Monday, August 26, 2013

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Yep, today was the first day of school for this kids out here in Las Vegas.  Freaky how time flies.  If I still lived back East, I'd be bumming about summer coming to an end. Right after Labor Day, the depression would set in and I'd start my "I can't stand the goddamn cold" rant even though the really cold weather wouldn't set in for another couple of months. 

My most enjoyable fall ever was in 2010, the year I spent the summer in Albany. I could enjoy the beautiful fall colors because I knew I'd be coming back to Vegas by early November.  My sister Stacie was just up in the Adirondacks last weekend, and posted this picture on Facebook:

Seems a little early, but I'm kind of psyched because I'm heading back to Albany next weekend and maybe I'll get to see some foliage while I'm there.  I'll be in town for a week, and I'm planning on taking Courtney, Hazel, and Connor on some kind of trip--perhaps up north.  Any suggestions for a cool and inexpensive mid-week hotel?

Connor's first day of school is September 9.  Schools in the Northeast don't start until after Labor Day, and this year he's really getting a late start because the Jewish high holiday Rosh Hashana starts on Wednesday night, September 4, and lasts until Friday night.

Are you surprised to hear that the public schools back there get the Jewish holidays off?  Just Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  Yep, there's a lot of Jewish people in Albany; I always had a million Jewish friends.  And to this day, I'm grateful that we sang "Oh, Hanukkah!" and "The Dreidel Song" at Christmastime and danced the Hora in gym class.  Along with the Alley Cat.  I bet they don't do that anymore.

When I was in elementary school, we didn't have the Jewish holidays off; I think that started when we were in junior high.  Anyway, I remember one day a Jewish holiday fell on a Wednesday and all the Jewish kids, of course, were out of school for the day.  Well, Wednesday was also the day when the Catholic kids left early for religious instruction at the nearby Catholic schools, so for the last hour of school there were only a handful of us Protestant or heathen kids left. Even the teacher was like, "Hmmm... this is weird."

Speaking of my elementary school days, here's a picture of my fourth grade class. Can you pick out your pal Linda Lou?

Yep, catching a little shut-eye at the exact moment of the click of the camera. I remember I was MORTIFIED when we got the packets with this picture.  Everyone was coming up to saying, "Look!  Your eyes are closed!" and I was like, "No duh..."  Oh, it took me years to get over that.

Funny, I still know the names of every single kid in that picture.  Of the 28 kids, 10 are Jewish.

Sadly, two of the kids in this photo have since died.  The God's honest truth is, one pushed me in the bushes walking home from school and the other wrote something mean in my yearbook.  Coincidence?  I'm not saying a word.  Maybe my eyes were closed because I was working on a curse.

OMG.  Wow, Linda.  Really?

No, a Girl Scout would never do that...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gorgeous hair in less than a minute. (Even for me!)

Yesterday at work I presented a mini-session for my clients on how to look better, feel better, and project more confidence.  This coming from a total Glamour "Don't," right?  Mrs. "I Love Tuesdays So I Can Get My 10% Discount at Ross."

Anyway, as I was doing a little research on the topic, I came across the "virtual makeover" site,  It's a riot--you upload a photo of yourself and then try on different celebrity hair styles and colors. You can also put makeup on your face, but I just went for the hair. My face is not the problem.

So I uploaded the picture of me that you see in the right column and decided on the Carly Rae Jepsen style in ash brown.  Whaddya think?

Oh, to have long, thick hair like that!  If you think I'm full of myself now...  I would just be totally unbearable.  No one would want to be friends with me because I'd be all like, "So isn't my hair gorgeous?  Oh, but it takes so long to dry!" I hate it when women with beautiful, thick hair give me that line. I race from the shower to the hair dryer and still don't make it in time.

Then I decided to have a little fun with my husband. I thought the Kelly Rowland look best suited him. (Shhh... he will freakin' KILL me when he sees this.)

Now, that's a good looking couple!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More on The Monkees and the importance of sharing your talents

Did you see on Facebook that my last post about my experience at The Monkees show at Green Valley Ranch was picked up by the REAL Peter Tork (Official) Facebook page?  (At this point, you'll have to scroll down the page quite a bit to see my post.) What a thrill!  I know that Peter Tork has a social media team, but maybe (?) he took a look at my post himself (?)  At any rate, that was pretty cool.

As a result of that exposure, I heard from Wayne Sander, a guy from Minnesota who Micky Dolenz picked to join them on stage and lead the crowd in singing "Daydream Believer." Wayne's a huge fan of The Monkees; he told me his earliest memories are of wanting to grow up to be Peter Tork. His partner, Dan, scored some front row tickets on eBay for Wayne's birthday.

Here's how Wayne describes being pulled up on stage. Kind of like Courteney Cox in Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video, except it wasn't a set-up.
"Here's something interesting I found out the night of the show.  When Micky Dolenz is standing on stage and he points his finger directly at you and says 'I want YOU,' the word 'you' actually echoes in your head just like it does in the movies (you, you, you, you, you….).  Another thing that happened, is the moment I finished navigating the coils of power and sound cabling covering the stairs and set my first foot on the stage, the only thing I could actually hear was my own heartbeat and the sound of my own breathing.  There were no other sounds until I got to the center of the stage and Micky grabbed my hand.  I remember looking up and seeing the whole audience and it was like being in the tip of a funnel.  I could feel the emotions of everyone and they were all focused at the stage.  I thought my heart was going to explode, I've never felt anything like it.  Micky asked me if I was an Angry Birds fan and what level I had achieved.  I couldn't even remember ever playing the game.  The only word I was able to get out was 'uh.'"

Photo by Carolyn Regnell
Wayne continues:
"The next thing he did was put the microphone to his side and ask if I was ready to do this.  He held out his hand for me to hold on to and we started singing.  I don't sing.  At least not in public anyway.  And I've never been in front of a crowd larger than about 12 people.  I'm normally a shy quiet person, you know, the type that libraries like to hire to set the mood.  This was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, 100x scarier than bungee jumping (which I have tried).  But there's no way that I could have said "no".  In fact, it never even crossed my mind.  My voice was already pretty shot from all the cheering and singing I had been doing during all of the previous songs, but I gave it everything I had left and just hoped for the best.  I kept looking out at all the people and I wanted to give the best I could.  It was a magical mystical experience and in all that love and support focused towards me from the audience, I could feel Davy Jones.  For a few moments there were four Monkees on stage (plus me, I'm not a Monkee).  The audience felt it, too.  It was incredible.  Thinking back on it still brings tears to my eyes.  I think it always will.

"When the song ended and I turned around, there was Mike Nesmith smiling at me.  I thanked him and he shook my hand.  The reality of what had just happened hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had just sung a song with Micky Dolenz while Peter Tork played keyboards and Mike Nesmith played guitar.  I had just lived a dream that I've had for over 40 years.  A dream that I never in my wildest imagination thought would ever come true.  A couple of stagehands appeared with flashlights to help me navigate the stairs and I got back to my seat.  I asked the people in the seats next to us if I did okay, and they said I did great.  I thought they were just being nice.  I missed most of the next song because my brain was still trying to process what had just happened.  I came back to reality as they were leaving the stage when the set ended, and everyone stood up to applaud.  I got to hear the encores at least.

"After the show, dozens of people came up to me or yelled my name from across the room.  I shook a lot of hands and everyone seemed happy with the job I did.  I was just relieved to find out I didn't let anyone down.

"I'm still trying to digest and fully understand the experience.  It was an incredible honor and I will treasure those moments for the rest of my life."
Pretty cool, huh?  Wayne told me he had never sung in public before, and had never even spoken to a crowd larger than about 12 people. While on stage, he took this picture of the audience.
Photo by Wayne Sander. Capturing a surreal moment on stage with The Monkees
Let's get back to Wayne's words, "I'm still trying to digest and fully understand the experience.  It was an incredible honor and I will treasure those moments for the rest of my life."  As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Lisa and I were literally screaming with joy during that concert.  So many people who've seen the shows on this tour left comments on Peter Tork's Facebook with similar sentiments.
Awesome, but can you imagine what an incredible honor it must be to be able to GIVE people an experience they'll treasure for the rest of their lives?  Wouldn't you just LOVE to be able to do that?
You can.

Maybe not on the scale of The Monkees or Bruce Springsteen, but you certainly have it in you to touch another person's life in a way they will remember for the rest of their lives.  

On the simplest level, all The Monkees did last Saturday night was share their talents.  Imagine if they hadn't?  Imagine if all musicians, artists, computer programmers, nurses, teachers... imagine if they never shared their talents?
I want to repost something I wrote almost 4 years ago, on my 52nd birthday:
"Over the past several months, I've been doing some editing for Rudy Ruettiger, the man behind the hit movie, Rudy. He lives here in Las Vegas. One of Rudy's favorite lines is, 'What would you do if you knew you could not fail?'
"Most people don't dig deeply enough within themselves to truly consider and come up with an answer to this question. But if you really think about it, you're sure to uncover a true desire. And under that, I'll bet you anything, lies a true God-given talent.

"Talent. I believe we've all been blessed with it. But for any number of reasons, this talent often gets suppressed. A while back, I heard from a reader who said she always wanted to write, but gave up that aspiration long ago when a teacher told her she was no good at it. And I'm telling you, the email she sent to me was beautifully written. Forgive that stupid teacher and shake the Etch-a-Sketch, sister. And start writing.

"Finally, finally, I've come to realize that my God-given talent is my writing (though Mom could have told you that years ago). I'm 52 and finally have a book for sale, an outlet for my writing, my humor, and a way to motivate others to make the most of their own lives by looking at mine. I've said a million times, 'Everything in its right time' and I do believe that--the universe unfolds in divine order. But we also have free will, so why not make "the right time" sooner rather than later?

"So my birthday wish is for you to take some time today to consider, What is your God-given talent? What do you do better than almost every person on earth? How can you share your talent with the rest of the world? These are not rhetorical questions. I'm really asking you; I expect answers (even if you answer in your own head). I want you to tell me what your talent is because by telling me, you're also proclaiming it to yourself.

"Think about what makes you wonderful and have yourself an incredible day, knowing that in your own unique way, you kick ass. That, beloved readers, is my birthday wish for you."  
Please, I can't stress enough:  Share your talents. Give a gift that people will treasure for life.  Hey, hey, they're The Monkees.  And they gave us all a tremendous gift this tour, which just ended this past weekend.  More, please!

Photo by Wayne Sander

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I got to see The Monkees and I'm still walking on air!!!

I've been a fan of The Monkees since forever.  As I wrote in this post after Davy Jones died,
"When I was no more than ten years old, I’d run to the A&P to pick up the latest 16 Magazine the day it came out.  I’d pore over it in the tiny back bedroom of the upstairs rented flat we lived in before my parents bought the house on Lincoln Avenue, gazing lovingly at pictures of Davy, Peter, Mike, and Micky.  Little did I know that would be the beginning of a life of boy-craziness.

"I listened to my Monkees albums, which I bought with my own money, for hours on end on my little record player (complete with the penny I’d place on the needle to prevent skips).   I’d read every word of the liner notes and stare into each photo, imagining what it would be like to meet them in person.  I was sure that if Davy and I knew each other in real life, the twelve-year age difference between us would be totally insignificant.  I'd be out of high school before he turned thirty.  We would make our relationship work."
Well, for ages I'd been seeing the advertisements in the paper and the giant sign outside Green Valley Ranch proclaiming the surviving Monkees' concert on Saturday, August 10. Of course, I wanted to go; I just never got around to buying a ticket.  So yesterday I woke up with two items on my agenda:  1) Take Connor to the airport at 3:30, and 2) Get a ticket to The Monkees.
First things first.  While my coffee was brewing, I posted this on Facebook:
What the hell, right?  Well, my pal Lisa Gioia-Acres was able to score tickets for us, and for free!  I would have gone no matter what, but there's nothing like free tickets.  
Even though I'd known about the show for months, I could have jumped out of my skin at the realization that I would actually be seeing The Monkees.  I left my house waaaay early so that if I got pulled over by the Henderson Police or got in an accident on the way, I'd still make it on time.  I'd better not have a heart attack or have some goddamn thing happen before the show, I thought.  Because that's just the way I think.
 I got to GVR without incident and had a drink with my friend "Thewc Chronicles," an improv performer I know through my comedy circle, while we waited for Lisa to arrive.  Well, you think you know somebody until he tells you he's been to 13 shows of The Monkees, 5 solo Davy shows, 3 solo Micky Dolenz shows, and 2 solo Mike Nesmith shows. I was like, "Dude, that should have been the first thing you told me when we first met."  He's a great guy, but those stats would have skyrocketed his status immediately!
Lisa scored the $100 tickets in one of the most expensive sections, and I'm telling you, had we paid 100 bucks apiece, the show would have been totally worth it.  When Mike, Peter, and Micky took the stage, we screamed our freakin' lungs out. 

I mean, we were SCREAMING all night. Like abduction screaming, except we were screaming with happiness. The guy in front of us kept having to stick his fingers in his ears.

 A word about the crowd. I really expected a decrepit bunch of old folks, but that wasn't the case at all.  These people were alive, and so into it.  And it wasn't all women, either.  In fact, I'd say it was 50-50.  Mike (husband, not Nesmith) would have gone if we didn't have the kids.  (BH and I saw Davy Jones together 10 years ago--he liked The Monkees, too.)  And check out this fan:

Anyway, the show was FANTASTIC!!!  You might wonder how that could be without Davy, but the guys pulled it off beautifully.  Yes, Peter is now 71, Mike is 70, and Micky is a mere 68, but they looked spry, moved well on stage and sounded amazing.  At one point, Lisa said, "I could go to every one of their shows," and I was like, "You took the words right out of my brain!"  I could totally quit my job and be a Deadhead for The Monkees. Kind of like my friend Thewc Chronicles.

Earlier today I was trying to remember the songs they played, and sent a Facebook message to Thewc asking what he could remember.  In true Deadhead form, he sent me the entire set list:
Last Train to Clarksville, Papa Gene’s Blues, Your Auntie Grizelda, The Kind of Girl I Could Love, She, Sweet Young Thing, I’m a Believer, Steppin' Stone, You Told Me, Sunny Girlfriend, You Just May Be the One, Mary, Mary, The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Michael lead vocal), Early Morning Blues and Greens (Peter lead vocal), Randy Scouse Git, For Pete’s Sake, No Time, The Door Into Summer, Words, Tapioca Tundra, Goin’ Down, Porpoise Song, Can You Dig It, Circle Sky, As We Go Along, Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again, Daddy's Song (Video of Davy from Head), Daydream Believer, What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round? 

Encore: Listen to the Band, Pleasant Valley Sunday 
 I was hoping they'd play my favorite Monkees song, "The Door into Summer" and was thrilled to hear it live.  Lisa captured a little bit of it on the video that follows.  You'll see that the boys sounded really strong, and throughout the whole show there were videos from the old TV show and a few clips from The Monkees' 1968 psychedelic feature length movie, Head. Courtesy of Thewc, you can watch the movie in its entirety here.

You may be wondering how they did "Daydream Believer" without Davy. Well, they picked a guy out of the audience to lead the crowd in singing it all together, as you'll see in the video.  (Lisa has both songs on this video.)  Oh, the emotions!  People were wiping tears and hugging strangers.  Lisa and I were hugging all night.

Before you play this video, I gotta warn you.  Lisa did a great job with "The Door into Summer," but
you may get seasick toward the end of "Daydream Believer."  Who could blame her for swaying with the music?  It's pretty funny, but I could still cry over Davy. I've already looked at this a hundred times.  I can't get enough. And you'll see I wasn't kidding about the screaming.

I swear to God, this was one of my greatest nights ever.  Such JOY!!!  This tour is almost over, and  I hope The Monkees add more dates.  If they come to your town, don't miss them!

Monday, August 5, 2013

I've been traveling...

If you're my Facebook friend, you know I've been on the road again.  My grandson, Connor, flew into town a week ago Thursday, on July 25. The next day Mike and I took the kids to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

Look how big Connor's gotten!  I think he's a little over 6 feet tall now, and he won't be 15 until December.

Sedona is certainly beautiful, but it pretty much looks the same every time.  Still, I feel like I have to take pictures like this one.  I swear, I have about 10 photos exactly like this taken over the years. If you've been to Sedona, I bet you have one, too.  This was taken from the overlook at the Airport Mesa next to the hotel where we always stay, Sky Ranch Lodge.

I've stayed there at least 10 times, but I think it's going downhill a bit.  The beds are crappy and the sheets kept pulling off the mattress. I told Mike I think that next time we should try someplace new.  Any suggestions?

Mike took this photo while we were hiking up Bell Rock.  I think I have another one almost exactly like this one, too.  Except I'm probably fatter now.

On the way home, we stopped at the Grand Canyon.  Here's another one of my boy.

I posted this one on Facebook.  The background looks totally fake.

 I don't know about you, but I think the Grand Canyon is...  yeah, it's the Grand Canyon and all, but... when it comes to scenic beauty, I think it's a little anticlimactic after you've been in Sedona.  What do you think? 

Okay, so the day after we got home from our trip, Mom and Stepdaddy came to town.  Last Wednesday was Mom's 79th birthday, and guess what she had tickets for?

Yep, as luck would have it, Wheel of Fortune was taping in the Sands Expo Center next to the Venetian.  Mom got four tickets, so Connor and I went, too.  We saw two shows and they won't be televised until January 2 and 3 of next year, so everything was all "Happy New Year!"  Very fun.

Here's Mom at dinner before the taping.  She's looking pretty damn good for 79, don't you think?  We tease her that she's so well preserved because she got a lot of rest and never went outside during the agoraphobia years.

So Mom and Jim left Vegas on Friday, the same day Connor and I took off for Los Angeles.  It's tradition that when he comes to town, we take a trip with Mike and his kids, and then when the kids are at their mother's, Connor and I take another trip.  This year he wanted to go to L.A.

Holy crap, I am out of shape.  Hiking up to the Hollywood sign kicked my ass.

You can see my hair is darker.  Total mistake.  I took my coloring into my own hands and it came out way too dark.  It doesn't look too bad in this photo, but in real life, it looks like shiiiiiiiittt.  Having a few extra pounds and crappier hair than usual at the same time is seriously enough to make me mental.

Anyway, Connor and I had a great time driving around the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills and cruising Sunset Boulevard.  (Anyone will tell you I am a shitty driver, so you can imagine me driving in L.A. traffic, right?)  We also did the Paramount Studios tour, which was very good.  Totally worth the money. 

Late Saturday afternoon, we were trying to decide what to do and I was like, "Hey, you want to drive down to the beach?" I was thinking either Venice Beach or Malibu, but at that point he'd probably had enough of my driving and so we just went to Starbucks on Sunset and the Ross store across the street, where I bought him a red tie he liked (!). 

After that we headed back to Burbank, where we were staying.  A word about Burbank:  I love it!  There's no traffic and the downtown is cool as hell. I don't have the blood pressure for L.A. traffic, but I think I could totally live and work in Burbank. 

Anyway, after dinner we went back to our room at the Portofino Inn (highly recommend--clean and great value), and I saw the news that some nut plowed into 12 people on the boardwalk on Venice Beach around 6:00 that night, killing one woman who was there on her honeymoon.  Absolutely tragic. Imagine if Connor had wanted to go to the beach?  We probably would have ended up there.

That happened right in front of the Cadillac Hotel, where my sister Lori and I stayed last June when we met up with our long-lost cousin. The guy parked on this street in the foreground, got out of the car and looked around a couple of times, and then plowed down the boardwalk. 

They say he did it intentionally.  WTF? to the tenth power.  I just can't imagine.

We left Burbank yesterday morning around 11:30 and made great time coming back to Vegas, until just past Barstow, where we got caught in traffic for 3 hours because of an accident on I-15.  But as luck would have it, even though we were out in the middle of nowhere, we had 3G access.  And Hulu Plus, so we had ourselves a little Family Guy marathon, right there in the Mojave Desert.

Connor loves comedy, and we took a little break in our marathon so I could share some joke writing techniques I learned in a recent comedy writing workshop I'd taken with Jerry Corley.  Then we watched some more, and I pointed out some of the techniques the Family Guy writers used.  We also used the techniques and wrote some material ourselves about Jewish bikers.  Because that's what grandmothers do.  

Yep, I've been busy.