Monday, March 29, 2010

March Music Favorites

Here are the songs that caught my ear in March.

Title - Artist
Go Do - Jonsi
Emily's Heart - Jamie T.
Down by the Water - The Drums
Upside Down - Paloma Faith
Flux - Bloc Party
The High Road - Broken Bells
Giving Up The Gun - Vampire Weekend
I Can Talk - Two Door Cinema Club
Be Your Only Man - Audio Bullies
O.N.E. - Yeasayer
What's It In For - AVI Buffalo
Kill Me Caroline - Whigs
Audience - Cold War Kids
This Too Shall Pass - OK Go
Beggin- Madcon
17- Audio Bullies

Not current, but songs I have heard that I remembered I loved long time:
I Believe in Love - Darkness
Worried About Ray - Hoosiers

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Movie Review - Hot Tub Time Machine is Totally RAD

Hot Tub Time Machine - (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, George McFly) *****
I don't think it is any secret to anyone who knows me that I love John Cusack. Ever since Lane Meyer stuck Q-tips in every facial orifice, I was hooked. That's not to say I have loved all his movies, but if I'm on the fence, Cusack will push me to the positive side. So I was pretty psyched to see the premiere of Hot Tub Time Machine and invited some of my best similarly humored friends. There was pressure for this movie to be funny and smart and great, and luckily, HTTM delivered. Not surprising, the premise is that three friends go back in time to 1986 using a Hot Tub Time Machine. Hilarity ensues as all three confront pivotal moments from that year. If you grew up in the 80s, this movie is for you. The neon, the hair, the music, even some actors are spot on '86. There are body fluid jokes, ironic jokes and just some plain old funny running gags involving dismemberment. Sure there are some slight issues if you pay attention or are good at math, but that's not what this is about.

Fantastically literal title aside, this movie is a love letter to the 80s and it had me at a too-quick-you-might-not-notice "I want my $2." This is one of those movies that had me laughing so hard my cheeks hurt, recalling lines days later and wanting to see it again, SOON. All my friends also loved it and I spent most social time yesterday talking about my favorite parts. It's not a question of IF I will see this movie again, it is WHEN. If you love the 80s and like to laugh, go see this movie.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Tribute to My Mom, A Longer Than Normal Post.

Diane Fraser, my friend Stacey's mom, died on March 8. She had been sick for a very long time. Five years ago she went into congestive heart failure from fluid on her lungs. There was some weird shadowing on her lungs and by the time they actually decided it was cancer, it had progressed and they were saying she wouldn't live until Christmas of that year. The family decided to move her from her Charlotte home to Boston to be closer to Stacey's brother. Joe and I helped her move and I spent a night in denial that she would be gone so soon. Well, Diane was a fighter and she didn't let a little lung cancer derail her then. She lived well past that Christmas and was able to enjoy many more. Five years and four additional cancers later, she finally was too weak and died at home, surrounded by her family.

Stacey had been emailing me updates so I was aware of how serious it had gotten and that she wasn't going to prove the doctors wrong again. I knew that I wanted to go up to her funeral. Stacey and I became best friends when I was 16 and she 15. We had both recently moved to NC from up north and instantly became the friends seen in movies. We stayed in contact and while we didn't get to see each other a lot, she came to my college graduation, I visited her in her first place, and we made sure to never go more than a year without catching up. When she would come into town I would head over to her house and the three of us, Stacey, Diane and me, would sit around, drinking wine, eating and talking. Diane had always been a second mom to me, but as we grew older she became my friend. She loved me and I loved her.

Stacey called me on that Monday afternoon to tell me Diane had died and that a very casual memorial service was going to be held in Concord, right outside Boston on Wednesday. I immediately asked my boss for the time off and pulled out the maps. 15 hours from North Carolina to Boston, completely do-able. I called my mother to tell her and she offered to go with me. I told her I'd be fine; I have done a long solo trip before and would get a good book on tape. My mom asked to ride along with me until Reading, PA where I could drop her off at my grandparents' house and continue on my way. It would add about an hour to the drive, but I would get to see my grandparents and would have a driving buddy. Sold.

We left Tuesday morning at 7am and started the drive. I drove a little, but knowing I still would have a long way ahead of me, my mom did most of the driving up and I was able to work a little and try to sleep. Mostly though we just chatted about nothing, sharing stories and laughs. I was actually sad to drop her off in Reading at five that afternoon, but took off with the GPS Nuvi saying my arrival in Boston was 1am. There was only one part of that drive that was slow and Stacey happened to call right then. She had just come from dinner with her family and seemed in good spirits. We arranged to meet before the memorial service and I continued my drive, arriving in Concord, MA at 1:13am.

Wednesday morning was gorgeous in Concord with blue skies and perfect temperatures. I played tourist and then went shopping to find something blue to wear to the service since blue was Diane's favorite color. I showed up at the funeral home at 1:30, and saw Stacey and her long time boyfriend Bryan. After a long, teary hug I got the chance to look around. Diane didn't want anything special or fancy. Great music was playing; Stacey had made a playlist of Diane's favorite songs including Cat Stevens and Harry Chapin. There were poster boards all around the room with tons of pictures of Diane, from childhood to a few weeks before her death. Diane was gorgeous and it was amazing to see her smile through the years. There was a picture of the three of us from our last wine night, tanned, a little drunk and smiling huge grins. They also had her garden hedgehog, her peace rain boots and Story People print there which was absolutely Diane:
I asked her why she never told us about the Ten Commandments & she said she wasn't ever that good with numbers so she loved everything as best she could & I remember thinking who needs all those rules anyway with a mother like her around.

Stacey's brother Todd said a few words, talking about Diane as a friend, teacher, dog owner, neighbor, grandmother and mother. She loved, let mistakes be made, and with gentle support, taught life lessons. She was always there whenever her kids needed her, even if that was in the wee hours of the morning. After the ceremony we went to dinner where we ate and drank, then moved to Todd's house for more eating and drinking. I knew I had to get on the road early so I was back in the hotel by midnight. Stacey was as good as was expected. She was battling the grief, relief, denial and utter emotional exhaustion. She also was trying to be strong and get through the administrative part of her mother, her best friend's, death. She thanked me a million times for making the drive and I told her again how I wished I could take away some of the pain she was feeling. The worst thing about caring about someone is not being able to help when they lose someone they love. Knowing grief is not an overnight process makes this even worse. I wish I could fast forward time for her so she wouldn't have to go through packing up her mom's house or going back home and missing the regularly scheduled phone call chat with her mom every night.

I left the hotel at 7AM on Thursday morning and drove up to see the house in which I grew up outside of Manchester, about 30 minutes away from Concord. I am sure it was everything but I felt very melancholy as I drove around the city, saw where I used to trick or treat, bought my favorite Portuguese bread and saw that the country club where we spent the summer is now a huge resort, but the pool where I played Uno every day is gone. I periodically wonder what I would have been like if we had stayed in NH and driving the old neighborhood brought this to light in a much more real way. I had brought my camera thinking I'd take some pictures, but just didn't see anything I wanted on film, that isn't already in my memory. Just in case I was lost, I stopped for breakfast and asked if anyone knew about my old church and school, St. Francis of Assisi. No, no one had even heard of it or remembered it existing. Turns out that they moved the church but the school no longer exists. I was going to go see the church but decided it didn't matter; it wasn't MY church. It wasn't next to the hill Father Horan used to turn into an ice slide. The parking lot where I learned to jump rope, sprained my hand or watched the Challenger disaster wasn't there.

I started the drive back home around 10am and got into Reading at 6:20pm. After a too quick dinner with my grandparents, we hit the road at 8pm. The Nuvi projected 3am and that was before the rain. Oy. I was glad to have my mom in the car again. She told me about her time with my grandparents and I told her about Diane's service. There is something wonderful about being so comfortable with someone that no matter what amount of conversation you have, it is just the right amount. There was so much I didn't need to say that my mom just knew. Knowing I needed to be back at work on Friday morning, there was no choice but to drive through the night. My mom did the majority of the driving in hopes of me being able to sleep, but I was so worried she'd be sleepy that I never was able to sleep. But it was restful just being a passenger. Around 2am I gave up trying to sleep and we continued to mindlessly chat. We finally pulled in the driveway at 6:30am Friday morning. I had been up and in the car for basically 24 hours. I jumped in the shower and went to work and then slept all weekend, but it was worth it.

You know in movies where they do the montage to move time along? A 24 hour trip becomes a 5 minute clip with a cool alt-rock band playing in the background (see Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom for the epic road trip montage). I think my road trip with my mother, on my way to a friend's mother's funeral was well deserving of a montage, perhaps with Snow Patrol's Run as the song.

I feel incredibly lucky to have the relationship with my parents that I do. The last year or so has been rough for friends' parents; I guess I am at that age. Sarah's dad died, Shelia's mom died and now Stacey's mom died. I've always been fully aware that my parents aren't going to live forever, but now there is a larger than ever hourglass looming in my mind. Listening to Todd talk about Diane made me thankful I knew her, but more than anything it made me think about my mom. I am sure that I do not want children, but as with any decision there are things about the path not taken that I think I would enjoy. I do wish I could be a mother like my mother has been to me. I have never once felt that my mother would not support me in any decision I made, from moving in with Joe after one month to getting married on a deck in the Virgin Islands, to not having children. It is my life and while she has always been my sounding board, she has never used that position to influence me in any way. Actually, this has proven to be quite annoying at times when I just wanted her to tell me what to do! She is one of my biggest cheerleaders, getting up every morning at 4:30 to meet me at the gym and booking a trip over Thanksgiving to be there when I finish my half marathon, never once telling me I am insane for trying. Like Stacey's mom she loved, supported and has been there at 3am when I realized I made a huge mistake and just needed to talk to my mom. I have always felt that if I needed them, my parents would drop everything and do absolutely anything to help me. That is why it wasn't a surprise or unusual for my mom to offer to stay up for 24 hours and drive through pouring rain for me. I needed her and I didn't even realize it. But she did, because she's my mom.

My heart hurts for Shelia and Stacey, who have so much more of their life to live without their mothers. The relationship between a mother and a daughter is so amazingly complicated, with a range of emotions, but as the saying goes, daughters turn into their mothers. I know that my mother is so much a part of me that even when she dies she will be ever present in every decision I make, every thought I have. I am proud that my mom is one of my best friends and that she is one of a select few that I tell everything. She will tell me when I am wrong, tell me when to stand my ground and helps me phrase things when my words fail me. I knew all this before I drove up for Stacey's mom's memorial service. But standing next to Stacey as her brother told funny stories about the last few years of her mom's life, I realized how amazing moms can be, and specifically how amazing our moms are and were. I looked at Stacey, trying to hold it together and thought back to one of the many nights where we snuck out of the house, pushed the car out of her driveway with the lights off and drove to Denny's because it was the only place open at 2am. We thought we were so wild and crazy. Stacey and I both have our share of ups and downs, some a little crazier than others. But now standing there as 35 year old women I realized that we turned out OK. We are both smart and confident, in happy, loving relationships where we are partners with the men we chose. We can laugh at ourselves and I think we are both stronger than we think we are. I know Stacey is stronger than she thinks she is.

I will never be able to adequately thank my mother for all she has done for me and for her part in making me the person I am today. I never thanked Diane for being another positive woman to look up to and simply for loving me. I firmly believe you can never be loved by too many people. Moms have the ability to mess with your head and warp you beyond belief. They can frustrate the living hell out you. But they also can love you like nobody else in the world. They can grow to be confidantes and inspirations. The cruel trick of fate is that by the time you get to the age where you appreciate your mom, the sands in your hourglass are more than halfway gone.

Listening to "Run" by Snow Patrol:
Light up, light up,
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're All Mad Here.

Movie Review
Alice in Wonderland - (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter) - **
Last night we saw the premiere of Alice in Wonderland in 3D. I am ashamed to admit that I am not totally familiar with Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. My mom swears she read them to me, and while I certainly know about the Jabberwocky, Cheshire Cat, the eat me/drink me "I'm late for a very important date" and "Off With His Head" highlights, I think those things are so much part of pop culture now it is hard to not know them.

That being said, I went into the movie with little expectation. I am not a huge Tim Burton fan, but enjoyed Big Fish and a few others. I do like Johnny Depp though and feel like he melts into his characters with a quirky sinisterness that not many others do. While I did like his Mad Hatter, I thought the overall movie was just OK. I saw Avatar in 3D and thought it was an absolutely stunning movie but if felt like Burton did Alice in 3D because it is the new trendy thing. It was not utilized properly and I saw many places where had it been, the overall feel would have been tremendous. Instead, it felt like it was thrown a few times, just so the theaters could call it 3D and charge more.

If you are an Alice in Wonderland purist be warned that this is not that story. The Mad Hatter takes a quite central role and there are bits and pieces of both stories thrown about throughout the movie. I had heard that Burton had a merchandising deal with Hot Topic, so I was not surprised that the movie was so dark, literally. Alice has replaced her light blue frock with a goth looking black and grey dress. Instead of being a magical and whimsy place, Wonderland is dark, foreboding and, well, Hot Topicy.

I didn't hate this movie, (Joe wanted to leave in the middle of it) but I didn't love it either. I liked Depp's Mad Hatter and thought him rather sweet, but unfortunately that is about it. Burton is eccentric and I applaud his creativity and the way his brain works, but I'd recommend waiting until this comes out on DVD.