Category Archives: personal stories

Atlantic City – 2008: Prides gone out the window

On this date in 2008, I was in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was my very first (and only) time there. In fact, I’d never really spent a lot of time in New Jersey, even though my father was born and raised there in a tiny town called Franklin. I’d been in New Jersey just once prior, for only a couple of hours – long enough to drive by the home where my dad was born, as well as the gravesite of my grandparents. For me, going to Atlantic City was exciting. I don’t even think I’d ever looked at photos from there, so I had no expectations. I kept picturing in my head the glitz, over-the-top glam, tripping the light fantastic of Las Vegas, with an ocean in the background.

Without being rude to those who love Atlantic City, it was very different from the picture I had in my head.

First of all, to be fair, we got to the hotel just hours before the show, and it was daylight. I suppose that yes, there were lights, but it was nothing like Las Vegas. I can’t really describe what was so different, maybe it’s just a little more down to earth? Seedy, even? I’m not really sure. In full disclosure, once you depart from the actual “Strip” in Vegas, there is plenty of seediness to be found. Turn down the wrong street, and you are liable to see plenty of after-effects from a little too much “sin” in the city! For that matter, look a little too closely at the Strip itself, and you’ll see plenty more than you may have bargained for. But somehow, that day in Atlantic City was bright enough to where I didn’t have to look to hard to find the grit. It was December, unseasonably warm (I am not kidding about that – it was warmer on that day in New Jersey than it was in many parts of Southern California!), and yet the crowds had gone away for the winter. I can remember eating lunch somewhere with Amanda and the restaurant was eerily quiet.

Even though we were short on time, I was excited about being there. We had a weekend membership and reservations to eat in the restaurant up in the Foundation Room – which was a splurge at the time. And of course, the reason for our visit? To see Duran Duran.

2008 was one of the toughest years of my life. Not only was I pregnant for part of the year (it was the roughest of my three, naturally), I gave birth three weeks early, which set off a string of events and mishaps that I still take medication to circumvent even today, and my dad died two weeks after my youngest was born. I suppose we could say the year was bittersweet, because I want to be fair to my youngest, but when I think back – I mostly remember the year as being horrific. My little one was the brightest spot. (and continues to be that way even though she drives me crazy sometimes!) So the trip I took to see shows in the east that year was welcome, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the album they were touring.  That’s probably putting it lightly.  I remember that tour as the one where I was the most cynical, and very unfair to the band. I’d also had one hell of a horrible year.

When I share that I stood off to the side for the show at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, and that during the show I actually left the crowd to sit on a couch area in the back of the venue because I felt sick, and that I barely remember anything about being there other than John Taylor correcting me on the clapping rhythm for Red Carpet Massacre, I suppose that says something about me at the time. My head just wasn’t in the game. Or the show.  I don’t even remember much about the after party, other than Roger Taylor DJing while I danced on the small dance floor up in the Foundation Room. I didn’t even know until much later that the rest of the band was there as well, sitting behind some sort of roped off area. Where was Dom, you ask? (just pretend you’re asking!) I honestly don’t know. I don’t even have a clear memory of noticing him onstage at the House of Blues. THAT was how out of it I was at the time, and I think the entire year was like that for me. I think back on how much of a zombie I must have been, and its a miracle that my friends still speak to me.

I was only in Atlantic City for less than 24 hours, because we left early the next morning to make our way to Montclair for the final show on the tour.  I hope to make it back someday, maybe in the summer, so I can see the full-effect.

Oddly, that road trip in 2008 is also the time when Amanda and I decided to embark on the book writing process. I don’t know what that says…but it says something.

Whenever these days come around on my calendar, I think back on 2008. I am a lot different of a person now than I was then. I hate equating that year with so much unhappiness, but it is difficult because the grief was so overwhelming. I was so harsh, angry and judgmental as a fan, and even as a person – I don’t think I realized how much the grief affected me. Yet, I bonded much more closely with my youngest. It was the one thing keeping me afloat, I think.

As I sit here I’m also thinking that it was the first holiday season without my dad, too…and yes, I know that Simon is going through similar this year. I think about that a lot because I know that pain all too well. It is the club nobody wants to join, and I wouldn’t want it for anyone else. In some ways, I think it’s great that Simon is getting out there for shows during this season, because he probably needs to feel that love and affection we have for him. I get that and believe me, when I was really feeling that pain, I wished I’d reached out for more help. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.  In other ways,  I just feel for him, period. There’s absolutely no hiding from the reality and finality. I wish there were.

I always wondered if I was weird, that having so much grief was unusual, probably because when my dad’s parents (my grandparents) died, I don’t remember my dad saying much. I mean, he was sad at first, but after the funerals, he just stopped talking about them. He’d mention them occasionally, but I don’t remember him being sad. Maybe more with my grandma than my grandfather, but I was so young then (I was about nine).  I assumed that once you’re grown, you just come to expect that your parens will die someday and that’s OK. As my friends have also had parents pass on, including Simon, seeing how he reacted to his grief, along with my friends, made me see that it’s OK. I’m not so different to miss him, and I still do. Even nine years on.

As you can read, I can’t really separate the tour of 2008 from what was going on in my own life. I think that’s probably normal for most of us. The tours and things are sort of like the points of interest along the way in our lives. This blog post turned out to be something a lot different from the “short post” I had planned to write, so thanks for sticking with it until the end!

Were you at the Atlantic City show in 2008? Let me know!

-R

When all around you earth turns to fire

When it rains, sometimes, it pours.

Last week was a rough week here. First, this very website went down – and not even with a blaze of glory, but with a White Screen of Death (for those unfamiliar). As that was being fixed (no seriously, AS it was being sorted through a flurry of texts), the family truck dies. That was a little closer to a blaze of glory. In fact, it’s still being worked on, and if you’re at all familiar with how much mechanics charge per hour, your jaw has hit your desk or floor. Mine did too when they gave us the estimate.Those two things happened on Sunday. (It was a long week!)

On Monday, our trailer, which was being towed at the time by our now “out-of-commission” truck, had to be retrieved. Another day, another rental car, or truck in this case. I think that was the day we found out just how far this little fix-it job was going to set us back.

On Tuesday night, our microwave died. I don’t know about the rest of you – but we rely on that little appliance a lot. I can deal without a truck (sort of), but the microwave? Come on now.

On Wednesday morning, I came downstairs to find a small mess around and near my coffee maker. I assumed that when I poured the water in to the machine the night before, I missed and didn’t notice. Nope. The coffee maker has a leak. Seriously???

Later on that day, I also found out that my last living uncle on my dad’s side passed away. My uncle Joe was 92 and had lived a long, full life. Like my father, he was Sicilian, and the family tales of his possible-Mafia involvement were semi-legendary. We never knew for sure, because he kept those cards very close to his chest (and I appreciate that simply because I didn’t want to be involved). However, I will say one thing about my uncle: he was the one person (after my dad died), I could call if I needed help. I knew and trusted that about him, even if I did not see him regularly. He lived in Florida and each year we exchanged Christmas cards. He’d tell me he was coming out that summer, and I’d smile, knowing that there was no way he’d make it. He meant well, and most of all – he was the last vestige of family I had left on my dad’s side. I will miss having that little bit of comfort. I think I’m still coming to terms with what it means and how I feel, particularly because I didn’t have time to really process it because of what I’m about to share next.

Next was Thursday. The piece de resistance to the week was coming home to find Walt’s rental car sitting next to the curb. As soon as I pulled into the driveway, I knew. I always do. I gathered my things, took a deep breath, ushered my youngest into the house and asked, “Were you laid off?”, already knowing what the answer would be.  “Yep.” , was the reply, coming from the kitchen.

Awesome

In the US – we say “laid off”, elsewhere you might call it “being made redundant.” In other words, he is now unemployed, which is a disaster with two kids in college who both need their tuitions paid this month.

What a WEEK.

So forgive me again for waxing nostalgic, as I take a minute or more to remember back to a much happier time. On this date in 2011, I saw Duran Duran in Glasgow, Scotland.

I don’t know that I’d say I’ve done a lot of traveling outside of the US. I feel lucky to be able to say I’ve done a little, that trip to Glasgow being a highlight. Many American people that I know or grew up with have never been outside of the country at all. To give the tiniest bit of insight, I think my parents were pretty average people. My dad had a white-collar job, but it wasn’t terribly high paying, and my mom was a secretary once she went back to work when I was about ten. We had most things we needed, but very few things that we really wanted, I think.

Vacations were a luxury, and the most we ever did for a family vacation was go camping – and that didn’t happen until I was in high school. Until then, my parents would take a two-week vacation from work each summer, but we didn’t really go anywhere, and that was not unusual for the parents of my friends, either. I flew on a plane with my parents exactly once, and that was to go up to the bay area to see family one Thanksgiving.  My dad considered flying to be a luxury, and not one we could readily afford. I had aunts, uncles and cousins – siblings of my father and their children, as well as the same on my mom’s side – that I never met because they lived across the country from us. I didn’t travel outside of California until I took a special trip to Washington DC in 8th grade, and after that I didn’t go on a plane again until I was well into college.

The idea of traveling to see a band is still pretty “out there” to many people, I guess. My friends from high school are surprised when they see my posts, not because I go to see a band (they’re used to that part now!) but because I’ve gone some crazy places to do it. One of my friends commented that the farthest she’s gone from home has been to Arizona, which is where she lives now. That’s pretty shocking to ME. There’s an entire world out there to explore, and yet a lot of the people I know would be satisfied to just see the capital of our country. That is why when I say the US is a big place and many people don’t travel outside of their general area, I say it with confidence.

So for more, one of the shows I’m most excited to be able to say I attended, was Glasgow. We weren’t even really supposed to be there! It wasn’t a part of our original plan at all, but when these tickets came up, Amanda and I agreed we should just do it. We took a train from Birmingham into Glasgow, which in and of itself was a fantastic trip. Then we stayed with Amanda’s friend in Edinburgh, and even spent time in that city before going to Glasgow for the show. I loved every minute of it. The winter markets, seeing ice and snow on the ground (yes, I’m from California and to me that’s a novelty!), going to a Scotch club and just walking around – memories I will keep forever.

And then there was the show.

It was our last show on that little mini-tour, and while I know the band likely had no idea who we were (Except for Dom – by then he was probably concerned I’d never go home!), I would swear they played with extra energy that night. Hungry Like the Wolf was ridiculous, as John and Dom came right to center stage and played off of one another. Amanda and I nearly had strokes! I reveled in the show, turning around to watch the crowd clap and respond. To say I enjoyed myself would be an understatement. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to top the experience I had at that Glasgow show.

So, when things are down, like right now, I tend to think about those moments. I don’t know if anything like that can ever happen again. I’d like to think so because otherwise, it’s all pretty hopeless, but you never know. I treasure the memories.

The other day I was chatting with someone online, and they mentioned that the nicest people they knew from the US were those who had traveled abroad. I understand what they meant by this. It is very easy to remain complacent and somewhat naive about the world we live in when we aren’t able to see HOW one another actually lives, There are a plethora of reasons for this, but I think when we rely solely on media for our information, it is very easy to make assumptions without verifying using our own eyes and experiences. My own eyes were opened much wider after my first visit abroad, and every time I get the chance to go somewhere new, I learn more.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hoping for a better week!

-R

I’ll Hold On To the Memory

This morning, good ole Facebook reminded me of what I was doing and where I was six years ago today through the following picture:

Duran Duran in Birmingham - Tweet
Our infamous tweet before the show in Brume

Yes, six years ago today, Rhonda and I were seeing Duran Duran play at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England.  Funny enough, every time I think about it, I have to pinch myself to remind me that this really did, indeed, happen.  Looking back at that show and that tour, two big ideas come to mind.  First, the phrase “all you need is now” pops up, the idea of just living in the moment.  Then, there is the significance of that trip and place for my personal fandom.

In 2011, we went to the UK twice.  Of course, the first trip, in May, did not go as planned to say the least.  Simon lost his voice and the shows we held tickets for were canceled.  We pushed through, made the best of the situation, and ignored the worry that we had seen the end of Duran.  Thus, when the shows were rescheduled, we didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to go back.  Looking back on that decision, I cannot remember pondering the decision very long.  I  didn’t debate the pros and cons of doing another UK trip.  Normally, when shows are announced, I go through the internal checklist.  Is the date one in which I can attend?  If it is during the school year, can I take off?  Do I have the money to go?  Will someone be around to check in on the cat?  That time, though, those questions weren’t really even asked.  We leaped before we looked, definitely.

Was that wise of us?  Probably not.  After all, I had struggled with work to be able to go the first time.  Then, during the same month of the trip, I had the chance to go to an Obama White House holiday party.  Would I be able to do both?  I assumed that I would for some crazy reason.  In hindsight, everything worked out and worked out easily.  It wasn’t anything like the struggle I had in May to be able to go.  Was I lucky?  Beyond.  It almost felt like it was meant to be.

What lesson did I learn from this trip?  The message I received, I think, is that, at times, I just have to go with my gut.  I shouldn’t think everything to death or assume that it cannot or should not happen.  When there is an opportunity for something amazing, I gotta go with it.  I am all for having responsibilities and being responsible, but…  (Seriously, people who know me know that I’m hyper responsible.  Is that from teaching for over 20 years?  Maybe.  Campaigning for political candidates?  Possibly.)  Was it super weird for me not to think about my obligations?  Yes, but it is good for me–not only to be able to enjoy some crazy good times but also to let myself live a little.

Both trips meant a great deal to me.  On the first trip with the canceled shows, I gained an insight into the band and my fandom that I would not have had otherwise.  Rhonda and I had to make the best out of an extremely disappointing situation.  While I don’t know that I would say that it was the most fun, it was the most eye-opening.  The extra time meant that we could walk around Birmingham and get a real sense of where the band came from.  That humanized them in a way that I didn’t think possible.  They were no longer just celebrities but people, humans.  This idea was reinforced by seeing them outside of their studio when they were open about the situation and how they were feeling about it.  I felt honored to have been there.

Fast forward almost 7 months later and the dream was finally fulfilled.  We got to see the band play in their hometown.  I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.  While the show was not the best I had ever been to, it was monumental to me.  As a kid, I remember thinking about how exotic Birmingham sounded to me.  My family was not well off and any vacations we took typically took us to a nearby state, if that.  We never traveled by plane (I took my first flight at 17!) and I didn’t know anyone who went overseas.  So Birmingham sounded so unusual to me.  I couldn’t even imagine what it was like and I never expected to find myself there once, forget about more than once.  What did I discover about the city?  It really felt like a lot of the industrial northern cities here do.  As someone who grew up in the south side of Chicago, it felt almost familiar.  I realized that I actually liked it and would love to spend more time there, which is not what I expected at all.

Six years have gone by.  My fandom grew stronger from those trips.  One thing is certain.  I’ll hold on to those memories for the rest of my life.

-A

Seen Better Times than Right Now

Beginning with the very moment our newly minted self-hosted site was public and visible, I knew a time would come where it might go down unexpectedly, or would crash. I take the recommended measures of backing everything up on a weekly basis. In fact, I have a program that does it automatically. I also try my best to keep the site updated. That said, there is always a little niggling of fear hiding in the farthest recesses of my mind.  What would I do if the site went down?!?

I’ve only taken the very basics of website design and maintenance classes, and I still have to ask my son and husband questions like, “Remind me again what FTP stands for?”  Yes, I was able to get this site transferred, up, and running, thanks to YouTube. HOWEVER… I am the first to admit I have a lot to learn.

On Halloween, WordPress released a new version, and I immediately updated. When WordPress releases a new version, all of our plug-ins to keep the site looking nice have to be updated. Some of those plug-ins release updates right away, and some take a bit longer. I update as I’m notified and it’s a very simple process – two clicks and I’m done. Since I am on the site all week, I keep the site running without a problem. Last week though, I was not online much. I had blogged ahead of time, and because I was so busy, I didn’t check-in much after Wednesday morning. Thursday was Thanksgiving, then my family packed up and left for a camping trip.

All was fine until Saturday morning when I noticed Amanda had tweeted something about a white screen on the website. I looked myself and sure enough, the site was blank. That’s odd, I thought. I figured it would sort itself out and that it was a host issue – something I can’t really control. I went about my day because dang it, I was wine tasting and looking at property in the Paso Robles area.

Then yesterday morning, I checked again and the site was still blank. That’s when I became very concerned. The site is down. What in the hell am I supposed to do from here?!? I tried to push the thought out of my mind and enjoy the morning before we left. I kept thinking about it, knowing that I was going to have to fix it, and I had no idea how. Good times, right? Then Amanda sent a text right around noon, as we were leaving. She was nervous, and I was pretty much captive as I sat in the passenger seat of my F350 while my husband towed our trailer and headed for home. I didn’t know what I could do from the middle of nowhere, but I started reading websites to see if I could troubleshoot the problem.

Given the very little I know about websites, the one thing I kept considering was that maybe I’d missed an update for a plug-in. That will make everything go haywire, and maybe that’s what the blank screen was about. I didn’t know for sure and kept reading. There were a lot of very scary things that it could have been – like we had reached our memory limit, or perhaps a database failure – two things I didn’t even know could happen. Their symptoms though were a little different from what I was seeing, so I was hopeful it was just the plug-ins.

So I sent Amanda articles to read via text message, and in the meantime, since I was not at home, I didn’t have access to the fifty different passwords it requires in order to get into our freaking server and control panel. I’m glad it is so heavily guarded, but holy hell there are too many to know! We were sending codes and new passwords and learning different emails – it was a genuine mess and a very long sordid tale, and Amanda kept saying she didn’t know what to do and I was firm in return, “You HAVE to do this. I am in the freaking middle of NOWHERE.” 

Finally, triumphantly, Amanda got it sorted. The problem was a stupid plug-in, which she deactivated. Presto! The website was once again visible and working. Amanda saved the site! She says she can’t do the website stuff, but I have news for her: YES YOU CAN, BECAUSE YOU JUST DID IT. 

The thing is, we are not Duran Duran. We don’t have a team of people ready and able to do the work. We ARE the team. Our lives are not glamorous, and sometimes, shit goes really wrong. That was never clearer than this weekend.

And then…without much warning, my family truck dies while driving south on the 101 from Paso Robles. The funny thing is that normally, we take the 5 home, which…if you’ve ever seen our Daily Duranie tweets when Amanda and I are driving up north from my house, you know it is desolate and in the middle of nowhere. That central valley is hot, dry, and empty.  Along the 101 though, is fully populated. It’s town after town, with many more services available.

All was fine, until it wasn’t. We were on the highway, in the right lane but still ON the highway, and the truck announces that it is done. Finished. Not going any damn farther. Never mind that my entire family was in the car, along with our dog Gizmo and a 31-foot trailer in back of us. We kind of glided up the off-ramp as I started wondering how long it will be before we were hit or something terrible happened. (I think in terms of worst-case scenario, because typically in my life -that’s pretty much what happens!) Just as the truck made it to the top of the ramp, we saw that it was a gentle downward slope from there, and so we were all yelling, “Come on truck!”. Our hope was that the trailer made it up and over the top so that the momentum pushed us down the hill to a safer spot, and as luck would have it, there was a huge pull-off spot in front of us. We coasted down the hill, Walt parked the truck, he and Gavin jumped  out, opened the hood, and I started wondering how we were going to get home.

I asked Heather where we were, and she told me we were in Orcutt, California. A bell rung in my head. I know someone! My touring buddy, Lori, lives there, and so I text her. She answers back, and not only is she in the city, it turns out she’s housesitting at her moms, which is honestly right around the block from where our truck has stranded us!

Graciously, Lori picked me up so that I could get to a car rental agency. Thank goodness there were no photos, because I was mess. Our plan was to have our truck towed to a nearby Ford dealer, and the trailer towed to Lori’s mom’s house. (It is a pain in the ass to figure out how to get that damn trailer home, I have to tell you!) So, we made it home.

It was quite a weekend, I must say. When things like this happen, I can’t help but wonder if anyone in DD has these kinds of mishaps. I can’t imagine John Taylor and Gela breaking down in the middle of nowhere (and surely not with a trailer!) Or Simon troubleshooting a website. (Maybe Nick, though!) All I know is that today I am doubly grateful to be at home, in my house, struggling to get a blog posted.

The site still isn’t working perfectly. I’m having trouble getting it to edit properly, but I think that’s a WordPress thing and not a site thing. I hope. I just don’t think I can handle another White Screen of Death for a while!

-R

Long days are coming up and staying out and playing

It is Lyric Friday…no wait, that isn’t right. It is Lyric Sunday! What was my result when I hit shuffle? Taste the Summer. I call that irony considering that we have now entered the winter holiday season. Christmas is a month away. Despite that, I took a gander at the lyrics and picked out a line that suited me. That line is: “Long days are coming up and staying out and playing”.

Now, of course, that line refers to summer when the days get longer and people often have more time to stay out and up. As a kid, it definitely meant playing outside with neighborhood friends longer as there was no school to attend and no homework to complete. Yet, that won’t fit for right now. So, how can I use that line? I know! I have a little trip planned in about a month that will equal long days in that I won’t sleep much. We definitely will be staying out and playing! Ah, yes, Rhonda and I will be traveling to the city of Las Vegas to see a certain little band play a show on December 30th at the Cosmopolitan. I suspect that for us those three nights there will definitely include some playing.

Yes, this is what touring means to me. It definitely includes late nights. Over the course of our touring “career” Rhonda and I have logged some very late nights. On our first tour together, in March 2005, we managed to be up for 38 before separating to go home. Sunrise marked that weekend, I think. On that Sunday of our marathon tour, we ended up at the mall as Rhonda had a couple of hours to kill before her flight. As we walked around, we swore we heard Sunrise playing. Was it? Maybe. Could it have been an auditory hallucination brought up due to being sleep deprived? Possible. It may us laugh then and it makes us laugh now. I remember driving home that night and making phone calls to anyone who would talk to me to keep me awake on the drive. It was brutal but worth it. The lack of sleep thing hasn’t changed much. Although, I don’t think we have been awake all night since 2011 after the Glasgow show. We stayed up simply because we were afraid that we felll asleep we would miss our early morning fight. Plus, we were giddy from the show. Will we reach up for the sunrise this upcoming trip? No clue. If we were going to, Vegas is always a good location as they are open all night long.

So what about the playing part? Will that happen? As a kid, summer playing meant riding my bike around the neighborhood, hanging out at the park or swinging on my homemade swing in the backyard. Somehow, as an adult, it has come to mean something different. For Rhonda and I (and our friends), it often means finding some place to hang out. Ideally, this place serves vodka tonics and plays some music. On really great nights, that music including Duran and their peers. Our last tour, in Oakland and San Francisco, included some nights at the Cat Club where they featured Duran after the show. Rhonda and I danced that night until we couldn’t dance anymore. Such fun!

What does Vegas have in store for us? Well, I will tell you one thing. There will be a Daily Duranie Meet-up! The details are still getting completely finalized but I can tell you all this. It will be taking place on December 29th, the night before the Duran show. It will definitely focus on my adult version of playing! So, mark your calendars and make plans to join us! Then, watch this space for details, an event page and more. I know that Rhonda and I are looking forward to celebrating with all of you then!!!

-A

I’m Thankful…

Yesterday, Rhonda wrote a heartfelt blog about what she is grateful for during this Thanksgiving holiday so I figured that today might be my turn. Like Rhonda, I’m very thankful for my family. I’m lucky in that I have amazing parents. That fortune is increased by the fact that they live near me so I am able to not only enjoy them as people but benefit from all the little things they do to help me out. As they get older and need more and more of my assistance, I want to always remember that they deserve my love and care even when my patience is thin and I have more on my plate that it seems like I can handle. This year, my nearby family grew when my oldest niece arrived in Wisconsin to attend college here. To say that I am overjoyed by having her close by is an understatement. Like with my parents, sometimes, this has means that she needs me for some purpose, but I would gladly sacrifice my time in order to have her close. After all, she and her sister have spent their formative years in North Carolina far away from me. I missed many of the big moments and countless small ones over the years. Now, though, I get to be a part of seeing her finally come into her own and reach adulthood. She has become an amazing person who is getting smarter, more confident and stronger with each passing day. This Thanksgiving, in fact, I got to spend it with her and a couple of her fiends, which was fun.

On top of my personal family, I have to acknowledge my work family. It isn’t easy being in education these days. Heck, it wasn’t easy being a teacher 15 years ago but the last 7 or so have been especially difficult for reasons that I won’t go into on this blog. Let’s just say that we are being asked to do a lot more with less and have very little holding us up in terms of outside supports. The job requires more of my time, energy, and emotions and the kids are getting tougher too (through no fault on their own). Throughout it all, my colleagues have been there for me. When things were getting really bleak, I had colleagues checking in, giving me stuffed animals to represent strength, offering to help and more. Truly, when I think about what keeps me going in teaching, a lot of it has to do with them. Of course, the other factor is the kids. While I struggle to reach them all, there are a number of students I have gotten to know pretty well over the years. Being a part of their struggles and their successes also keep me moving forward. I’m truly the lucky one to be their teacher.

Yes, work does take up a lot of my life. Just last week, I calculated that I worked 58.5 hours, which didn’t even seem so bad to me until I realized that it was more than 18 hours OVER what it should have been. It was like I worked an extra 2 days. No wonder I’m super tired all the time! While I wish my job wasn’t so time-consuming and stressful, there is a part of me that is proud of the work that I do. I believe that I’m a decent teacher. My kids, generally, learn from me and, more importantly, become more passionate citizens of the world. That is all I can ask for. If that wasn’t enough, I’m still involved and working, politically. I have to keep fighting to make the world a better place, both in and out of my classroom. I’m grateful to those people who work along side with me, telling me that I’m not alone and to keep going.

Beyond all the fabulous people at my jobs, what really helps to keep me going is my fandom. First, this blog helps on a daily basis. I love that it forces me to stop and think about something other than work or politics. Every morning I do the question of the day. It makes me sit down and take 10-15 minutes in the morning to clear my head, which probably saves my sanity and my students first hour. Then, on the weekends, when it is my turn to blog, I can take longer to think about all things Duran. During many weekends, it is my break, my time away from grading or household chores. While it is something on my “to-do” list, it isn’t really a chore. I look forward to it and I often find myself thinking about what I’m going to write about or how I’m going to write about this topic or that. There is always a corner of my brain thinking about Duran, fandom and this blog. This also means that I allow myself to check in with Duranland during the week so that I can comment in future blogs. I might not always have time to respond or make comments but know that I’m always watching (as much as I can) and thinking about what I see, read and hear related to this fandom. Again, this probably keeps me sane. (No comments, Rhonda!)

Beyond the time spent during the week on my Duran fandom and blogging, there are the times I go on tour. I truly cannot think of anything that makes me more happy. Touring is the one time that I can (and do!) push everything else to the side. When I’m on tour, I’m not thinking about anything on my to-do list. I’m not worrying about my parents or about kids at school. No, I can take a break and just HAVE FUN. People will always ask me, “Why are you going to another show? Don’t they just play the same songs?” The answer to that is yes. They typically play the same songs. While the setlist matters somewhat, it isn’t the big reason. No, it is about that fun that I have. Of course, I wouldn’t have fun without the people with me. In 2005, I discovered the best touring partner around. Sometimes, when I think about it, I cannot believe that Rhonda and I really tour so well together. We trust each other when it comes to money, buying tickets, reserving rooms, etc. We approach traveling in similar ways and have the same general philosophy when it comes to partying, staying up late, etc. More importantly than all of that, is that we enjoy spending time together. We know that when we are together we will laugh and laugh and laugh. Truly, I get more laughter in during a touring weekend than I do all month long. I swear! I will always be grateful to have her in my life—not just for fun touring but also because we share this blog, planning meet-ups and conventions and writing. I couldn’t ask for a better fandom partner. Rhonda and I have also been extremely lucky with the friends we have made. In a little over a month, we will descend onto the city of Las Vegas with our friends, Suzie and Lori. Much like touring with Rhonda, they are easy people to tour with who are also a lot of fun. Let’s just say that we all appreciate our vodka! I couldn’t be more thrilled to have another opportunity to hang out with them this year. So lucky to have found them.

Of course, none of this would be possible with the band that started it all. From the first time I heard their music until now, Duran Duran gives me such joy. When I hear their music, I’m reminded of good times, great experiences, and the most fun I have ever had from the little moments of my youth to the silly times of today. I recall the joy of getting a new album, putting up a new poster or tuning into MTV to catch a new video with my childhood best friend. Now, when I think of my fandom, I think of the lovable teasing about fashion choices or giving cheers in a hotel bar. I am reminded of leaving notes encouraging the playing of Planet Earth while watching closely the stage location for every JoSi or DoJo moment. Overall, I am grateful that this band entered my world and refuses to leave even after three plus decades.

-A

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

I know that it is only the US that celebrates Thanksgiving on this day, but for those of us who live in the USA – it is one of our major holidays. I wish everyone celebrating a very happy one.

At this moment while you are reading, I can guarantee that I am cooking. (I’m writing this a bit early to accommodate my schedule!) Our holiday is not incredibly fancy, and we don’t have a lot of people over – just the kids and my mom, but it is nice. We watch the Macy Thanksgiving Day parade and then the Westminster Dog Show (no, I’m not kidding).  We are not a football family (American football), so we avoid it like the plague! Today we’re eating a late lunch rather than a dinner because after this insanity is over, we have to pack up our trailer for camping. We leave early tomorrow morning.

That’s right, I’m the crazy person who suggested that we go camping this weekend after I cooked. 6 AM Friday, we are on the road.  (Who thinks that is really going to happen? Anyone???) Someday, I’m going to learn to keep my crazy thoughts to myself. This, my friends, is not that year. In all seriousness, I don’t think we would have gone except that the other side of our family – Walt’s side – is going, and we wanted to be able to spend time with them. So, I’m looking forward to getting packed and on our way tomorrow morning.

This brings me to the section of the blog where I share what I am most thankful for this year, because it IS Thanksgiving, and that is what the holiday has come to mean for my family, particularly this year. Sorry for the sap.

I am grateful for learning how to take time to breathe, center myself, and focus on the things that matter. I’m still working on living my life in gratitude, but I’ll accept the baby steps and learn from them.

My family. When I get overwhelmed, they are always here. I love having my two older kids out in the world, even though I miss them at home. I love that they share their successes, and even their hardships and failures with me. I’m also really thankful to have a lot of time with my youngest. I have learned so much about her this year. I can’t parent her the same way I did my older two – she is so different, and I love her uniqueness. She doesn’t let me get away with a single thing!

I am so humbled by the way my brother has handled his illness. I could not say and do the things he has in the past year. He says it is because of his faith, and maybe that is true for him. I just know that I don’t have his grace OR his strength. The same holds true for his wife, my husband’s sister. I am not half the person either of them are, that is for certain.

Now for the fun part:

This band. This crazy, silly, ridiculous BAND. Like it or not, I’m still writing about them, contemplating their antics, and having fun. They remind me to keep living my life and to enjoy the journey, which I am.  I also am thankful for them as people. They make me laugh, and I love that. Pure joy. I’ll take it every single time. I think they know we adore them…spit zone, eye rolling, winks, brightly colored flood pants and all.

Oh and Simon? Sixth row in Vegas, December 30th. You’re REALLY gonna need to spit for distance, and I wish you luck. You didn’t quite make it in San Francisco. I’d probably get some practice in beforehand, my friend.  BRING IT.

Can’t hit me, Simon!!!

I will never forget “Ordinary World” in both Oakland and San Francisco. Raw human emotion, undisguised by a stage name or “rock star” imagery. Simon showed us a bit of himself those nights. I know the pain of losing a parent, as many probably do. I know what it is like to have to pick up the pieces, move on and find whatever “normal” is going to look like from then on. Those nights, I felt that same pain rushing right back. Grief is just an incredibly deep hole. Sometimes I feel like I’ve climbed out of it, only to fall back in. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, yet there was something about having him share that on stage with all of us…I don’t know what it was, I’m not quite sure it is appropriate to say I was thankful being there to share it…I just know I felt it.

This blog is special to me, otherwise I simply wouldn’t take time to write each day. I know it isn’t perfect, and there are a good many things I could do to improve the site, our branding, my tone, my writing, etc. I appreciate the opportunity I give myself to write, even when my darling husband says, “You blog today? Again??” (Yes, again Walt. It’s DAILY!!!) It is cleansing at times, and entirely too much fun to ever consider giving up in others. Thank you for reading and supporting Daily Duranie. 

I’m also so thrilled to have a new friend brought into my life by none other than Dom. Writing about a song he was featured in led me to a new friend in Michael Kratz. Cannot wait to see what 2018 brings for each of them. All good things, I hope!

Thank you to Lori & Suzie, our touring buddies. A trip would not be the same without either of you, and I am hoping we get to do some more of that next year! Thank you also for getting those tickets to the Vegas show, girls – otherwise Amanda and I would have been sitting at the BAR!!!  A thousand thank you’s to Suzie, who is my spirit animal in ways I cannot explain here. 😀

Lastly, of course I am thankful for my good friend Amanda. She puts me in check when necessary, gives me encouragement and plenty of grace. I am not even remotely close to being as selfless as she is, but she gives me hope in humanity when I’ve just about given up. (BTW – have you written anything for our project?? Me neither. I need to get that done! EEK!)

Moving on…I’m sure it’s gotta turkey carving time by now, so I must go. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate, and to those who do not – have a lovely weekend ahead!

-R

 

For the small things: a little gratitude

This week is my Thanksgiving break from work. My oldest is already home, and my son comes home late Wednesday night. We will have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner here at home, and then we are going up to Paso Robles with the other side of the family for the weekend. I’m especially thankful this year that we are spending time with all of our family.

Last May, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with AML – a type of Leukemia. He had two rounds of chemotherapy, went into remission, and was able to have a bone marrow transplant. The first 100 days post transplant are the most critical. Today, if I am counting correctly, is day 97 post transplant. We should be cheering, thankful that he beat the odds, and trust me, we are.

Walt and I are very close with my brother-in-law and his sister, and every time we see them we are both so glad he’s still with us. The one thing I learned this year was just how valuable those two are to me. He may be legally just my brother-in-law, but in my heart – he is my big brother and she is the older sister I always wanted. I need them. Life would change forever, otherwise.

Normally, transplant patients have a bone marrow biopsy (imagine having a hole drilled into your hip?!?) on or near day 100 to confirm that there is no leukemia present. Thanksgiving is day 100 for our family. Thankful? Most definitely.

Today, he is having his post-transplant bone marrow biopsy. We are all hoping for the best. Unfortunately, his platelet count is still very low, and they like to see it return to at least near-normal by day 60. His levels are nowhere near normal. This is worrisome, because even if AML is not present, the fact that his platelets are not recovering is problematic. We’re thankful, but I think it’s fair to say we’re all a little worried. On the flip side, we are also excited to be able to go to one of our favorite vacation spots later in the week to be together. I’m hoping it’s all just a crazy blip on the horizon, and we can go back to trying to convince him to agree to move up to Paso Robles and start the Rivera Family Compound with us.

I know most of you are sticking with this story to find out what this has to do with Duran Duran, or with being a fan. I had a revelation recently as I saw two groups of people I know going at one another. Pure drama. Is the band really worth all of that? In my opinion, it’s not even about the band, it’s just fandom, and while at one point I would have felt like I had something to prove to show my “place” in the community, I see it differently now. It just doesn’t matter.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Duran Duran. I love their music. I also adore each of those guys as PEOPLE. I don’t need to fight about who loves them more, or who they’re going to sleep with next, because honestly – I couldn’t care less. That’s not what it’s all about for me, and it never has been. The rest of you can grapple with what constitutes the best type of fan. Some fans are new to the community and want pictures. They’re making up for lost time.  Some other fans trace back their fandom for decades, and everyone handles their fandom differently.

As for me,  the results of the biopsy that is happening right now as I type is all that matters right now. Fandom has become more about friendship than fawning, although rest assured I have done my fair share. Gratitude is an interesting thing. Sometimes, taking a minute to be grateful makes a difference. This weekend, I convinced my husband to forgo plans to clean up our backyard in favor of meeting his sister and brother-in-law to go to a winter art festival. My argument was that we have to take the time when we can. We had a great time that day, and both of us were glad we went. Chores can wait!

Today I’m thankful that my oldest is home and that my son finally answered one of my texts. I am trying to spend time in gratitude for what I have, rather than worrying about assurances I do not. It isn’t easy.  Duran Duran is the same way. I have no idea what that band really has planned for next year or beyond, but I am incredibly grateful for the career they’ve already shared. It is these thoughts that will get me through until Wednesday, when my family hears the results.

-R

 

Red Carpet Massacre Lessons

Last week (or earlier this week, depending on how you look at it), Rhonda blogged about the ten year anniversary of Red Carpet Massacre.  After I got over the shock that ten years have gone by, I started to really think about what that album era means to me.  That time really shook my fandom and made me question quite a lot.  I think the fact that I got through it made my fandom a lot, lot, lot stronger.

Astronaut Era

Before I dive into the lessons I got during the years of 2006-2009, I have to acknowledge what fandom was like for me during the Astronaut era of 2004-2005.  That, of course, was when I had jumped head first back into the fandom and into the fan community.  I spent a lot of time online on message boards and wanted to make a lot of friends within the community.  If someone asked me then about what it was like to be a Duranie, I guarantee that I would have said something about how it was a non-stop party and that everyone was really great.  It felt to me that I had a thousand best friends and the potential for thousands more.  Everything about the fandom felt fun.  Were there some signs that everything wasn’t rosy and perfect?  Sure.  I blew them off.  I ignored them.  I continued on in my happy way.

Rumors

As soon as the rumors about the next album started to fly, the fandom seemed to take a turn.  Suddenly, opinions were flying across each and every message board.  Was Andy going to be on the next album?  Would the band use a hip hop producer?  Was the rumor to Justin Timberlake true?  If so, what does that mean for how good the album is going to be?  I couldn’t keep up and found myself feeling dismayed.  Pushing my thoughts and feelings about those rumors to the back of my mind, I focused on how divided the fan community was.  Some loved the ideas and others hated them.  I hated the division.

I tried to hold off judgment but I, too, had concerns that it wouldn’t be like the Duran I knew and loved.  While that worry lingered, I found myself desperately wishing for things to go back to the way they were during Astronaut when everyone was happy.  I realized right then that I couldn’t do that.  I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t keep the fandom in a bubble.  It doesn’t work that way.  I needed to figure out how to just go with the flow.

New York City

During 2007, I went to see the band perform twice in New York City.  The first time was with Rhonda at the fan show in June of that year, which only added to the division and strong feelings.  I found my worry growing exponentially as it felt like the band wasn’t sold on their album either as I saw them stand on the stage demonstrating less than confident body language when introducing the five songs they played from a CD that night.  My biggest fear?  It wasn’t that the band had created an album that I would hate.  I figured that I could get through that.  No, my biggest fear was that my friends would leave the fandom, that I would be left alone, that all the fun I had in 2004 and 2005 were never be repeated.  While I, too, had many criticisms over what I saw and felt that weekend, I didn’t say much.  I feared that I would add to the reasons for people to walk away, for me to walk away.  I didn’t want that.  Thus, I watched as many of my friends vented their frustrations and concerns while I tried to hold on to my fandom for dear life.

With that goal in mind, I went back to NYC to see the band perform on Broadway in November.  I hadn’t planned on going as my closest friends weren’t going but when decent tickets popped up and my friend who lives there was interested, I jumped at the chance.  The reason was simple.  I hoped that the band would ease my anxiety, that my fandom would be given a shot of armor to get through this battle of sorts.  It worked.  I saw a very different band that night.  Instead of the anxiousness I witnessed in June, the band on stage in November was tight, thrilled to be performing, and confident.  They embraced their performance and allowed me to as well.  I went into 2008 in a stronger stance.

Fall 2008 Tour

Somehow, through the messiness that was Red Carpet Massacre and shifting friendships, Rhonda and I decided to go to a few shows in December of 2008.  It was there that the shift in my fandom that started in late 2006 was almost complete.

Throughout 2004 to 2008, I focused a lot on what I should be doing, thinking and feeling as a fan.  I wasn’t doing this consciously but looking back, it is clear.  Should I love Astronaut?  Should I hate Red Carpet Massacre?  Am I supposed to try to find the band after shows or not?  What’s the cool way to respond to being near the band?  I watched my fellow fans closely and often followed their lead.  Some indicated that I should keep my fandom at arm’s length, that I don’t need to show my fandom that much.  They believed that there was a definite line that should not be crossed.  Cool fans don’t need to be up close.  Cool fans don’t want to be where the band is.  I never questioned.  I never asked why.  I just followed the lead.

During those December 2008 shows,  I decided that I needed to do what works for me, what makes me happy as fan and that it is okay if it is different for others.  They should be able to do what makes them happy as fans.  How did I come to that conclusion? Two things.  First, two shows happened that I wish that I could do over.  Why?  Well, in the case of the first one, instead of just being happy to be there, we complained about a lot.  Some of it was definitely legitimate but still stupid for us to focus on.  For the second show, we had the chance to be up front and didn’t take it, in order to be cool.  Can you imagine?  Yeah, I kick myself for that.  Second, I did a lot of talking with Rhonda as we drove around that weekend.  Our conversations made me realize that I didn’t like the direction my fandom was going.  I wanted to still have fun and I wanted to have good times at shows.  Since then, we have made the best of the shows we have been at and always try to get the best spot possible (within reason).

Overall, the RCM era tested my fandom quite a bit.  I had to figure out who I was at a fan and what I needed to have fun and what I needed if I was going to continue being in it.  Really, it also pushed Rhonda and I into taking action, which led to this blog and where we are today.  While RCM isn’t a favorite of mine, I can appreciate the lessons that came along with it.

-A

You Caught Me in Your Web of Youth

It is Lyric Day Friday!  My shuffle resulted in the song, Love Voodoo.  Like many Duran songs, when I looked at the lyrics, many, many lines could have been chosen for the inspiration of the blog post.  Before I got overwhelmed, I decided to focus in on the first one that caught my attention.  The line, of course, is “You caught me in your web of youth.”  It immediately reminded me of fandom, my Duran Duran fandom, to be specific, despite my lack of youth and the band’s lack of youth.  Still, I became a fan as a kid when the band members were really young, themselves.

Whenever my students find out that I’m a Duran Duran fan, they want to know right away how old they are and if they were any good.  Yes, they use the past tense.  It makes me crazy.  I immediately correct that assumption and explain that the band still creates music to this day.  As for their second question, I have tried to explain that they were the most popular band when I was a kid.  Each time I tell that, I feel inadequate in convincing them of the truth of my statement.  I try to reassure myself that no matter what I say, they cannot really get it.  They weren’t around then.  After that, the next common questions are, “Why do you like them?  Have you liked them for a long time?”  Again, I try my best to answer but never feel like I capture their appeal.

I cannot remember the first time I heard or saw Duran Duran.  As a kid, in the early 80s, I do remember listening to B96, Chicago’s Top 40 radio station.  I recall turning the dial on the TV to MTV or staying up “late” to tune into Friday Night Videos.  I’m certain that the first place I saw/heard Duran was on one of those sources.  I doubt it was anything from the first album.  I simply was too young and wouldn’t have tuned in then.  It could be something off of Rio.  I’m not sure what exactly.  The first songs I remember really connecting with are the first couple of singles from Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  One memory that stands out in my head is hearing New Moon on Monday on the radio at my then best friend’s house.  If my memory is accurate, I was staying there overnight while the rest of my family was out of town, trying to look for a house for us to move to, which would bring us closer to my dad’s new job.  I distinctly remember laying in my friend’s bedroom, trying to go to sleep while the radio played softly, when that song came on.  While I liked the song, it wasn’t until their videos that the band really caught my attention.

To the kid version of me, every video I saw seemed so cool.  First of all, I was drawn to the way they looked.  At this point in my life, I was living in a Chicago suburb, a working class suburb, no less.  People in my neighborhood, in my suburb did not dress up.  They tended to work in blue collar jobs, in factories.  Even my dad, who was a manufacturing manager, did not really dress up to go to work as he worked in an office within a factory.  He wore steel-toed shoes for protection and never wore his wedding ring, in case he used the machinery.  The only time I remember my parents, extended family or neighbors really dress up was for something like a wedding, a very special occasion.  On top of all of that, even their dress clothes weren’t fancy or anything fashion-forward.  No, they all dressed rather conservatively and all people stuck to their assigned gender role.  Women wore dresses with pantyhose and short heels while the men picked a suit jacket and button down top.

This, of course, is the exact opposite of Duran Duran.  They wore colorful clothing that was unique and fashion forward.  I remember thinking to myself that I would love to dress like them, but that my family could never afford style like that and that I wouldn’t even know where to go to get clothes like that!  Their fashion choices included things like fancy belts, leather pants, and fedoras.  They looked nothing like the men and boys I knew.  Heck, I also adored that they didn’t stick to their gender.  I never questioned the make-up.  I just knew that I liked what I saw.  Overall, they oozed cool.

If that was not enough, the videos and concert footage showed a group of friends who had so much fun.  Goodness, just writing this brings up scenes from Sing Blue Silver where the band is laughing and having fun together.  While I didn’t need to see them having fun or being with a group of friends to think they were amazing, these images added to the coolness to create a package that I had no choice, but to fall hard for.  As a young kid and preteen, I wanted to be them.  I longed for my upcoming teenage and young adulthood to be the cool that my childhood was far from.  The fantasy I focused on then wasn’t about becoming one of their wives but about being as cool as they were.  That was more important to my geeky self.

By the time 1985 rolled around, I was definitely caught in their web of youth.  They showed me that everyone does not have to be like those around me.  No, there was a whole colorful, cool world out there.  As a kid, it gave me something to look towards to determine what to do, how to dress, etc.  Obviously, this web that they created is a strong one as I’m still here, over 35 years later.

-A