Memory Lane: 1991, the Grunge Era

I met Pearl Jam.

Live, in person!

I actually hung out with Jeff Ament and Mike McCready for part of a day when they were in Pittsburgh. I have the clip from my college newspaper to prove it.

Of course, this all took place 20 years ago — 20 YEARS AGO — and I’m sure none of the Pearl Jam boys recall spending time with a college newspaper writer chickie from Pittsburgh when they were first starting out.

But I remember it.


In 1991 I was bored with college music. I had eschewed Top 40 radio for years already, and I was never a huge “classic rock” fan — I mean, I like me some Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but in Pittsburgh? You hear — still, to this day — the same classic rock songs over and over and over again.


I was continually looking for something new to listen to (a trait I clearly still have), and I hadn’t heard anything that had turned me on in a couple of years. I was faithful to the B-52s and Depeche Mode and The Cure (gosh remember when those bands were college alternative bands? No? Get off my lawn!), but I was bored.

Then a friend of mine, Ro, became the Sony record label college rep, and started receiving all kinds of swag. I was writing for The Duquesne Duke, eventually becoming Features editor, and, in 1991, editor in chief.

One day Ro handed me a cassette tape (remember cassette tapes?). “Check this out,” she said. “You might like these guys.”

So began my love affair with grunge music in general, and Pearl Jam (and not too much later, Nirvana) specifically.

Ten, Pearl Jam’s debut album, lit me on fire. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Something about the driving guitars combined with Eddie Vedder’s vocal growl immediately and viscerally captivated me. See also: the bass line on “Why Go”.

And just like that, I was excited by music again.


Ament, McCready, and I kind of wandered around downtown Pittsburgh and Duquesne’s campus talking about Pearl Jam (original name, anyone? Without looking it up?), Seattle, Pittsburgh, music in general, and basketball (the Pearl Jam guys were basketball FREAKS). I told them how much I was really liking Ten, and they told me some about making the album, meeting Vedder, and how much they were enjoying being out on the road playing live.

Later that night, I saw Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert.

God, remember Smashing Pumpkins?

Pearl Jam opened the concert, and, as Ro and Sony’s guest, and as a writer for the college paper, I got to go backstage afterward and meet the rest of the band (Stone Gossard — HAWT — and Dave Abbruzzese). I got their autographs — er, on the jean shorts I was wearing at the time — but I didn’t get to meet Eddie Vedder. He was busy harassing Billy Corgan by dancing on stage during the Pumpkins’ set. I believe either Flea or Anthony Kiedis was out there with him. They were wearing tutus if memory serves. (And, no, Corgan was not a good sport.)


And here we are — here they are — 20 years later, with a Cameron Crowe documentary about to screen, re-releases and live albums dropping, and the same line up of guys (except for the revolving door drummer thing).

I have been listening for 20 years, but it’s been awhile since I got to see them live. Gonna have to fix that soon. Lollapalooza at Starlake (circa 1993?) is still one of my favorite concerts of all time. Each of their albums (with the exception of Binaural; I never really got into that one) was better than the last.

They are, and their music is, still exciting me.


What have you been listening to for 20 years? What do you think you’ll be listening to the next 20?

Return to the Skies

Losing that purple balloon just about broke Flora’s heart.

Flora, while she can be quite dramatic, is not one for huge tantrums, especially in public. But that purple balloon set her off.

Is it funny that I think of “dropping” balloons? Because a dropped balloon doesn’t actually drop — it floats up, into the sky.

And sets a 6-year-old off on an epic tantrum.

I was juggling timing and more: Michael, who had been increasingly clingy in the store, needed to get home to lunch and a nap; the girls and I were ready for lunch; I had bags and bags of groceries to load into the car; and, of course, the children to get in and buckled up.

I had rewarded the girls with balloons for being such good kids throughout the morning, purple for Flora and pink for Kate.The kind woman who sold them to us made sure to tie them to the girls’ wrists.

But the wind was strong enough to pull the loop off of Flora’s wrist. I don’t know how Kate didn’t lose her balloon; she must have also been holding onto the string.

Flora FLIPPED OUT. She even threatened to walk away from me, back into the store, to get herself a new balloon. She demanded I go back into the store to get her balloon.

She was heartbroken and angry. At me, at the wind, at herself for not holding on tight enough.

She sobbed as we drove home (she did not walk away from me, and she did get into the car. Kate broke into tears as Flora carried on, and I wonder if that had a sobering effect on her. Seeing her sister in distress over her distress.)

And then Flora said, “I wish the angels could bring my balloon back to me, but angels don’t exist!” Cue fresh onslaught of tears.

I got sad, almost as abruptly as my 6-year-old. (I didn’t, however, burst into tears.) I firmly believe in angels, having felt like I gave birth to one more than 8 years ago, and for her faith in angels to be gone already just made me suddenly ache.

I think it being the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 also made the moment more poignant for me. The weight of all those angels in my mind.


When Unca S heard the Saga of the Purple Balloon, he left his sister’s house (my MIL’s), drove to the store, and picked out three balloons: purple, pink, and blue. He delivered them to our door. Flora cheered up immensely, immediately.

Maybe the gesture, such an unexpected kindness, will renew her faith in angels. If not of the heavenly sort, then of those here with us every day.

Back to the Drawing Board

I would like to be spending the day quietly at home, cleaning, eating, watching football.

Instead I’m running around like a maniac to do all the things that I simply don’t have time to do during the week.

Clothes shopping, Target shopping, brow waxing. I have to fit everything in before 5 p.m. because we’re having dinner with Dan’s parents.

At least I don’t have to fit “cooking dinner” into the schedule.

And I’m only squeezing this in because this is one of my commitments this month. One blog post, every day.

I have already exercised, showered, and churched for today. I had another post planned, but this is all I got time for.

Dashing off now. See you again tomorrow. If you haven’t yet, check out the comments on yesterday’s post. Each of them captured something of my feeling, and I really like Stacia point of view, coming from another country on this anniversary.


Memory Lane: September 10, 2001

For a lot of people, it was probably a very normal day.

It was not a normal day for me.

It was the day I landed in Florence, Italy, with my husband of nine days. For our honeymoon.

I didn’t speak the language. I was the tallest, thinnest, most flat-chested woman for miles around. I was excited, nervous, and tired. And happy. Happy to be on my honeymoon in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


A couple days before our flight, Dan and I drove to Philadelphia. Our friend J had agreed to drive us from Philly to NYC so we could catch our flight.

I don’t know WHY he agreed to this. I don’t know why I thought Philly was just a couple of hours outside of NYC. But, there you have it.

Driving into New York City was spectacular. We came in (in heavy traffic) across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. We could see, tiny and green in the distance, the Statue of Liberty. We could also see the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.


Not everyone had normal days on Sept. 10, 2001. My friend M gave birth to my godson H, her second child that day.  Babies were born, people went on their honeymoons, people lived and died.

I guess it was normal, compared to what came after.


It’s been difficult, for me personally, listening to the news this week, seeing the documentaries on TV. It’s not that I want to act normal on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 — which is to say that I don’t want to act like nothing happened. I could easily say that 9/11 didn’t affect me, personally. I wasn’t even in the country when it happened. My life had already been fairly significantly altered from “normal”, switching to a life in tandem with someone.

And I don’t want the victims of 9/11 to be forgotten. I am glad there are memorials with their names on it.

But this week-long memorializing (and analyzing and essay-izing) has been somewhat brutal. And I wonder if it’s the right thing for our country.

Again, not because I don’t want to pretend nothing happened, or forget the lives that were lost that day. I want my children to learn about it as part of American history — a dark part. America has some of that, dark, unpleasant parts of its history.

But I wonder if this continual remembering is… good for America? Good for the American psyche? As Julie Marsh posits here, the way we recall 9/11 casts us as victims, and that’s not a good thing.

So maybe we can be normal, and still be respectful. A moment of silence, a visit to Ground Zero or Shanksville, PA. But let’s not forget, like every time someone has died, that life for the rest of us goes on.

A new normal. As it has to be for our country, now, too. Ten years later, it’s time to stop looking back, and start looking to what’s next. To think about how we — collectively, individually — have changed, and how to carry that into our future.

Back to New Music

I don’t know how I used to discover new bands. Boyfriends, probably, and college radio. Now it’s Pandora, Spotify, or NPR First Listen (shoosh, I’m a 40-year-old mother who lives in the suburbs; I don’t listen to anything but NPR on the radio.)

Here’s some of the best stuff I’ve been listening to lately:

If you like Amy Winehouse (RIP), listen to Adele (21). While the latter doesn’t have Winehouse’s black-soul voice, she definitely has VOICE. Girl can wail it. She’ll suck you in with “Rolling in the Deep”, which is getting some radio play right now, but she’ll sock it to you on “Rumour Has It”. Bonus: A cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong”.

Release the Sunbird, Come Back to Us. This is one I discovered through NPR Music’s First Listen feature. It’s breezy summer pop anchored by Zach Rogue’s sweet vocals. The lyrics reveal a serious side to the music, but it’s nice to have the tunes wash over you in all their melodic glory. And if you end up liking this, check out Rogue’s first band, Rogue Wave: more of the same, a little harder instrumentally — for example, the guitar gets a little more fuzzed out on some tracks. All these albums are on my Spotify heavy rotation (so to speak).

If you like Kate Bush or Tori Amos or Regina Spektor, then listen to Florence + The Machine (Lungs, Lungs: The B-Sides). Florence Welch doesn’t sound *exactly* like any of these other female artists, but her music is romantic, baroque, thrillingly rich, and her voice. Oh that voice. It’s… unique. I can’t describe it, really, you just have to hear it. She may be one of those “love her or hate her” artists. I am completely smitten. Bonus: A cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”. Extra special super bonus: A cover of Cold War Kids’ “Hospital Beds”.

If you like the Decemberists, then listen to the damn Decemberists. I finally got around to hearing The King is Dead, and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. And for missing their last Pittsburgh tour date. Just brilliant stuff here.

I’m always hunting for new music. I’m also enjoying Jill Scott, Eleanor Friedberger (from the Fiery Furnaces), Stephen Malkmus and the Jinks, and Portugal. The Man. (If you like MGMT or Flaming Lips, listen to Portugal. The Man. As Dr. Bro says, “Bad name, really good disc.”)

How do you discover new bands? What are you liking lately?

Return to PodCamp Pittsburgh

I know I mentioned this before: I am going to PodCamp Pittsburgh this year. It will be my second PodCamp.

And, er, I’m doing three sessions in a row on Saturday.

Technically, I’m only doing one session solo. The other two sessions are panel discussions with some awesome people: @michaeldpound, @lisaj77, @funkydung, @techburgh, and @askthedivad. We had a meeting last night at my house to hammer out a few more details.

And I’m quite excited. Also, I think Mike has a picture of me perched on a little blue chair looking quite excited. (Ahem. Cough it up.) I promise not to go on (too much more), but PodCamp is one of the reasons I am waking up at 3 a.m. even when a kid is not. I have a lot to do. (Another reason is my sister’s wedding. I have a lot to do for that, too. It’s all good.)

Looking over the schedule, I wish I could go to every single session. I’m especially interested in the podcasting sessions, because that is something my husband would like to incorporate into his business. I’ll have to watch the videos later I suppose. Or make Dan come with me.

Side note: Because of his profession, being present on Twitter and Facebook would be… tricky to say the least. He is on LinkedIn, and at this point we feel that’s most appropriate.

Back on point: If you are interested in any or all of the following, you really should come to PodCamp: Pittsburgh social media, SEO, podcasting, blogging, new media, journalism on the Web, talking to people, listening to people, social media and journalism, social media and non-profits, and, er, #craftbeer.

Did I miss anything?

Are you going? You should go!

On the Road Again

I don’t even have the kids in activities right now, and I feel like all I do is drive, drive, drive in the evenings. It will get worse once I sign the girls up for gymnastics, no doubt.

I never wanted to be one of those people alone in the car on my work commute. I took buses or walked to work for years. (Or worked at home.) Those days are long gone. I’ve been commuting half an hour each way to and from my job for three and a half years now.

And I still don’t like it.

(The commuting. The job is fine.)

And now, NOW. Sigh. My drive in the evening is sometimes more than a hour.

Leave work. Drive for 20 minutes, exit the highway to pick up Flora. Depending on traffic, this can be up to 10 minutes. Depending on Flora — what she wants to show me, what she needs to put away — pickup can take another 10 minutes. We get back in the car, drive another 10 minutes to pick up Michael. Then another 5 minutes to get Kate (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). Then, finally, home. To feeding, homework, cleaning, bathing, bed.

Thursdays, add in the drive and stop to pick up the CSA share, about another 15 minutes total (drive to, stop, drive home).

Weeknights are brutal.

Before you ask: Yes, Kate and Michael could go the same place every day. Only we decided not to do that. We didn’t want to move Michael yet. There are many factors that influence this decision, not the least of which is the fact that, at 9 months, he is going through separation anxiety. Some days (depends on how tired he is), he melts down if I even walk out of the room.

It ain’t pretty.

My guilt over all of this is multifaceted: contributing to climate change — sure to get worse once we trade up for a bigger vehicle; lack of quality time with my children; having a decent job that I don’t want to drive to (does this make sense?) in this time of economic instability; having my kids all over the place instead of together.

This is our bed, though. And I’m driving all over it.

What about your schedule do you feel helpless to change?

We’re Going Back!

Coming back to work after a three-day weekend can be rough on re-entry. But Dan, the kids, and I had a fairly low-key weekend, and so Tuesday has not gone too badly. Knock on wood. (I do that a lot, don’t I?)

We did a lot of cleaning over the weekend, and quite a bit of napping (yes, me too, on Sunday! Very exciting stuff.)

The highlight of the weekend (aside from that nap) was our anniversary dinner out at BRiX, a brand-new restaurant on the North Shore (formerly known as the North Side). (Disclaimer: There is no disclaimer. I am not being reimbursed in any way, shape, or form for this post.)

I will say that I did not eat enough at BRiX, a mistake will not make again. The menu as of yet is still fairly limited (they had been open a week when we went on Saturday). The only vegetarian main dish they offered was a margarita flatbread.

Instead of ordering that I tried to make dinner out of the brie appetizer (which was *wonderful* and I had to fight Dan off to get ANY of it), a salad with portobella, and a potato salad side. Not enough food.

At least not for the amount of wine that I drank.

However, Dan had an excellent meal — my food was excellent, I want to make that clear — and the wine list is very impressive. I built a small flight of reds, because BRiX offers a 2 ounce pour. I had the Undone Pinot Noir from Rheinhessen, Germany, the Nero d’Avola blend from Sicily, and another red that I can’t find on the wine menu PDF I have on my computer. I want to say Baldero? Baldano? Anyway: It was excellent.

The Nero d’Avola was a brand new grape for me, and I liked it so much I ordered an 8 oz. pour. (I should’ve stuck with the 4 oz. pour.) It was spicy and large. Just excellent. The Pinot was very nice, lighter than what I was looking for, but refreshing. My third wine was also excellent, with a rounder, smoother taste than the Nero. I haven’t had that many good wines at one sitting in a while.

The best part was talking about the wines with Dan. Between all the crap that we have to talk about (kids, work, schedules, blah) we seldom get to indulge in grown up conversation. Wine brought Dan and me together.

The first time we went out to dinner, he asked me to pick a bottle of wine. I said, “I’m really in the mood for a big tasting Italian, something dry.” He always says that’s when he knew I was The One.

Anyhoo, Dan had a Bombay Sapphire martini and then paired a white wine with his chicken dinner. He says the acidity of the wine offset the rustic flavors of the chicken and orzo with pancetta perfectly.

The service was casual but impeccable. Our server, Cory, when he learned it was our anniversary celebration, presented us each with a flute of sparkling wine: the Brut Rose from Graham Beck, a South African label. It was lovely. We even got a little tour of the space afterwards from Mike!

Because it was such a great experience, we plan to return for more good food, good wine, and good conversation.

What’s something you look forward to doing again with your spouse or SO?

Memory Lane: Back to School

The thing I liked best about going back to school was back-to-school shopping.

As we went to Catholic school and wore uniforms, this was much less about clothes than about BTS supplies. New folders, new notebooks, new pens and pencils. That’s the stuff I liked. Although I was not above going out of my way for a unique pair of shoes, cordavan (or oxblood) if I could find them. One year I recall finding brown shoes with a buckle. I loved those shoes. I still am not much of a clothes horse, but give me some time in a shoe department, and I will find something unique. Something that is “me”.

It’s still fun now, shopping with the girls. Again, we don’t do a lot in the clothes department. Between hand me downs and grandmothers, my children do not want for clothing. I do like picking up special outfits every now and again, but we don’t blow the budget on clothes. (Not for me, either. I miss the days of uniforms!) Now it is a little more stressful because it’s our money.

I don’t think the supplies have changed much though. Kate didn’t need much because her preschool is also a daycare center (her daycare center as of tomorrow) and is well-stocked with crayons, scissors, and the like. She needed an art T-shirt and an icing container to hold her supplies. Throughout the year I’m sure she’ll need certain supplies, and she has a snack day or two coming up. We also bought her a new lunch bag.

Flora needed the usual: crayons, folders, a pencil case, a backpack. And something different: headphones for computer class! She and I made a special trip to Target a few weeks back. I let her look and browse (a little) and, yes, choose what she wanted. Then she had a lot of fun labeling everything with her name and packing  up her backpack for her first day.

God bless my girls; they seem to love school and love learning. I remember loving school, too, loving learning new things. I probably wasn’t so good with the social aspect of things, but I didn’t want for friends, and I never felt the lack of not being a “popular” girl. I hope that my girls are a lucky as I was, and love to learn and explore as much as I did.

And if they have life-long friends, too, so much the better. I certainly got lucky there, too.

Return to Form

I’ve finally decided that I would start exercising again. I would like to be in shape for my sister’s wedding.

It’s nice to be naturally skinny — it is in the genes — but it is challenging to get back into shape with three kids and a full time job.

I started yesterday morning with a low-key workout that is supposed to incorporate my child. Michael was not 100 percent cooperative with my efforts. Kate and Flora were also less than helpful, criticizing my form and more-or-less being in the way. But I’ve been bitching about being out of shape for a long time. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

So, yesterday I did all the moves, and now my lower body (particularly my gluts and the backs of my thighs) are feeling quite sore. I am in worse shape than I thought.

I can’t wait to do an upper body workout. /sarcasm

The other challenge, of course, is exercising without losing weight (and everyone hates me now for being able to type that sentence). I need to build muscle and muscle tone.

But, it’s begun. I live about 3 minutes from a trail, so eventually — say next spring — I’d like to be able to start running. It’s going to take an early-morning commitment to keep this up. But it’s out there now, and I’ve started. I have more to gain by holding myself accountable than I do by not continuing.