Looks Like Tomorrow Is Coming On Fast

I sat in this same building half-a-decade ago (that sounds so much statelier than five years, don’t you think?), a rather unwilling violist in the Alabama All-State Orchestra.  I’d put much less thought in the ensemble than my outfit: tight bell-bottoms and a perfectly worn Dylan tee. I wiggled, squirmed, made eyes at the curly haired bassist behind me—who later serenaded me with Desolation Row—and thought mainly about my chances of scoring the much-coveted Oreos on our next break

1,825 days (and a few boys) later, and I’m still fidgeting, wiggling, and making eyes via emoticon at my main squeeze while learning about Ghanaian drumming. It’s a different boy now, still curly headed.  A different kind of love, too: still puppy-eyed and gooey, but better then I could have dreamt when I was a very angst-y sixteen (I blame it on Bob).  My application for graduation was accepted today: the day has come despite many last minute scrambles which often made me doubt its probability (or for that matter, possibility).

Time has moved a bit too unwaveringly for my taste.  I’ve since collected many more Dylan shirts from many more shows, backpacked through Europe, lived in five different apartments with eleven different roommates, and survived a semester studying solo in France.  Often, my to-do list grows so daunting that I forget to look at what I’ve done; however, as graduation looms and avoiding it is becoming increasingly impossible (no matter how deep I stick my fingers in my ears and how piercingly I scream) I find myself becoming increasingly nostalgic.

I want a comforting platitude to cling to as I jump off the cliff into The Real World.  The thing is, no quote by Dr. Seuss and the Dalai Lama quite cuts the cold sweat that breaks out over my entire body at the mere mention of The Future. If I’ve learned anything though, it’s that I’ll “stake my future on a hell of a past/ [cause it] looks like tomorrow is comin’ on fast.”

Chicago, the new age!

I broke my streak of not-so-great New with a trip to Chicago with my guy to visit my best friend. There were so many great moments, but here are my top 5:

1. Piccolo Sogno

Oh my. This was our special NYE date meal, and though it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, it did not disappoint. From our appetizer of grilled calamari (with the suckers still on the tentacles!) to the best ravioli of my life to the 400+ wine list (all Italian!), the meal was perfect from start to finish. I just wish I hadn’t forgotten my camera!

2. The Signature Room

I’m a sucker for good views with visiting a new place, and this didn’t disappoint. Whew.

Hancock Building view from hancock building

3. Jazz Showcase

Though the venue alone would have been by far my favorite place we visited (Miles Davis played there! It’s the definition of a classic jazz club!), the music is what made it extra special.  Roy Hargrove, widely considered the best current jazz trumpeter of the day, killed it with a show that made me melt back into a time of martinis and cocktail dresses. Here’s a great review of the whole thing.

jazz showcase

4. Walking

I adamantly feel that the best way to get to know a city is to get lost in it. Though it was a bit cold for me (read: miserable) so I didn’t explore quite as much as I’d like, the walks were the best part. We wandered into the best little diner, past the Chicago Tribune, and into a dive(ish) bar with a huge selection of local beers on tap. I’d love to go back when I can walk 1/4 of a mile without whining uncontrollably.

bar

5. Breakfast

Orange, Ann Sather, the aforementioned diner, and an Ethiopian brunch made each morning worth walking into those bitter freezing temperatures.

 

I’d say it was a great trip 🙂

Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice

I love Sufjan Stevens: any singer with grace-centered theology, an enchanting voice, and adjectives like “mystical apostasy”  to describe a Christmas unicorn…now that’s my kind of music.  When I found out that he was touring within a feasible distance, I immediately bought tickets and read every concert review I could scrounge up.

View on the way there (too busy snoozing to catch the ride home)
View on the way there (too busy snoozing to catch the ride home)

We headed to Oxford.  I’d never really been anywhere in Mississippi, holding on to every Alabamian’s desperate belief that it is the one state to which we are truly superior.  Imagine my combined horror/delight when I discovered that Oxford is actually the most incredible little town.  Not only is it home to William Faulkner’s estate (a dream trip of mine, but we arrived a tad late), it is also the real-live Star’s Hollow. I squealed all the way through the square, and almost exploded when we found the coziest book stores imaginable, complete with a book signing! After reading book blurbs to my heart’s content, we wandered into a restaurant that looked delectable (and it was!).  If you ever want a nice meal in Oxford, I really don’t think you could possibly do better than City Grocery.

As for the concert, the only word that comes to mind is divine. The mix of sing-along classics, old hymns, and Sufjan shenanigans was truly enchanting. The best part? It wasn’t completely Christmas-fied. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, he quieted things down with an acoustic rendition of Chicago, and as an encore after the Christmas Unicorn craziness, he played all of my favorites—To Be Alone With You, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland Illinois—I spent the majority of the concert leaned over the railing just in awe (that’s the other thing, we had the greatest spot! I could see!), and the rest of the time snuggling to songs like this one.

photo (11)

Great food, music, and company (and a fabulous nap on the ride home?)…

Christmas simply doesn’t get much better.

Music Monday: Boys & Girls

Music Monday is a series begun in an attempt to keep me from listening to this, this, and this song for the 456,070,877th time. Every Monday I’ll offer my completely untrained and value-less opinion on new (to me) music.

. . .

Growing up, you could frequently find me playing Oregon Trail in a hoop skirt (thanks, Little House), drinking Lipton instant iced tea in a flapper dress (Betsy-Tacy), or riding my bike in Indian garb (Pocahontas). More recently, I bought a typewriter (in proper Flannery fashion) which I promptly instagrammed with my iphone. Three lessons can be learned here: (1) I seem perpetually confused as to the current decade, (2) I have fiction/reality issues, and (3) I like a mix of the old and new. The good news? The Alabama Shakes is right there with me!

Not since my Evanescence days have I felt that a band so completely captured my angst as the Alabama Shakes did in Boys & Girls. That first track was my summer theme song (and the subsequent track my life anthem).

Brittany’s voice is so full of Alabama soul (she’s been compared to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, though she prefers Bon Scott) it makes me want to dance and weep, respectively. The musical riffs have a very Black Keys sound to them with a little less drive and a lot less scratch, though it’s not really even fair to compare.

Each song in their debut album captures a unique emotion: Boys & Girls is a beautiful ballad of broken love, Hold On an anthem of self-sufficiency, and I Found You a classic love song. Despite the differences, there is continuity here that mimics the same strand found in real-life—things change, people come and go, we are happy and sad, but life goes on. You gotta hold on.

We have our own past and present, the Alabama Shakes and I. I first listened to a scratchy YouTube version of Hold On in BFE on the way to Bonnaroo, then that night heard them live at the opening night of the festival.

I was captured by her voice, wrapped in the dulcet tones (and the opaque cloud of marijuana smoke and body odor of five hundred people pressed against my back), but it wasn’t until later this summer that I really began listening with purpose. I needed music to make it, and this fit the bill.

The best picture I snagged from Bonarroo.
If you squint you can tell that they are people.

I have tickets to see them in September, and boy am I stoked. Regardless of my obsession with relics (I’m keeping that typewriter AND my fascination with Flannery O’Connor), the present is such a better place than the past.

Unless of course, we’re talking music.

. . .

Ps. I know that it is technically Tuesday, but Music Tuesday doesn’t alliterate and I’m all about some alliteration. I’m also all about procrastination, but I’ll be back on track next week once I get my days of the week underwear in order (jokes!).

The bestest of the best.

I have the best best friend, ever. The kind of best friend who doesn’t say “I told you so” after you make a Bad Decision even though she did, in fact, tell you so just a few months earlier. The kind of best friend who instead says, “I’ll be there in 45 minutes” and shows up with Pinot Noir and Moose Tracks. The kind of best friend who pretends she was already awake when you rouse her at 3:45am to relate your latest woes. The kind of best friend you tell people is your sister, and they believe you. The kind of best friend who takes 68 pictures of you faux laughing with your newly reddened hair until you actually laugh and she catches it.

So to celebrate her best-ness (and bewail the fact that she will shortly be 717 minutes away instead of 45), I decided to throw a party. A surprise party, of course, and a book-themed one at that. Because, oh yes, my best friend loves to read. See? She’s the bestest.

I told you so.

What we ate:

Appetizer – Spicy Guacamole Hummus Party Toasts

Main Course – Burger sliders, fries dipped in Lemon Garlic Aioli With Truffle Oil, watermelon

Dessert – Vegan Double Chocolate Cake (made into cupcakes) half with Brown Sugar 7-Minute Frosting and half with Champagne Frosting

What we played: Trivial Pursuit Book Lover’s Edition

What we listened to: Amelie Soundtrack

Books to decorate. Easy peasy considering how many I hoard (I mean, have).

You say goodbye, but I say hello.
Hello, helloooo.
etc.

We had to majorly bend the rules on this one. It’s TOUGH.

Nothing says “surprise” like five people hiding behind your face.