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Monday, July 31, 2006

Driving Mrs. Daisy

To be considered a "yankee" city, Philadelphia was surprisingly, a very pleasant place. Not that "yankee" cities are awful places to be, but when you're from the South and are used to southern hospitality, you notice the difference in regional mannerisms. Anyway, Philadelphia lived up to it's nickname as the city of "brotherly love." Mom and I had a wonderful, giggle-filled time, and can now mark Philly off as one more city on the list to conquer.

We finally arrived at the hotel at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, after a hilarious gas-related snafu at the rental place and some bum hotel directions. We practically crashed into bed, dreading the 6 a.m. wake up call, which of course, came too soon. I had previously mapped out our day in downtown Philadelphia and packed it full of historical sites and shopping. I totally need to quit my job and become a travel writer or a concierge or something.

Our day started at Independence Hall, standing in the very rooms where Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin and of course, John Hancock, constructed the Declaration of Independence. Throughout the day, we visited the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House. Franklin Court showcased Ben Franklin's stomping grounds, complete with a Book Bindery and print shop for his Aurora Newspaper. Blame it on my journalism background, but I especially enjoyed the working reproduction of a printing press. Mom and I visited Christ Church and sat in the pews where George and Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin and William Penn worshipped. We ended our afternoon of historical tours at City Hall, where we rode a rickety elevator up to 22nd floor of the tower for an aerial view of Philly.

Our next stop was Geno's Steaks. It's un-American to visit Philadelphia and forego an authentic cheesesteak. We finally found Geno's, among the Italian ghetto, and ordered our sandwiches with provolone. Mom and I devoured them in all of their greasy goodness. I wanted to take a couple of photos before I left, so I asked Geno if I could take his picture in the window by the "This is America--when ordering speak english" and "Management has the right to refuse service" signs. Geno then invited Mom and I inside to take a photo with him standing at the cheesesteak grill. It sounds cheesy (pun intended), but we felt like it was a real privilege.

Later that afternoon, I drug mom to Philadelphia's Chinatown, in search of Sanrio merch. I was parallel parking our rental car in a very tiny space, when I barely tapped the car behind me on the bumper. Of course, I opened my big mouth and let a four-letter expletive fly out, while Mom sat there shocked. This made me laugh out loud when I realized the absurdity of the situation. I threw the car in drive and edged forward in the spot, hoping and praying that no one in the bustling city saw me back into the car. Mom and I got out and lingered at the meter, as if we were paying for our spot, and eyed the back of our bumper and the front bumper of the molested car. We didn't see any scratches or dents, so we sheepishly skittered away from the cars and went on our way. I know, we're going to Hell. Especially me, since I cursed in front of my mother.

Friday morning, we woke up rested and headed out the door for Amish country. Our first stop was Intercourse, PA and our visit there was very satisfying. We stopped at a local canning company and Americana craft and trinket stores, as well as watched to the Amish conduct their daily business. Friday also yielded stops in Bird-in-Hand, PA and Lancaster, PA. We finished the day by shopping at two large outlet malls right outside Lancaster.

Saturday, Mom and I had a beautiful day to explore Valley Forge National Park. We set out on the auto tour for a scenic drive through the park, stopping at the Revolutionary War Memorial
and the Washington Memorial Chapel, featuring the Justice Bell, cast to support women's suffrage.

Saturday afternoon, Mom and I took a little too much advantage of Philadelphia's statewide NO TAX on clothing and shoes mandate. It's a good thing we checked an extra empty suitcase and carry on, because we filled them both up. The King of Prussia Mall is the second largest mall in the United States and they weren't kidding. We spent a total of seven hours, excluding our lunch break, shopping from store-to-store.

Sunday, Mom and I checked out of the hotel and traveled back to downtown Philly, for a stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to run up the steps and jump around like the infamous Rocky. We headed over to the Rittenhouse Row shopping district to visit my favorite store, Anthropologie, and ate lunch at Di Bruno Brothers, a fabulous gourmet cafe.

Late afternoon, we boarded the plane to come home. Traveling with Mom is a lot of fun because we like lots of the same things. She warned me that if I made fun of her in my Philly blog post, that she would never travel with me again. I'm going to call her bluff and poke fun just once---I told her that I should title this blog post, "Driving Mrs. Daisy," because Mom freaks out, unnecessarily so, at my driving skills. She even presses the brake pedal in the floorboard of the passenger seat when she feels like I'm not stopping soon enough. It was almost as if I was fifteen again and learning to drive... Gotta love her though!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

LOVE Philly-style

Dear Queen MAB Faithful,

Tonight, I'm departing for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, for a mother-daughter vacay. We've got plans to learn about our heritage, mingle with the Amish, rock the Jersey shore and shop our pants off. I'll be back the first of next week to ring in some fun, compliments of the Liberty Bell. Have a wonderful week at work, suckers!


18 & Under

Stop two of the Queen MAB summer concert series took place last night at where else, but the Ryman Auditorium, to see Ben Lee and Dashboard Confessional with Mason. I've been very excited about this show for months, but was rather tired last night. When we walked in and realized that we were the only people over the age of 18, I knew it would be an interesting night.

Maybe the joke's on me, but since when did Dashboard gain such a teeny bopper following? I mean, they've been around since the late 90s, so the people buying tickets to their show should have been my generation, right? Either way, I couldn't be too judgemental. Annoyed as I was at the teeny bopper antics, I was myself, one day long ago, a punk rock princess at the blossoming age of sixteen.

Mason and I are waiting for the opening act to begin and are listening to the house music, when we begin to hear Beck's Loser. I make a comment to Mason about how we are the only two people in the room that a) can name the artist, and b) remember when the song was released. Mason decided to test out this theory and turns around to the gangle of girls behind us and asks, "hey do any of ya'll know who sings this?" We were met with a bunch of blank stares and some mumbles of "no." He then surveys the girls sitting beside him and was met with the same reaction. Finally, I turn to the kids beside me and ask them, and the guy actually knew it was Beck! One-in-six people, one-in-six. Geez, I feel old.

Soon enough, Ben Lee, that loveable and quirky Australian rocker boy walks onstage. I'm a bit confused because it's only 7:30 at this point, meaning that Ben Lee is the opening act for the opening act for the headliner. He's so much better than that. Anyway, Ben Lee is a pretty funny guy, and you can't help but smile at his pint-sized goodness. His best song of the evening was definitely Gamble Everything for Love.

Mason and I had pretty great seats, totally making up for my bad seat on Saturday night. I was happily clicking away on my camera, when I was told by an usher that the show was camera/audio/video free. Boo. We'll just turn the flash off then. I got some decent incognito shots throughout the evening, anyway.

Say Anything followed up Ben's performance and I think my ears are still bleeding. I was embarrassed about how bad they were. And angry because they disgraced the Ryman and were never worthy enough to perform onstage. It's like a bunch of lazy teenage boys got together one day and said, "dude, let's form a band. Can anyone play any instruments? Ok so that's five guitar players---COOL! I can't really sing, but I can shout a lot and we'll write songs about vulgar sex and drugs and death and stuff and say lots of four-letter words---we're so artistic and anti-establishment." Needless to say, I was a little bitter after their performance.

The night flew by rather quickly, and Dashboard Confessional finally made their way on stage, with the drop of a HUGE white drape and the revealing of a gorgeous backdrop that changed colors and patterns throughout the evening. Chris Carrabba is a scrawny little guy (seemed to be the theme of the evening) and his pasty white arms are tattooed from elbow to wrist. I guess he fits the angst-emo-rocker persona well.

Dashboard did a fine job of working the crowd, catering to the screaming and swooning girls. Their set list included both old and new material, and was balanced for the most part. Unfortunately, Chris seems to like it when the teeny boppers sing his songs for him, so much of the concert relied on audience participation. I was a little disappointed because I didn't pay 30 bucks to hear whiny sixteen year olds "screaming infidelities," but at least I can cross Dashboard off of my list of people-to-do and things-to-see.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nashville Culture

Culture was on the agenda for this past weekend, with a visit to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on Friday night and a rockin' concert at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday night.

Friday night proved to be educational and enlightening, visiting the "Capture the Moment" exhibit, a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from the 1940s through today. I had seen most of the photos before, whether they be in the media or in photography classes in college, but the exhibit afforded me an opportunity to learn the story behind the photo, primarily from the photographer's perspective. It also inspired me to dust off my own SLR and quit neglecting my favorite hobby. Click here to view a sampling of the photos on display.

Saturday night kicked off the Queen MAB summer concert series, with Ray LaMontagne and Guster playing at the Ryman. I've commented many a time about how there isn't a bad seat in the Ryman. For the record, I need to retract that statement and say that there is a bad seat in the Ryman (MF-3, Row Y, seat 3) and I sat in it for the first half of the evening.

The place was sold out and concert patrons were very excited to hear Ray perform, some of them even commenting about how they were only at the show for him. Ray walks somberly on stage and begins to perform. His tone is very rich and bluesy, yet he is so softspoken that you can barely hear his voice when he talks. Ray, accompanied by his acoustic guitar and harmonica, looked like an earthy Jesus-figure, basking in a warm red glow of light. At one point, Ray stops and invites a good friend of his to come onstage and perform some vocals in his song. Out steps Rachel Yamagata. One of the perks of living in Nashville is that you never know what famous rock celebrity is waiting in the wings to come onstage and sing with the person or band you paid to see. This also happened to me in 2003 at the Cake show at the Ryman, when John Mark Painter of Fleming & John, appeared onstage.

Ray played a few songs from the Trouble album, but mostly stuck with recordings from his upcoming album, Till the Sun Turns Black. The best song of the night by far, was "Shelter." Just when I settled in to Ray's set, he starts laughing maniacally. He then proceeds to announce that there is a (insert four-letter word here) in the audience who thinks his music is hilarious and we're all waiting for the (insert four-letter word here)'s kids to grow up and rape. Ouch. He then puts his guitar down and walks off stage. The audience is shocked, because Ray's set was obviously not over. We didn't see him the rest of the evening.

A mass exodus of people commenced and I was a little surprised to see how many people were only there to see Ray. I mean, Ray is great and all, but Guster is pretty rockin' too. I didn't really mind though, because Mason and I moved up about ten rows and had great seats for the Guster portion of the show.

Guster never fails to disappoint, both musically and stylistically---that is, fashion-wise of course. The boys waltzed onstage dressed head-to-toe in sequined, country-themed suits, designed by Nashville local, Manuel. Lead singer, Ryan Miller, remarked that the rhinestone-couture suits were ever-appropriate for three Jewish bearded guys. Guster recently added a fourth member, Joe Pisapia, who is also a Nashville implant, although the only non-Jewish member of Guster.

The show rocked out, and Guster formed a successful balance between their old, acoustic jams and their new electronic sound. They didn't forget to entertain with favorites such as "Fa Fa," "Barrel of a Gun," and "Amsterdam." Ping pong balls flooded the stage at the end of "The Airport Song," as tradition calls for. The boys appeared back onstage for their second encore, completely unplugged and acoustic, with a quiet and sentimental rendition of "Jesus on the Radio." They exited the stage after a very heartfelt and gracious thank you to their fans and I exited the building a satisfied Gusterhoid.

The show brought back memories of the first time I saw Guster perform live, at the late-great 328 Performance Hall on 4th Avenue South on April 13, 2001, one day after my 20th birthday. That was a memorable show for me for a number of reasons. For those of you who remember 328, you know what a special venue it was before it was mercilessly demolished in order to make way for the Gateway Bridge/Demonbreun Street extension. 328 was a standing-room only venue, that only held about 500 people, yet was able to book very large acts. Anyway, I was mashed up against the stage for the Guster show, front and center, and could see Adam Gardner's nose hairs. But that's not the only amazing sight I saw that evening...

A young lad opened the show for Guster that night. He was perched on the stage with a barstool and his acoustic guitar, alongside his squirrelly bass player. I didn't know who the heck he was, but Rachel and I swooned when he opened his mouth and began to sing, "Your Body is a Wonderland." Yes folks, the young lad was a pre-fame John Mayer. Rachel and I knew that we had witnessed something special.

What. a. weekend.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Holiness before Happiness

Wednesday evening, I received some quality advice when I was more than a little down in the dumps about a dating relationship gone awry. In the midst of my cries of "things just aren't fair," Mom says to me, "holiness before happiness."

Ya, it's that obedience thing again. I'm finding out that I have somewhat of an issue with obedience. In certain situations, I don't face temptation, therefore I have no problem living honorably. In many other situations, I find every way in the book to justify my actions or desires in spite of the call to obedience. How convenient.

It's perplexing. If holiness before happiness, and holiness equals true happiness in Christ, then why am I unhappy right now? Obviously, only the Almighty God knows the true desires of my heart and what exactly will send me life to the fullest. Here we go again with being content in my situation, in the land under my feet...

I have chosen to answer the call to obedience, yet I am still miserable. I have chosen the far-distant Mr. Right over the very entertaining/easy-way-out, Mr. Right-Now. I admit, my resolve for obedience, my patience in the Lord's plan, and the optimism for what lies ahead, is not as strong as it used to be. We're gonna let the Lord work on that one...

You ever get the feeling that something's doomed from the beginning? You're smart enough to know that it's not going to work out, that it can't possibly work out, yet you engage anyway, knowing that it's going to lead to nothing but heartbreak for one or both parties?

I want to make someone understand why things have to be the way they have to be. Nothing I've said so far has worked, so I enlisted the help of Mr. Chris Carrabba, front man of Dashboard Confessional, to be the messenger. If you haven't already bought their latest album, do so immediately. His song, Dusk and Summer, for your reading pleasure:

She smiled in a big way
The way a girl like that smiles
When the world is hers. And she held your eyes
Out in the breezeway, down by the shore
In the lazy summer

And she pulled you in
And she bit your lip
And she made you hers
She looked deep into you as you lay together
Quiet in the grasp of dusk and summer

But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
When you only had barely enough to hang on

And she combed your hair
And she kissed your teeth
And she made you better than you’d been before
And she told you bad things that you wished you could change
In the lazy summer

And she told you, laughing down to her core
So she would not cry
And she lay in your lap as she said
“Nobody here can live forever
Quiet in the grasp of dusk and summer.”

But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
When you only had barely enough to hang on

She said “No one is alone the way you are alone.”
And you held her looser than you would’ve if you ever could’ve known
Some things tie your life together
With slender threads of things to treasure
Days like that should last and last and last

But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
But you’ve already lost
When you only have barely enough of her to hang on

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tryin' to Catch Me Ridin' Dirty

I think my friends and I must be very strange, because we seem to be the only ones that "get" each other....

Saturday night, Mandy, Natalie, Lana and I were enjoying a balmy evening on the patio of Jonathan's in Cool Springs. We wander on a tangent about interaction with people and how it's polite to give a courtesy laugh when someone you work with makes a bad joke. Lana recently experienced rejection from co-workers, when they all failed to provide the appropriate courtesy laugh at a joke she made.

Lana was telling us the story of how she was with coworkers and a rap song came on the radio. One of her coworkers made a comment about how she didn't like that kind of music. Lana says, "I do sometimes, especially when I'm with my friends. We sing rap songs operatic-style." Lana then proceeds to belt out "Ridin' Dirty" by Chamillionaire, except putting her own operatic spin on the chorus.

Now, this seems completely normal and acceptable to my friends and I. When Lana mentioned singing songs operatic-style, I could identify, having done so myself, many a time. But evidently, her coworkers didn't really understand the humor in the situation, because none of them laughed. Lana said they looked at her like she was an alien, so she promptly exited the room.

I can name offhand, several friends, of whom I've personally witnessed give operatic performance to whatever rap song is blasting on the radio. Do other people act like this too? Or are my friends and I just freaks? I mean, we're all still single...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pirates, Fireworks & Wimbledon

Begrudgingly, I'll admit that my vacation is over and I'm back in the real world. The week lent itself to my favorite holiday of the year and gorgeous sunny, low-humidity weather to bake at the pool. Here are the highlights:

I saw two movies during my week of bliss--The Devil Wears Prada and Pirates of the Caribbean. TDWP was a typical chick flick, entertaining yet lacking in the thought stimulation department. I only really cared about seeing the movie for Meryl Streep's performance, and she definitely stole the show right out from under Anne Hathaway. POTC, all three hours of it, was exceptional. There's just something about Johnny Depp in black eyeliner and his glorified greasiness that really makes me go arrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!

The Fourth of July was oh-so-fun, spent at Chateau Bradley, with enough chlorine and hot dogs for all. I contributed a patriotic fruit pizza for the event, although minus several stripes... Another comment was recorded for "The Tao of Lana" on the Fourth: "Sometimes, I just get tired of saying please!"

Sufficiently pruny and with full bellies, Lana, Amanda, Natalie, Emily, Rhonda, Ashley and I, headed out to the Riverfront in downtown Nashville for the city's annual fireworks show. I've lived in Nashville all my life but I had never been down to see the fireworks on the river, toted as one of the top ten fireworks shows in the nation. The Nashville Symphony performs live and coordinates their melodies with the boom of the fireworks.

The event was filmed live on News Channel 4, and lo-and-behold, the gals and I were shot waving and having a good ol' time more than once. Friends and family called and texted to us that they saw us on TV. It doesn't surprise me. The last time I saw that many white-trash, rednecks gather in one place was the Wilson County Fair---it was no wonder the news people were so enthralled with seven girls beauty, considering the selection from which they had to choose.

L to R: Natalie, Amanda, MA, Rhonda, Ashley, Emily, Lana

Rhonda & Em. NERD ALERT!!!

Ashley & MA. Ashley's last night out in Nashvegas before the move to Tyler, Texas.

Saturday morning, a "friend" of mine introduced me to the game of tennis and served me strawberries and cream during the Wimbledon finals. Evidently, it's a tradition for all of those Londoners to eat the delectable dish during the tournament. Anyway, I can add tennis to the list of sports I like, now knowing the definition of a deuce and a love...

Sarah and I spent one evening shootin' the shinkta at Johnathan's in Cool Springs and were highly amused by the comment made by a somewhat intoxicated gal, asking her friends, in her slurred southern drawl, to join her out on the dance floor: "We need to go out there and cut up like a pair of scissors!"

The fam and I traveled to Jackson to celebrate my Mamaw's 88th birthday. It's hard to imagine that at this time last year, Mom was holed up in a hotel room in downtown Birmingham and spending her days at the hospital with Mamaw. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged this weekend to see how much she has progressed.

Thath it, thath all!

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Vacation's all I ever wanted...

I'm on vacation right now and have been all week. It's Thursday, and I'm in no mood to sit indoors and blog so I will not. I wish I could say that I was headed out to the pool, but I've got errands to run.

Therefore, I've decided that my blog is also on vacation. You will not hear from either of us the rest of the week. I will return on Monday to recap my favorite holiday of the year, as well as the rest of the drama (good) surrounding my glorious vacation.

I hope everyone is enjoying the short work week!

Queen MAB

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