2005 tour, in a moment of panic, and we've been thick as thieves ever since; he will be there when we queue up for early entry next week, along with some of our other friends, and we're all going to experience something special. For me, it will be additionally special because I will have been able to take my mother to see the three artists that I hold in high regard; she didn't know it before this post, but I guess she does now.

Before I took her to see the Plain White T's, I played her Big Bad World, and Wonders of the Younger, hoping they wouldn't rely too heavily on their back catalog for material; I didn't figure she would like the younger, angrier, pop-punkier material, so I didn't expose her to it. As far as I know, she hadn't even seen an interview with them before I dragged her through the doors of the House of Blues for a rockin' evening. I wanted her to have a more immersive experience with The Maine. I put all of their records in a playlist, and have been playing it non-stop for her since Christmas; I've been telling her other people's tour stories, as well as my own; I've lent her my album art so she can read the lyrics in the booklets; I built a blanket fort so we could watch Anthem for a Dying Breed in the best way; I have deluged her email with more videos than I should probably admit to (over three hundred, don't judge me); I have given her that band's story in chronological order, and completely disregarded the fact that she may not even be interested. Honestly, I don't think she knew what she was in for when I told her I was going to introduce her to this band. Just the other day, she burst through my room and said, "I'm worried about Kennedy, he's too thin". Congratulations, Mama, I've bent your mind. Apparently, the fact that I have imprinted The Maine onto her eyeballs (her words, not mine) is paying off; I talked to her on the phone today, and she told me she was getting excited for next Thursday. Success!

I have told her small anecdotes from my experience on the Dallas 8123 Tour date, but I figured she would like to hear the whole story. When I noticed that not only is today the seven year anniversary of the formation of The Maine, but exactly six months since my show, I knew today was a good day to talk about it. And that's why this post is sappy.

I arrived at the venue at three o'clock to reserve a good spot in line for my friends and I. All I took with me was a thirty-three ounce bottle of water, three B-12 pills, an umbrella, my copy of Forever Halloween, and a pair of sun glasses that could be destroyed if that were to happen. I was kicked out of the air conditioned back seat of the car to swelter in the heat in the heart of Deep Ellum. Naturally, the sun was out, and, since it was July in Dallas, the temperature was over 100, and the humidity was near that number, too. This was nineteen days before my spine surgery, so I knew I wouldn't be able to stand up for four hours before doors opened; fortunately, the band's bus was parked at the right place in line for me to lean against it for the majority of the time.
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I sat under Jared for about three or four hours before they made us move.

The downside to this, of course, is that it left a huge stain where the hump on my back used to be, and I was wearing my favorite gig shirt...
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You would be surprised how this shirt is a conversation starter in lines; The Maine's crew loved it, and one of them asked if they could photograph it. I knew I was in a good crowd that day.

Since my friends wouldn't be there for a while, I spent some time texting my mother. Going back and looking at some of those messages confirms the fact that I was, indeed, suffering from heat stroke; they make no sense whatsoever. I had to ration the water, and came up with a plan for in case I went face-first into the pavement. It wouldn't have been too far of a fall, since I was sitting on the sidewalk. By the third hour in that oppressive heat, my preventative Aleve had worn completely off, and I realized I was sitting on a heap of rocks the entire time.
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I'm brilliant. Also, heat stroke.

I swear, I don't think I have ever sweat so much in my entire life. My B-12 pills are fast melts, and they dissolved in my pocket; my white shirt was very off-white, mixed with wet patches, and yellow spots from where my sunscreen had dripped. It was insanity. By the time the sun went behind the buildings, they had started checking IDs, and handing out wristbands to the twenty-one and over crowd; they were also scanning tickets at the same time.
"Over or under?" the bearded man asked me.
"Over," I replied, reaching for my wallet. "I guess you want proof, huh?"
Remember, heat stroke.
He examined my ID as though he were looking for some blatant forgery, or that he was determined to prove that I was fourteen.
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I know I look like I'm twelve, sir, please give me a band to prove my total legality.

He held it up to the light, almost like he was checking a hundred dollar bill. After about ten seconds, he seemed satisfied, turned to the ticket scanning lady, and said, "give her a band". As she wrapped the band around my wrist twice (those things are huge), she asked for my ticket. Here's the thing: when I go to a show, I keep the ticket in my bra. I figure that it's an area that isn't going to be disturbed, and I would know immediately if something were to happen to it. Remember, though, how I said I had never sweat so much in my life? Well, my ticket was actually dripping wet. The girl next to me in line had the gall to exclaim how grossed out she was by it, and the lady checking tickets tore at the perforation with as little contact as possible, which, considering the paper was desegregating, couldn't have been that hard.
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Honestly, I was just glad that the torn bit didn't affect the bit they needed to let me in.

Finally, after about twenty-seven years in the heat, they let us into the dark little club to find places on the floor. I had an ideal spot planned in my head for where I wanted to be, and I damn near got there: right in front of Jared Monaco, as close to stage as possible to accommodate for my crooked spine and short stature. By jove, would you believe I got there, too? Second row! What a bargain for five hours in the heat. Did I mention it was hot out there? I ran out of water, and maybe even sweat as much as I drank -- possibly more. It was too hot for a girl that wants to move to freaking Idaho.

As I identified the perfect spot in the crowd, a nice youngster came straight up to me and introduced herself and her friend, who was in the first row, pressed against the stage. I'm terrible with names, but I know the friend's name was Reagan, because, well, we all know my love for President Reagan. I told her she had a lovely name, and we chatted a little bit before Brighten came out and played a few songs. I will never understand the fascination with smartphones, and discovered that while Justin Richards was singing his songs; there stands a lovely human, playing and singing ideas that he came up with in some poorly lit room somewhere, and kids were literally on Facebook while he was doing it. Facebook will be there in a few hours, but the magic of concept transfer through art won't be; I don't get where the disconnect is for people, but put down the damn phone when pretty boys are playing you songs.

Seriously? Something similar to this was going on (this wasn't the Dallas date), and kids were on Facebook. Also, if you want this exact version of "We Are Birds" for keeps, go download the 8123 Tour EP.

I could lie and say that This Century's set was memorable, but I think that would be highly inaccurate. I did like their live version of "Hopeful Romantic", though, so go get that on the 8123 EP.

A Rocket to the Moon's set was oodles of fun; maybe it was because 8123 was their last tour, but they made a connection with the audience, and everyone had a great time.

Eric Halvorson forced his band to play the chorus of 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite", much to their chagrin; I think Nick Santino's words were "I can't believe we just did that". Honestly, only about half of the room knew it, which made me feel rather old -- my sister and I would sing this song when it came on the radio when it was new, and these kids either had no idea what a cool song it was/is, or didn't care to participate. That, and the crowd was much younger than I had anticipated it being. There was an audience participation part, though, and they were willing to do that. Right before "A Whole Lotta You", Mr. Santino went through a little spiel about how the next song was about making friends, so we should turn to the person next to us and make a new friend; I turned to the girl who introduced herself to me, and we waved. When he prompted us to kiss our new friends, I just looked at her and said "no" while she nodded in agreement.

As their set came to a close, there was a small kerfuffle with the two new girls I had met. The crowd was buzzing so loudly that I couldn't actually hear what they were saying until Reagan turned to me and semi-screamed, "we're gonna move, do you want my spot?"
Do I what, now?
"Are you sure you wanna do that?" I shouted back at her as the girl behind me frantically exclaimed that she would take it.
"Yeah, we're moving," and with that, I squeezed into the small space she had occupied. As I thanked her, I couldn't believe my luck. I had been happy to be on the second row behind two girls that were shorter than me, and had somehow ended up being smushed against the stage, half hanging onto its floorboards.

When The Maine actually came out, I was standing right in front of Jared Monaco; I could have changed the settings on his stomp board I was so close. In fact, I was so close, I kept being sweated on; by then, I had been drenched all day, and I figured it was better to embrace it and move on, rather than go with my gut reaction of being thoroughly freaked out. Hell, my hand almost got stepped on. There was no possible way to get closer to that performance; the band probably wasn't even that close to each other.
Fun things happened...

I was two people to the left of this guy; he caught the pick that Mr. O'Callaghan threw in the air at the end of the video, and it was the cutest thing when he got it.

Probably everyone cried (look, if you didn't cry while Mr. O'Callaghan was playing "These Four Words" [honestly, he was really into that song that night, and you could feel it], you cried when you realized the next song on the setlist was "Whoever She Is"), and the concert was over...

As we were all being ushered out of the venue, ears still ringing, I contemplated my next move. Everyone knows the band comes out after every gig to sign for fans purely out of the goodness of their hearts (or something). My problem, of course, is that I am a cripplingly awkward human being. I'm not proud of it, but we all have to acknowledge the good and bad parts of our personalities. As I was having war flashbacks to when I met Alex Gaskarth, I figured it wouldn't do any harm just to hang out by the bus, and soak up the atmosphere; after all, I love to do that, and it's part of why I go to gigs early (you can see all sorts of people weaving in and out of a venue when you get there hours early, in addition to sometimes being able to hear soundchecks [for this gig, you could hear them playing "White Walls", and, when they came out, they decided to do an impromptu photoshoot with fans]). I found a decent spot, and leaned up against the barricade that had been set up while the show was going.

Behind me, I heard my name being called; Reagan and her friend had found me, and we all decided to wait together. I was quite grateful when they acknowledged my I-can-drink wristband, and took my reply of "I'm twenty-one" without even blinking; actually, they asked me all sorts of questions about college, "growing up", and creative writing. Though the friend who's name I cannot remember (sorry, just in case you ever find this) didn't stay long, Reagan was glad to have me there, as she said she wouldn't have stayed otherwise. She wanted to meet as many members of Rocket as she could, and get the drumstick she had caught signed by as many people as possible. As for me, I didn't feel the same panic I had done when I met the Plain White T's, or All Time Low. There was no sense of "what-do-I-say-I'm-going-to-make-such-a-fool-of-myself-oh-my-God", no illusion that the Universe and Everything was going to implode upon itself. I tried to force myself to feel it, but it honestly wasn't that kind of an atmosphere; everything and everyone was laid back, nothing was urgent, and I didn't feel like I was going to die. I questioned if it was because I was "older" than most everyone else there, or maybe that I was older in myself, generally; I think it's just the kind of people that the band is, and the kind of people they attract.

First, we met Pat, who was quite lovely. I thanked him for coming out, because he didn't actually have to; Reagan made some sort of comment on how she was glad to have met someone who was polite because of his band, to which Pat replied "music is magic" before being accosted by someone who hadn't experienced the same wave of calm I did.

No matter what band you meet, there will always be one member with whom you will have an awkward moment, wave of calm or not. With the Plain White T's, it was Mike Retondo; with All Time Low... well, we all know that story; and, for The Maine, it was Kennedy Brock. Perhaps it's simply that two quiet people were in an odd situation, I don't know. I also thanked him for coming out when he didn't have to, to which he replied very softly, "no problem", and just stared at me. I stared back. We stared at each other for about three years. It was weird. He moved to the frantic girl slowly, breaking eye contact about half-way to her. I still don't actually know what that was about.

Though I was not nervous, I was thoroughly excited to meet Jared Monaco -- bouncy up and down excited. I can't help it; anyone who knows me knows I pay attention to guitar, and, well, he's really good at it. He was a pleasure to watch live, and such a treat to speak to for a minute. The girl that talked to him before hand -- and I use the word "talk" loosely -- had taken her photograph with him, and he was bothered by the flash on the camera. I understand light sensitivity, man, I get it -- I've worn sunglasses since I was seven, and a sleeping mask since I was nine. He had to stop and rub his eyes, then blinked quickly a few times to shake it off.
"Are you OK?" I asked him, knowing he was probably seeing the world in shades of black, red, and green about then. He confirmed he was OK, and thanked me for asking.
"Well, thank you for coming out here. I know you guys don't have to do it, but it's nice that you do," I said as he signed my record.
"It's because of you guys that we can do this! Thank you," he said with incredible sincerity.
"No, it's because of you --" I started.
"No, it's because of you!" he said as he was accosted by freaking-out-girl.
"I still think it's all you," I told him as the crowd around him "awwwww-ed" at our exchange.
I don't care what he says, I really think it's because of them. They do what they do, and if they didn't do that, how would I even know those humans were in existence? See, it's all them. He's such a little sweetheart, though, and I'm glad to have had that moment with him.

Things were quiet for a moment while we took in what was going on elsewhere: Garrett was spending a great deal of time with another group of people; Mr. O'Callaghan was flocked by more freaking-out-girls, stuck in a web about seven humans deep; and the other bands were starting to head back to their respective vehicles. Reagan turned to me and said, "we aren't going to get to meet them, can we go meet Nick Santino?"
It was as if I was possessed by a force greater than myself, because it is not in my character to say the words I said: "sure, lead the way".
What? What. What did I just say? Did I just give up my chance to meet John O'Callaghan? As she beckoned for me to follow her, it dawned on me that I had. My inner voice started to protest, "but, but, but, I don't want to meet Nick Santino. I want to meet John O'Callaghan. What the frick are you doing, get back over to where you just left. Be active! Speak, child, speak!" As we approached him, she asked if I would take her photograph with him, to which I agreed. As she accomplished her goal, Mr. Santino turned to me, implying "what do you want from me, I would like to go back to my bed and sleep for two weeks, can I go home yet?" Well, truth be told, I didn't want anything from him. I, quite literally, was just in proximity. I had no plan, nothing to say, and I was being prompted. Life said "cue!", and I was wilting like a parched daisy. Having just observed a small throng of girls asking him for hugs, I said the first, and, unfortunately, unfiltered, thing I could think to say: "well, I guess I'll take a hug, too, then", I chirped in my awful Texas accent -- it sounded like Minnie Mouse's hick cousin had said it. We awkwardly patted each other on the back of the shoulder, neither of us really sure what the other was doing. Even the kids looked at me like I had some kind of issue. Afterward, Reagan decided she had gotten all she was going to get from the experience, and, with a friendly hug and well wishes, she went her way, and I went to observe the end of the meet and greet. I knew I had done everything that was going to be done, so I enjoyed just watching as both boys were pulled away from people trying to get that one last piece of them they could get.

Honestly, I was just glad to have been there. It didn't end up mattering to me if I did or did not meet any one person, but it did matter to the girl I met that night, and I hope it was wonderful for her. I also hope she can go to this acoustic tour, because it will be magical.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was covered in ink: I had blue and black boobs on my left side, red handstamps had migrated from the back of my hand to both arms and my favorite gig shirt, and black smudges all along my lower back from keeping my record tucked into my jeans all day. It. Was. Hot.
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My ticket is almost completely faded, and my record looks like it was soaked in the sea, booklet and all.

Can I just say, though, that I am so glad I did not make a total ass of myself in front of Jared Monaco? If I had to make an ass of myself, I'm glad it was with Nick Santino.

Maybe I just shouldn't be allowed to meet bands.
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Friday, January 10, 2014

The Day My Niece Discovered The Rolling Stones

So, people finally got around to doing the whole Christmas thing in my family; last night, my sister and her family visited our tiny town to exchange possessions. Before they arrived, my mother eagerly searched my grandfather's satellite radio stations for a lingering Christmas channel, and, in a late Christmas miracle, there were none left; she instead settled on a 60s station, for which I was grateful.

We all gathered in the living room, and dug into our semi-Christmas meal of Frito pie, and Happy Meals for the wee ones. I sat in the floor -- the unofficial Buford kid's table -- with my niece, and encouraged her to eat her McNuggets. We happened to be sitting in front of the television, which was still tuned into the 60s station, facing away from the screen. The grown-ups were discussing Chris Christie and the political arena in 2014, which are all incredibly boring things for a four year old to listen to; her brain was miles away.
Somewhere between the bike that Santa brought her, and her desperate attempts to pawn her dog off on everyone in the room, her attention was drawn to the radio she was sitting right in front of. Her face changed as she turned to the television.
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The station was playing "Get Off of My Cloud" by The Rolling Stones...

As she listened, she looked back at me with a mixture of excitement, trepidation, and disgust.
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She turned back to the television, touching it with her sticky little girl hand, leaving a mark on the glass over the bouncing ribbon that told what song was playing. With her hand still on the screen, she looked at me again.
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"I've never heard this song before," she told me in a barely audible tone -- not quite a whisper, but almost like she didn't want the tall people to know that she was hearing this for the first time that she could remember -- as she pulled her hand from the television.
"That's The Rolling Stones," I told her, quietly, "they're pretty cool. Do you like the song?"
She continued looking at me as she pensively chewed a french fry.
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"Maybe she's just taking in the song," I thought to myself. If you've never heard something before, you need time to process it. "I'll wait a few seconds before I ask again."
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With her fry gone, she turned back to the television and touched the screen again, leaving another hand-shaped print on a different spot on the glass. A few seconds passed before she looked at me again.
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"The song," I said as she picked up another fry, "do you like the song?"
All she would do is look at me with wide eyes, chewing the fry.
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"Is it a good song?" I asked her a final time, and was met with silence as the song changed.
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"Come on, kid, do I look like Benjamin Button to you?"

After this episode, I have three questions: the first is "how did this happen?" The child's mother loves The Stones; one of the few songs she'll sing is "Paint It Black"...

...and musical discussions between the sisters usually boils down to the age old argument.
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The second question I asked myself was if I happened to be present at the exact moment my niece discovered rock and roll.

And, the final question: "DID YOU LIKE THE BLOODY SONG, LITTLE GIRL?" The looks on her face suggested there was some kind of experience happening within her. The sub-question now, however, is what kind of reaction did she have? Was it a Greatest Generation kind of response...
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...or a Gavin Cavenaugh kind of response?

One of the greatest movies on God's Earth.

And the most annoying part of this third question is that I will never know if the child liked the song, because she was too busy using french fries as a defense mechanism to answer Aunt B.
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