Category Archives: personal stories

Sets You on a Path

Do you think you are always aware of turning points in your life?  I think there are some days that are significant enough that you know that they are a big deal.  Then, there are days that you look back and recognize them as essential to determining your path, after the fact. For me, I look back at the 2004 Friends of Mine Convention in New Orleans as being one of those days.  It was just supposed to be a fun event to attend.  Turns out that it changed my life.  After all, I met Rhonda that day.  Beyond getting a best friend from it, it changed my fandom.  I probably would have a gone to a few shows during the Astronaut tour and that would have been it.  Maybe, my fandom would have continued through 2006 or even 2007.  I’m willing to bet that it would have faded without her.  (For the record, I’m sure she would say the same.)  I doubt either one of us would have gone to as many shows as we have and certainly there are lots of places we would have never visited with going on tour there.

What has made me think of this?  Today, my sister, brother-in-law and nieces are in town.  The occasion is one of those life-changing days for the eldest niece.  Tomorrow, we move her into her dorm at Beloit College.  She will no longer be under her parents’ roof everyday.  College will bring independence and growth.  Her learning will include academic, social and life-skills.  I’m super excited for her as I believe that she chose a school that is right for her.  Yes, I’m also thrilled that she will be close to me and her grandparents.  I believe that she is demonstrating a lot of bravery to go to school super far away as her parents live in North Carolina.  Will going to college change her life?  Of course.  It should.

When I think about this niece, I recognize another one of those life-altering days in my own existence.  My niece was born at night and I received the phone call about her arrival way past my bedtime.  After crying in joy with my family, I made a decision not to work the next day and I planned to be sick in order to sleep.  Instead at 6 am the next day, my phone rang.  The principal of a school I often worked at called to offer me a permanent job, rather than the temporary teaching gig I had been doing.  I enthusiastically accepted.  At the time, I believed that this was a step on the path that I had planned for.  Instead, it led to a fork in the road, which included graduate school and teaching students with special education needs for 14 years.

Therefore, in thinking about my niece, I cannot help but to think about my teaching career.  This, of course, just makes me feel old and tired especially as I gear up to another school year.  It is funny.  I’m really back to the original plan in that I now teach United States History and Women’s Studies.  This year, in fact, I will be teaching an honors US History.  Will this year be another major life turn or will not represent anything that significant?  I don’t know.

It is sort of funny, though.  It seems to me that what my niece is feeling today is a little how I feel about my school year and even about the band.  Does my niece have an idea of what college is going to be like?  Of course.  She even visited this school before, including staying in a dorm already and attending some classes.  She also knows a lot about what the college experience was like for her parents and her aunts and uncle.  But there is a lot that is unknown.  Likewise, I have faced a lot of school years.  I know what it should be like but…there are always changes which make me nervous.  For example, I have new staff I’ll be working with and I’m not sure how this new class is going to go.

Similarly, I feel the same way with Duran.  The end of the Paper Gods era is quickly approaching.  I have been through this before and have a general idea of how it is going to go.  Typically, I would expect about three years before seeing an album.  Yet, like my school year, there is a huge unknown in that 40th anniversary.  What will happen as a result of that?  I don’t know.  Maybe they don’t know.  Will there be “new” music in some form either from brand new tunes, tweaked old demos, rarities, or some combination.  Could people hope for tour dates?  I don’t know.  I will point out one thing when it comes to tour dates.  My spring break aligns with Rhonda’s, shockingly enough.  Right now, she is planning on coming up to my neck of the woods to visit then.  Therefore, if the band wanted to do something exciting in the Midwest during the last week of March, we would not complain.  Hint.

In thinking about the future, I think it is important for my niece and for myself to remember to take things as they come.  One day at a time.  Maybe, one of those days will again be a life-altering one.  Time will tell.

-A

Rise Above the Sorrow

Five years ago today, Duran Duran played in Biloxi, Mississippi as part of the final leg of the All You Need Is Now tour.  This show was pretty monumental for Rhonda and myself as it was the first time we ever had front row.  We had traveled to the city the night before so that we could hang out with Duranies and have a chance to line up early on the day of the show.  We arrived around 7 and were, indeed, able to secure a spot in front.  Anyone who read the blogs from then saw that our first front row did not go as planned.  No, we kinda stood there, shell-shocked, unable to really respond.  I remember attempting to process the show afterwards over drinks.  I had a lot of reasons that night for why I was so lame during the show but I suspect that I left out the real reason.

The summer of 2012 was a tough one for me.  I had spent months busting my ass to try and get my state’s governor to lose a special, recall election.  I’m sure that some of you stopped reading at that line.  After all, that is only politics and this blog about being a Duran fan.  Humor me, though, and keep reading.  Yes, it was about politics, but it was personal to me.  I won’t go into all the reasons for this but I think that anyone who has ever failed at something that really meant something to them understands my distress that summer.  On top of that, I already had experienced much stress related to this governor and feared the future.  Yet, I had hope that Duran and our little tour around the Southeast would help with my mood.  In fact, I was so determined in this that I pushed for having pre-show meet ups before each concert.  I wanted to dive into some other task.  Then, I could forget my fear and failure.

Did my plan work?  I have already mentioned that the Biloxi show was a failure, in terms of how we responded at the show.  We did better for the rest of our shows, but I never really felt it.  My distraction didn’t work.  I couldn’t shake it.  I remember after our final show in Virginia about how ready I was to go visit my sister and to have the tour be done.  That is not normal.  Rhonda itched to add a show and I didn’t even consider it.  Again, that is not normal.

Now, in 2017, I feel like I’m in a similar headspace due to the political climate.  Again, I was involved in a campaign that lost.  Like five years ago, I fear.  I feel like I get to a spot where I can shake it and then it comes roaring back.  I recognize that this makes me weird.  I get that.  I know that most people don’t feel politics that deeply.  I do.  Maybe it is that history teacher in me that recognizes the drama of current events.  Maybe it is because I have been active in politics.  Perhaps, I worry about my students and their futures.  Whatever the cause, it is a thing with me.

In 2012, I tried to get over the lost by going on tour and failed in my quest.  Looking back, I know that Durham was a great show on paper and that my partner-in-crime loved it but when I think of it I feel an emptiness that I couldn’t get beyond.  This time, in 2017, I have also gone to shows.  I’m sure that part of the reason was exactly as it was in 2012.  I wanted to get over what was bothering me.  I wanted to forget about it.  I needed to experience some joy.  Interestingly enough, the shows I have attended have all been fabulous this year.  I loved each and every one of them.  What was the difference?  I’m not sure.  I guess that is part of the reason that I’m blogging about it today, to try and figure it out.

Were the shows better?  Maybe.  Was I responding differently?  I’m sure.  If I had to determine the difference, I think this time I dove into the shows in a way that I couldn’t let my mind wander.  I also feel like there is more interaction between the band and the crowd.  Maybe that has helped me keep in the game more.  Fandom has been a sanctuary this time for whatever reason.  Perhaps, I just need my fandom differently now.  No matter the reason, I’m thankful that the shows in 2017 that I attended gave me as much joy as they have.  Certainly, Duran Duran has been the sun through a very cloudy world.

-A

A Little Time Spent in Gratitude

Every once in a while, I’ll come across something that reminds me that our time here on this planet is short.  It might be reading something about a friend that passed, or hearing that someone I know is ill, or maybe it’s news of a freak accident that claimed innocent lives. As I’ve grown older, I think I must pay more attention to those types of news items on social media.  I think about them a little more in passing, too. In some ways, I miss the times when I believe that I, and the people around me, would live forever. I never thought much about death or dying. Nowadays, I’ve got a brother-in-law who is getting a bone marrow transplant as I type, and a dear friend who is getting chemotherapy as she battles another type of cancer.  It is sometimes hard to focus on living.

Yesterday, I was an all-day, off-site staff meeting for my company. I work for a non-profit education company that owns several charter schools in my state. This is only my second year working for the company, and I was hired just after school started last year so this is the first time I’ve seen the entire company at an event (normally we divide up by charter school, if that makes any sense).  We spent the entire day in mBIT, or mBrain training. (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) Rather than bore you with the details, I spent much of the day learning how to breathe in much the same way one breathes during yoga. (I slept better last night than I’ve slept in MONTHS, oddly enough, which was something the instructor told us might happen.)

During our training, we spent a lot of the time in gratitude – giving thanks for what we have, or what our brain(s) are telling us about various problems we have. I spent a lot of that time not thinking about school problems (after all, children haven’t even graced our door yet!), but being thankful for the wonderful things I do have in my life. While a lot of the training was exhausting, I actually liked the breathing. I’m going to use it more often during my day to center myself, however I can.

When I got out to my car, I briefly looked at twitter and my phone since I had it off for most of the day. I saw that Nile Rodgers was in the hospital and had to miss a gig for an undisclosed illness. Naturally, I thought about him and hoped for the best. Life is short, and I’m thankful to have not only grown up with his music, but also with the life lessons he’s inadvertently taught me along the way through his own health struggles.

Nile was released from the hospital today, and I have to assume that he’s doing well.  My feelings are likely the same as everyone else’s today – glad to hear he’s well enough to leave the hospital, can’t help but think about the music – his own silver lining, that he will undoubtedly leave behind someday.  Extraordinary.

As we’ve all discovered in recent years, our idols don’t live forever.  For many of them, life with them here on this planet was far shorter than any of us bargained. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I try to spend a lot more time being thankful for the gifts they’ve given us along the way.  For me, the members of Duran Duran are as much people I look up to and highly respect as they are responsible for the soundtrack of my life. I don’t want to think about the time when one or more of them may not be here – I want to focus on enjoying them right now. Life is short, but it is certainly bright and melodic, with their presence in it.

-R

 

Power Station at Irvine Meadows

Some of these dates in history take me right back to childhood, and this one is one of those. On this date in 1985, Power Station played at Irvine Meadows, in Irvine, California.

What is remarkable about this date, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that it was my very first concert. Ever.

There is very little I can share with you about the show, because my memory is horrible. I can remember sitting back pretty far—not quite grass—but certainly not orchestra, and I know that I went with my cousins. That in and of itself is strange, because at the time, I lived in Glendora, and my cousins lived all the way in Van Nuys, which is probably an hour and a half from Irvine.  (I know I fell asleep on the way home from the concert, that is for sure!)

I had spent the week with my cousin Patty, who had a massive crush on John Taylor at the time. Since my particular brand of Taylor was not a member of Power Station (Roger, in case anyone cares!), I pretty much just followed her lead. She was a year older, much more worldly, mature and wicked cool, so I figured she’d just know. Know what, I am not entirely sure….but I just knew she was on to something.  The day before the show, there had been an appearance at a record store in Van Nuys. I remember this because we’d convinced her mom—my aunt—to allow us to take the bus down to the store and wait in line.

I can tell you right now that my mom and dad would have never allowed such a thing. So, it was a good thing I was staying with Patty. Her mom worked during the day, and Patty was on her own. My parents also worked, but somehow, I didn’t have quite the freedom she did. I had a lengthy list of chores to do each day during the summer, and had to answer the phone whenever my mom called (she would ring, hang up and ring again so I’d know it was her) as well as babysit my younger sister – who is five years younger. Patty had none of that. She was free to ride the bus, sit out by the apartment complex pool….and talk to much older men she probably shouldn’t have about things I am positive my parents would have freaked out about.

Maybe my parents had something there, after all.

Anyway, I digress. We had gone to a lot of trouble to bake chocolate chip cookies in the shape of the letters “J” and “T”, with the full intention of taking them to John that day at the signing. I really don’t know what in the hell we were thinking. I suppose we naively thought we’d just walk right up to him with food and that there wouldn’t be a line or security or any of that. I didn’t know any better. I don’t even know how we were thinking we were going to transport the cookies without breaking them while riding the bus and holding our Power Station albums to have signed. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that the cookies were not only too thick and looked nothing like the letters “J” and “T”, they were also slightly burned.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t bake.

We agreed to leave them at home, not embarrass ourselves, and just go to the signing. I can remember how hot it was waiting there. It was all fun and games at first until we realized the line was several blocks long and that unless John was planning an overnighter, he’d never get all the way through the line. We probably should have left much earlier – like the night before – to get a better spot. Even so, teenage optimism prevailed, and we soldiered on. It wasn’t too long before the line seemed to really move, entirely way too fast I might add, and then word got to us that John had just sped off, safely in the back of a limousine.

I felt so dejected that day. It was awful. I didn’t cry or anything, but it was then that I first realized how unfair fandom can be. Even when you have all the information you need, someone is always going to be there first. I don’t think that’s really changed much since 1985. Amanda and I experience it nearly every time we tour. We’ll choose to do one thing, and others will choose another, and typically – we choose wrong. (We are very good at that)  We’re rarely in the right spot at the right time, and while sure, there have been times (some frighteningly recently) where I’ve wanted to kick myself for deciding to drive home rather than use the information I’d been given to go and see if I could find the one person I wanted to see, or turning around to go back to a city we just left because someone tweeted their own whereabouts, overall I just have to laugh.  It’s all luck. Someone is always going to have better luck, more accurate information, or just have “more”.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on being a fan that day. It wasn’t John’s fault, of course, and in some ways – I’d give anything to go back to being that naive, very awkward 14-year-old standing in line for a signing. Sometimes 1985 doesn’t seem that long ago, and then other days, like today, it feels like a lifetime ago.

-R

Guest Blog: Simon Le Bon Interview on Hawaii Public Radio

By The ’80s SLB Fan

On the morning of July 14, 2017, I checked out a Tweet from Duran Duran regarding an interview with legendary Duran Duran frontman, Simon Le Bon on Hawai’i Public Radio with host Dave Lawrence.  Duran Duran performed on July 16, 2017, in Honolulu, Hawai’i, and this was their very first concert performance in their entire music career in the Aloha state.  So I went ahead and click the link from Duran Duran’s Tweet in order for me to listen to my big ’80s crush’s voice on the interview.  I felt so excited.  I could not wait to listen to his voice!

Simon Le Bon discussed his music and acting during his youth, as well as his start with songwriting before he joined Duran Duran.  What really struck me (or I should say, ‘what really surprised me’) while listening to his interview about his youth are as follows:

Simon Le Bon’s Influence In Classical Music During His Childhood

Simon Le Bon started listening to classical music during his childhood in which he got influenced by his mother who liked to listen to that genre.  I remember my childhood in the ’80s when I started listening to classical music on the radio.  I got influenced by classical music from my father who, still to this present day, is a super fan of classical music from instrumental to opera.  I have no clue if Simon really loves listening to classical music these days, but I love classical music!  Every time I drive in my car or do house chores at home, I tune in to classical music on either FM or Internet radio.  Classical music is part of my blood and family history.  My grandparents from my father’s side, whom I never met, loved listening to classical music.  Even my uncle, my father’s older brother, loved listening to it.  Among my five older siblings, I am the only one who loves listening to classical music, and they do not.  Whether listening to any kind of music or learning how to play a musical instrument or learning how to sing, classical music is THE very first step in learning music.

Simon Le Bon Studied Playing The Violin During His Youth? Huh?

REALLY!!? NO WAY!!! I didn’t know he studied how to play the violin during his youth.  I thought he studied piano lessons during his youth, which is true as he did mention that during the interview.  However, I was so surprised when he included the word ‘violin’.  I hope Simon did not make this up.  I am just curious to find out how old he was when he started playing the violin and how many years he played that musical instrument.  I wanted to start studying the violin when I was either 8 or 9 years old, but I was not able to start taking violin lessons due to transportation & schedule issues.  My mother could not drive, and my father was working a 9-to-5 corporate executive job plus business meetings Mondays through Fridays.  I started studying the violin when I was 15 years old, and at the same time, I took orchestra class in my junior year in high school.  I had to take private violin lessons, take a trip with my fellow orchestra classmates to compete for high school orchestra competitions, perform during recitals and school events.  I played the violin for less than 2 years until I graduated high school in 1998.  That same year after I graduated high school, I stopped playing the violin when I started my freshman year in college.  Also, I learned from my father that my uncle took violin lessons when he was in grade school, but it did not last long for him either.

Simon Le Bon’s Influence In Singing

During the interview, Simon Le Bon discussed his influence in singing during his childhood, about his involvement in the choir, and about his amazing choirmaster.  Simon mentioned that his choirmaster taught him how to read music properly, how to learn the theory of harmony, and how to listen to his ears.  Simon fell in love with music, and it just came naturally for him.  I started listening to music on the radio and watching music videos when I was very young about 2 or 3 years old.  Even before I started attending preschool, I started singing in tune.  I even started picking up the microphone and started singing with the Karaoke machine in front of my family and relatives. Oh, dear! I remember having my family’s first Karaoke event in 1985, the year of Africa USA and Live Aid!  Even when I entered Kindergarten in 1986, I sang in music class in tune, while most of my classmates sang horribly and out of tune.  I was so involved in singing in music class from grade school up to my freshman year in high school that I joined the choir.  I didn’t take any voice lessons during my youth.  However, I ended up taking voice lessons during my junior year in college.  

My Opinion & What I’ve Learned So Far During Simon Le Bon’s Interview On Hawai’i Public Radio

In my opinion, I think the legendary Duran Duran frontman and myself have something in common when it comes to childhood influence in music.  The only difference is Simon Le Bon has a lot of experience, and he’s been performing professionally for a very long time.  During his youth, he got influenced by music, he started acting and became a thespian, and he even started writing poems and songs.  Songwriting is not my interest and skill.  And can you believe he even studied how to play the flute and a guitar when he was young?  Wow!  That’s what I really love about Simon Le Bon.  He is a super multi-talented individual.  I think talent not only comes naturally in a person, but it comes from a person’s heart. His mother was responsible for providing music.  She even strongly encouraged Simon to sing and join the choir.  Having very strong support from a talented individual’s parents is extremely important.  I think his mother deserves huge respect and honor for supporting his gifted talent.  In my side, I feel I did not receive enough strong support from my parents for my talents.  Even though my mother heard my singing abilities when I was young, still she did not do something to help me develop my talents more and encourage me to join a talent show or choir.  I just wish that my parents were so supportive of my talents just like Simon Le Bon’s mother.  I will discuss my other talents aside from my music talents on a later blog.  I hope that Simon Le Bon will read this blog and appreciate it, and I just want to say to him how I admire his special talent so much.  I also hope that I will meet him some day, and I really want to thank him so much for being truly Simon Le Bon.

The ’80s SLB Fan was born in the early 1980s and is considered to be part of “Children of the ’80s” and “Generation Y2K” movement.  Around 1983, she started listening to Duran Duran’s “Is There Something I Should Know?” on the radio when she was 2 years old.  That same year, she heard the beautiful singing voice of Duran Duran’s frontman, Simon Le Bon for the first time.  It took this girl several years until she was 19 while attending college which she ended up having a HUGE ’80s crush on Simon Le Bon.  She is residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and she is an actor, extra, model, and novice voice actor (known as voiceover). She grew up in a family who loves music, and her top favorite musical genres are classical music, EDM, and ’80s music.  She official became a Duranie in 2000.  Visit The ’80s SLB Fan’s blog site at the80sslbfanblog.wordpress.com, where you’ll find her blogs dedicated to Simon Le Bon.

People Tell Me I Haven’t Changed but I Don’t Feel the Same

Are you participating in our #2017DDChallenge this year leading up to Duran Duran Appreciation Day?  I certainly am and have been enjoying it!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read the blog posted here.  This isn’t the first time that Rhonda and I have done such an activity.  In fact, it is pretty common for us to do something surrounding or for Duran Duran Appreciation Day.  Yet, it was shocking to us at how different the original set of questions were.  Needless to say, this year’s questions for the challenge are far more positive than the ones from a few years ago.  That isn’t to say that all the questions will be positive but the vast majority will be.  We are still thinking and critical Duranies but we are different now.  At least, I feel like I am.

Looking back through the years of blog posts here it seems obvious that I’m far less negative and critical of the band now than I once was.  Even during the All You Need Is Now era, which I absolutely adored, a lot of what was said, talked about, and written about by me was more critical in nature.  Then, of course, the time in between All You Need Is Now and Paper Gods was problematic for me.  I wanted so desperately for the band to capitalize on what I felt they created with AYNIN and was afraid that any or all momentum would be lost with too much time.  My criticism or negativity definitely came from the best of intentions and with all the love I could muster but I just couldn’t or wouldn’t see it from the band’s side.  I didn’t understand that the creative process could not rushed.  Then, of course, I had plenty of ideas of how Duran could help themselves and offered many of them here on the blog.  Some of those ideas might have been good, I don’t know.  I can’t remember.  No matter, now, I like to think that  have learned some big lessons.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned during this album cycle is to just be more empathetic.  I cannot possibly know what life is like for the members of Duran Duran.  While, yes, I might have lots of ideas about how to approach this, that or the next thing, I have no idea whether or not those ideas are even possible.  Some might and others might not be.  I recognize now, though, that as much as I try to think about what it might be like to be in their shoes, I really cannot.  I can only know what it is like to be in my shoes and to have my perspective.

Because of this realization, I’m truly picking my battles. Some ideas might still cause a passionate response in me.  For example, a reader posted a quote in some Hawaiian press that the band is considering including Andy Taylor in the 40th anniversary celebration.  That got a response from me.  (For the record:  I’m not a fan.  It isn’t that I don’t or didn’t like Andy.  I just like the band the way it is now and I worry that having Andy return in any capacity would cause problems for the band and/or Andy.  I don’t want that.)

On the other side of the coin, I’m letting go of the little things.  I’m not going to worry about who is modeling the merchandise, for example, or whether or not the right or wrong word is used in a tweet.  None of that really matters to me.  I get that those things might to other fans and that’s fine but they don’t to me right now.  I realize that those little things that I could be critical of don’t change my fandom for the positive.  No, in fact, they could make me less happy being a Duranie.  I don’t want that.  I want and need Duran to be my happy place.

Likewise, I’m also going to cheer things that the band or DDHQ is doing that I like.  For example, I’m loved all of the tweets/posts/pictures of the band in Hawaii.  While I could not be there, I at least feel as if I’m a part of it in some small fashion.  It also keeps that small connection that I felt towards the band from the shows in Oakland and San Francisco alive.  I appreciate that A LOT.

Overall, I don’t think I’m the same person or the same fan that I once was.  Maybe, this change has come from my own experience with the creative process.  Perhaps, it is that the reality surrounding me means that I need my fandom to be just a happy place.  I don’t know.  It could be a new maturity.  I guess it could be a lot of things.  If I had to say, though, I think this change is a good change and one that I’m embracing.

-A

Favorite Show From Paper Gods Tour

I was thinking about the Paper Gods tour last night just before falling asleep. I had a great time at the shows I attended, without a doubt.  But, if I had to pick just one as my favorite show—which would it be?

First of all, this is a personal question, in that my choice for favorite show is probably not going to be very indicative of the best gig or the best sound or even what was best for you. And my favorite show might have more to do with how I was thinking or feeling that night than how the band did. I’m human enough to admit all of those factors play a part.

My intention last night was to lie there quietly and go through every single show in my head. I got through Hollywood Bowl. (to recap: that was show number one for me. So….) I know what my knee jerk answer probably is, but I want to be sure.

Amanda devised this fancy concert rubric grading system (she’s a teacher, so this makes sense!), but that’s not really working for me here. First of all, I’m a little more emotional than that rubric allows. Secondly, there are some shows that just don’t stick out.

There are a few shows though, that really make me smile when I think back on them. Two of them are at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage, which is funny.  The first Agua Caliente show had me in front row. There is a certain magic in being up there – as much as I’d like to deny its influence, I just can’t. My elbows were on the stage, and it was the first time I’ve ever been that close – normally there’s a barricade or a security guy.  In fact, there was a monitor right in front of me, and my hearing has never been the same since.  <grin>

The second show also had me in front, but there’s more to it than that. I was up there with Amanda and one of our roommates, which made the night so much more fun.  We had been at an impromptu meet-up beforehand, and then the show, and then hung out at a bar afterward.  The entire night was so much fun, and then we found out the band was coming back for these July shows. (and were admonished not to tell a soul – which we didn’t until DDHQ spilled the beans the next morning!) It wasn’t just the show, it was the full experience that made it so memorable.

This last set of shows – Oakland and San Francisco – were fantastic, too. In Oakland, we were second row center, GA, but Amanda and I were with friends. The show itself blew me away for a multitude of reasons, and we hung out with Duranies in a hotel lobby bar afterward. I loved every minute.

But for me, if I had to pick a gig that was my favorite show of the entire tour, I’d have to go with San Francisco. Oddly, had that evening happened even a year prior, I would have come away feeling dejected and angry, and yet I’m telling you that for me – it was the best show of the entire tour.

First of all, I was nowhere near the front. The view I had for 99% of the show was obstructed at best. Making eye contact with band members was really tough to do, if not non-existent for most of the show. Amanda and I stood by ourselves, with no other friends around us. Most Duranies were up front, having paid for VIP. (we just couldn’t. Sixteen shows, people. My bank account said NO) Instead, we’d done this crazy California room add-on VIP deal, that wasn’t really VIP at all. It was really kind of a worthless, shitty deal that normally would have put me in such a bad mood I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself, but that night, I refused to give in. I was not going to let the last show (for me) on this tour go by with me being grumpy and mad.

Instead, I stood there, and let the music wash over me. I loved that set with every fiber of my being – yes, even Hungry Like the Wolf.  I saw Nick grin, I noticed Simon pointing into the crowd, and yeah, I even saw Dom and John rocking out together on stage. None of them probably saw me, but it didn’t matter. I danced, I sang, I held my hands in the air and gave it my all, and the band gave the energy right back. I cried through New Moon on Monday without a single thought to what the band might think. I didn’t care. There was no holding back out of fear of how I might look, or trying to get someone’s attention. I just lived in the moment, through the music, and it was fantastic. I can’t think of a better way to have ended my travels (for now).

Here’s the “thing”…this album, the tour, and even writing a rejected manuscript, changed me. I don’t think I necessarily liked the person I was becoming when Paper Gods came out. I felt like my fandom was kind of, well, fading, maybe? Perhaps it’s that I didn’t feel like I could really BE a fan because I was so busy writing, working, and trying to be “Daily Duranie Super Fan Organizer”. I’m not sure, and this experience I’m sharing is not necessarily what Amanda experienced. I’m just writing about me, here. I only know that when Paper Gods came out, as much as I loved the band, I think I was more worried about what other fans thought of me and what I was writing. I let the need for acceptance outweigh everything else. It’s easy to get caught up in one’s head when you’re trying to write a blog that people will take time out of their busy days to visit and read. Then there’s just the book writing in general. (which has so far proven unsuccessful in as much as getting a publishing deal but the personal experience? Priceless.) It was a lot of pressure I put on myself, and ultimately, I think it may have broken me.

There was a time when I stopped wanting to talk to anyone. I felt like no matter what I said or did, people reading the blog would find fault (and they did). Oddly though, after a while, the negativity seemed to even out. That said, we had support from people who didn’t necessarily SAY a word, but showed us they care by liking things we posted. Sometimes subtle works, even if it’s not noticed at the time. It turns out that while I felt very much alone for a while there, I had people by my side (or our side) all along. You know who you are, and I need to thank you. Sometimes it really is the smallest of things that are the most meaningful, and knowing someone (or a few people) had our back and accepted us for who we are and what we have to say made the difference.

So this album—Paper Gods—was not the easiest era of my life, both in fandom and for personal reasons. It was as though all of this writing and STUFF had to break me down completely before I could really begin to rebuild and figure it all out. And as that was happening, I was beginning to be happier and willing to be straight up honest with myself about why I am the way I am. When I went to those shows in March, I was absolutely thrilled to be there, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. When I drove to San Francisco last week, I was excited to hear every last song on that set list. No complaints. Life is too short and I’m way too much of a fan of this band and love the people in it too much to worry. I’m still a work in progress, as we all are, but when I look back over this time, I’m going to know how much personal growth was happening. I suppose in some small way, it took me as much time to come to terms with all of that as it did for the band to come to terms with what Paper Gods was going to be.

When I think back on the San Francisco show, not only will I remember just how on fire the band was, or how fabulous the sound was that night. I’ll remember that even though things didn’t go quite as planned, I loved every single second.

-R

With Your Sweet Hand to Bring Me Home

I have been home for a few days now.  The tour is behind me and has been fading since I walked on a plane super early on Tuesday.  Since I have returned home, I have unpacked, completed laundry, gone to the grocery store and everything else needed to keep my household running smoothly.  Physically, I’m absolutely here in Madison, Wisconsin.  Emotionally, mentally, I’m WAY still on tour.  I should know how to deal with that feeling since I have been on tour many times before, but this time it feels different.

When I came home in March after seeing the two shows at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage, part of me definitely felt a loss at saying goodbye to the tour.  Another part of me was able to get right back into the swing of “normal” life.  What is my problem now?  Why the difference?  In some ways, it should be easier now.  After all, I am not working like I did in March.  Last tour, I arrived home on a Monday and had to return to work the next day.  This time, I have time to recover.  I’m definitely still catching up on sleep as I had about 9.5 hours of sleep last night and an hour long nap on the couch.  Maybe, though, the distraction of work was helpful.  That could be.  Still, I have plenty of things on my to do list.  I should be busy and distracted.  My to do list is failing me.  Why?

I have been trying to figure out why I’m struggling with saying goodbye to tour so much this time.  When I think about it, it comes down to a few things.  First, I think part of it has to do with my friendship with Rhonda.  Our friendship felt strained and distant from last fall until those shows in March.  There are a lot of reasons for this but a lot of it had to do with lack of communication and processing some stuff individually.  When I went to the shows in March, I wondered if it would be my last tour.  I figured that we would have fun, but it wouldn’t be like it once was.  The fun couldn’t last forever, right?  Well, we had a good time and I felt better, that we were at least taking a step or two to getting back to normal.  As these shows moved closer, the normal feeling grew.  Then, this past tour happened and we are definitely back to our normal friendship–laughing at ridiculous things (like painting shoes green or sharing stories of crossing the border!).  So, now that we are back to being the crazy, best friends that was always have been, I want to hang out more.

Then, of course, there is the band.  The shows this past weekend were fantastic.  Yes, I could focus on the setlist additions of Hold Back the Rain and Sunrise/New Moon as the reasons for the greatest of these shows.  Obviously, having great songs played will make a show more fabulous but it wasn’t just that.  The band brought it.  The energy level was high.  The interactions were a ton of fun and I couldn’t help but get into each and every moment even when I was dying of heat and annoyed at having bodies right next to me.  The truth is that I started out both shows in a bitchy mood.  I didn’t feel that great on Friday and on Saturday, I was ticked that the venue’s California Room was so lame. (Understatement of the year.  Decade.  Century.  You get the idea.)  Yet, the band managed to win me over.  In fact, by the end of each night, the love for them grew.  I knew others didn’t attend these shows because they felt that the set lists didn’t change enough and that they had seen them already on this tour.  Likewise, I saw and heard fans complain about this or that.  I tried really hard not to do that and it made all the difference in the world.  My mind was open, then, to seeing every look, every point, every subtle move.  I was able to absorb it all and that means the world to me.

In March, I knew before I left that we had more shows coming up.  Now, I don’t have that.  Yes, I know that there are rumors about shows in other parts of the world, but even if those rumors are true, they won’t affect me.  There is a vast unknown out there.  What will the band do for their 40th?  Will there be dates?  Will there be something else?  I don’t know.  I’m anxious to find out and wanting to be able to make some plans.  I shouldn’t be.  My bank account needs a rest.  My to do list needs to get done.  Emotionally, though, I would really like to know what is in the future.  sigh

For now, I’ll look through my pictures of this past week and cherish the memories.  I’ll also be checking the band’s social media as every tweet, photo, etc. gives me a little joy.  Yesterday, for example, I enjoyed seeing the band is out sight-seeing.  It reminded me of how  Rhonda and I were able to take a bus tour around San Francisco.  The plan then is simple.  Think back to the fun I had.  Hope for amazing things in the future.  Enjoy every tweet/photo/post about the band in Hawaii and work on my to do list.  Maybe then, I can get deal with the end of the Paper Gods Tour.

-A

Trying to be Strong Enough

This is the last blog post before I leave for the latest tour.  Yes, come Wednesday, I will get up at an ungodly hour to catch a bus to take me to O’Hare.  From there, I will fly into LAX to meet up with my partner-in-crime to venture north towards the Oakland/San Francisco area for two shows.  These shows, as you all know, are general admission which means that normally we would not even consider them.  Yet, they are in California which works well for Rhonda and they announced these shows the morning after a fabulous show at Agua Caliente that we were at.  We were weak then.  We couldn’t say no!  Nonetheless, I am absolutely certain that we will have a blast as always!  Despite the GA format, I look forward to the shows and am anxious to see my friends!!

Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking.  Maybe you are thinking about how lucky I am or how spoiled I am.  It is common that whenever Rhonda and/or mention going to a show that someone comments about how jealous s/he is.  I get that.  I am jealous of those fans who will see them after these California shows.  I am jealous of my niece right now who is in London.  It is a common emotion.  I also acknowledge that I am super lucky to have the opportunity to go.  I am relatively healthy and have the financial means to do so.  Everyone is not in the same boat.  I honestly wish that everyone was able to go.  Yet, in thinking about my fandom history, I have to acknowledge the fact that there is risk involved in going to shows, in traveling.

When I first got back involved in the fan community during the reunion era, I had never traveled to a concert for anyone.  Yes, I had driven to a nearby city but I never even got a hotel for a show before.  It was always drive to a show, see it and drive back.  While I wish that I could argue that it was work or money that kept me grounded but in reality, it was fear.  Yes, I didn’t have a ton of money then as I was finishing up grad school but I could have squeezed out money if I really needed it.  I was working full time after all.  Likewise, I could say that I could not travel due to those work or school obligations but that isn’t the whole story.  It would have been challenging to get out of those responsibilities but I could have if I tried.  After all, I do it now.  

What was the fear?  Was it fear of stigma or people talking badly about me traveling for shows?  Not really.  No, it was really two things.  First, there is the fear surrounding traveling.  I hate flying.  I am a pretty logical person.  Logically I get that flying is safe and the likelihood of a plane crashing is small.  Yet, my logical part of my brain struggles to silence the anxiety part of my brain.  Maybe some of this is that I was not on a plane until I was a teenager.  Maybe I think too much about the bad things that could happen. On top of that, I worry about everything surrounding travel.  What if I don’t get to the airport on time?  What if my stuff gets stolen? What if something horrible happens at a hotel?  I could go on and on.  Then, the other big worry is the fear that I will be rejected by the people I am with.  What if I travel with people and they decide I am a huge geek and never want to be near me again?  Just last night, I dreamt that I was a party and had a falling out with everyone there.  I ended up hanging out in the basement by myself.  Again, logically, I know it is silly.  Rhonda has hung out with me a lot.  I doubt she will decide I am a loser now.  Likewise, our friends who we are sharing a room with us have shared a room with us before.  If they thought I was a loser, they wouldn’t stay with us again, right?

Looking back, I recognize that I had to take some big leaps from my own comfort zone to do the traveling I have done to see the band.  I could have always made excuses.  Even now, it might have been just as easy to say that I couldn’t afford to go.  After all, I just came back from my sister’s in North Carolina.  I usually can use work as an excuse, if I need to.  Yet, I know it is super good for me to push myself out of my safe place to do what I really want.  I think I have become a stronger, braver person as a result of taking the risks to travel to see the band.  I still fight the anxiety but I believe it is worth it.  

-A

Beautiful Clothes….and Me

I am beginning to bounce off the walls a bit. It’s been a couple of weeks since my school year ended, I’ve been at home…and now I’m ready to hit the road. I’m punchier than usual, and anxious for the weekend. It’s Thursday and I’m acting like it’s Friday.

Yesterday, I went shopping with my oldest. She works at what I would characterize to be her idea of a candy store at one of our local malls, which means she works at a clothing store. She has been after me to go in and take advantage of their sales and her employee discount ever since. Heather knows that most of the time, she has to take charge and insist we go shopping to get me to buy myself things. So yesterday, she announces she’s going to take me shopping, meaning I’m going to get in the car with her, and drive us both to a store and use my own cash card to buy myself new things.

I hesitantly agree, and set my expectations incredibly low. To begin with, as most know – I’m curvy and not a size two.  I’m also not, well, 20 years old. In the past, this has been difficult for Heather to grasp. I appreciate her vote of confidence, but seriously. Look at me. It’s a delicate balance, and the store she works at is geared for a younger crowd.  Then again, what stores REALLY reach out to the 40-something who wants to look good, but not quite hoochie-mama?? It requires a careful eye, and someone who has no trouble calling herself out and getting “real”.  So, I was prepared.

First of all, if I had my way—I would live in jeans. Oh wait, I already do. 😀  You’ll never see a dress on me, and if you do, someone needs to ask if I’ve been drugged. Dresses are for those people who don’t run the risk of tripping, and can behave like a lady.

Well, I’m a lady.  I’m just not a lady.  I’m Rhonda. I’m a Duranie. I’m a mom. I’m also a klutz, and ‘graceful’ is not a word that has ever been used to describe me. I’m one of those people who will be in a crowded bar or restaurant, and will stop to map out the path I’m going to take to get from point A to point B before I even set foot out of my chair. The chair is safe. Typically I don’t quite fall out of chairs, so I tend to grab one, sit down, and not move. It’s just too dangerous to have me out and about. So, I really do think about where I’m going to go before I bother to get up. Heaven help me if someone comes out of nowhere and gets in my way. I’ll fall on my face, and that would be a scene from hell. So, there’s that. Hence, dresses are really not my friend.

Back to shopping.  We get to the store, go inside and I’m already groaning. Spaghetti straps as far as the eye can see, and stop it already with the strapless!

My daughter insists on bringing over all of these camisole tops that I can wear under things, and the thing she wants me to wear them under is some sort of sleeveless dress thing that is actually a jacket. Well, I try it on with the tops she brings, and I have two thoughts:

  1. Is it a dress? Is it a jacket? Who in the hell wears this kind of thing…and why does it make me look like I just gained back the 30 pounds I lost?!?
  2. Why do clothing manufactures assume that all females are built without a figure??? I am not a rectangle, thank you. Oh, and BTW, if you’re going to make camisoles in sizes above say – a six – you might consider that some of us have boobs.  That’s right, I said it. Again, thank you.

I say as much to my daughter, who responds with a patient, yet slightly annoyed, “Mother, the jacket is EDGY. Don’t try to button it, and just wear it with a camisole.” I complain about the fact that I actually insist on wearing the proper undergarments to control my top half (no really…it’s a thing and y’all can thank me later), and that if some clothing manufacturer would just figure it out…women everywhere would appreciate it.  My apologies to those of you out there that don’t have to bother.

Wait, why am I apologizing???

Back to the clothing expedition…. I decide that although I would sincerely love to be “edgy”, that ship has sailed. Anybody who has met me or knows me that I’m the opposite. I’m not quite “grandma in the kitchen making cookies”, but I’m really more of the “martinis in the afternoon while Skyping with Amanda” sort.  There’s no changing that, and although I still have envy over those who can wear the smokey eyeliner, chokers, leather, and Doc Martins, I’ve settled into who I am. Kind of. It’s sort of an admitted annoyance, really.

Here’s the thing, I envy people who can stand in the audience, wear something as similar as a jacket over a tee and look like a million bucks. I know someone who wore a vegan leather jacket to a show last summer, and never ONCE did she look sweaty. She looked calm, cool, collected. Amazing, basically. Why can’t I do that??

I’ll tell you why.  I have zero fashion sense or even the confidence to pull off shit like that.

After some wrestling in and out of camisole tops that could have been perfect torture devices under the right circumstances (none of which included the hot, harsh lights of the dressing room), I come out of the store with some really cool buckled creepers (shoes) with peek-a-boo sides (they’re as cool as I can pull off), a faux-suede moto-jacket (Look Amanda, I bought vegan!!!), and several cami-tops that are truly miles too big on me in some ways, but they fit in others (I’ll be sewing this weekend). The thing is, my daughter is very good at sales. Like, too good, because as I looked at my closet this morning, I realized I have nowhere to wear most of this stuff.

I’m gonna need to go to some more shows, I guess. 😉

-R