Last night I got to cuddle with a cute little guinea pig named Pixie, who belongs to my cousin April.
Despite having no prior guinea pig cuddling experience, Pixie and I hit it off while I watched "Let's Make a Deal."
But first, we had to make eye contact. Establish our friendship, you know.
Step number two: I had to ask Pixie if we could be friends. In true "Matilda" fashion, I was big and she was small.
Pixie, my new friend, allowed me to take a few photos of her while she sat on my stomach and tried chewing on one of my fingernails. What a doll.
And her feet! Oh my, were they cute.
One thing I didn't know about guinea pigs: they're very vocal. Pixie was purring like a cat and squealing like a little mouse while I was petting her. So, I decided to do a little research on guinea pigs this morning. I pulled this helpful paragraph detailing guinea pig sounds straight from Wikipedia:
Thanks, Wikipedia, for teaching me that guinea pigs make all kinds of cute sounds, some of which are classified using neat words ("RUMBLESTRUTTING!"). And thank you, April, for sharing one of your guinea pigs with me. Next time I'll have to set aside some cuddle time with Lola! :)
When actress and artist Mari-Claire Charba agreed to answer a few questions for one of my upcoming newspaper articles via email last week, I was thrilled. When I received her answers less than 24 hours later, I was speechless.
Here's why: one of Mari-Claire's answers to my questions resonated with me. I stared at it. I chewed it. I swallowed it. I digested it. I appreciated it.
Now, by sharing it, I'm giving other artists an opportunity to do the same:
"As an artist, one definitely needs to be able to feel comfortable with the aloneness of artistic development . . . it is as important to be nurtured and inspired by like-minded creative colleagues."
Like Mari-Claire, I understand the desire to be supported by like-minded individuals who understand the process of creating art. Who understand that putting yourself out there is always a risk. Who understand that inspiration is like food and water, and support just as crucial. Who understand that sometimes creating art isn't easy, but when it comes naturally, it is one of the best feelings in the world.
And her use of the word "aloneness" . . . how striking. I've experienced that aloneness. I experience it every day. Whether it is in a local coffee shop or at home on my couch or on a train, being a writer means composing alone, letting the words pour out of my little teapot fingertips. Letting the steam rise.
To all of my fellow artists out there--no matter what medium in which you work--take this quote, fold it up, and carry it with you in your back pocket. And to Mari-Claire--thank you.
Yesterday my boyfriend and I traveled the whole way to Addison, Pa. to purchase a bike from a lady who, I'm convinced, knew that I wanted her bike. It was quite ironic, after all, that when my "I Want a Bicycle" column was published in last week's Our Town, she put an ad in the Daily American classifieds stating that she had a 26" turquoise women's bike for sale.
Anyway, we got to her house and I took a little test run on the bicycle in a church parking lot nearby. It felt so good to be back on a bicycle again. And I knew that this was the one I wanted. It was blue. And it was cheap.
I paid her $50 and Eric loaded the bike atop his car. We drove straight to Confluence, unloaded our bikes, and pedaled our way to the start of Rails to Trails.
"Do you think you can do 20-some miles?" he asked. "'Cause we could always just go halfway and then turn around."
"Twenty-some miles," I answered. "Go big or go home, right?"
Of course I could do 20-some miles. It was my first time on Rails to Trails and I wanted the full experience. It was a beautiful day for biking and I needed the exercise. Plus, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
Thankfully, Rails to Trails is entirely flat. There are no steep inclines. Just a casual, comfortable riding trail that is perfect for bikers of all ages. Eric explained--and for some reason I never put two and two together--that the trails used to be train tracks, hence the name "Rails to Trails."
"So you can imagine the ghosts of trains as you ride your bike," he said.
I thought that was neat.
Turns out I didn't really end up thinking about trains. Rather, I spent the next ten miles thinking about how awesome it felt to finally own a bike. I thought about my family, my friends, what's to come with the summer sun. I thought about the poems I want to write, the essays I need to compose, the endless ideas for plays that have settled in my brain and are collecting dust (sad face). I realized that biking was not only a physical exercise, but also a mental exercise. I was burning calories while creating to-do lists and plotlines.
I said hello to every biker I passed.
"Do you say hello to everybody?" Eric asked, smiling.
"Of course," I said. "I think we should say hello to everyone. It's just part of keeping up with humanity . . . I mean . . . keeping humanity, well, humane."
About an hour into our ride, we stopped near a little resting place that led to beach area and parked our bikes in the woods. While we were passing an apple back and forth near the shoreline, we heard a scary sound. A gunshot.
"Ummm, are you allowed to shoot guns around here?" I asked.
"Are you scared?" I asked. "'Cause I am."
After we finished our apple, we walked up the hill toward our bikes.
Eric's bike was still resting against a tree. Mine was on the ground. Someone shot my bike!
I lifted it off the ground.
"That wasn't a gunshot," Eric said. "That was the sound of your tire exploding."
My first time on Rails to Trails and I had a flat tire. Ugh. I was so bummed.
"Well, Confluence is ten miles that way, which means we're closer to Ohiopyle," he said.
"Let's just walk back to Confluence."
"That'll take approximately four hours."
"Fine. Then let's ask someone how far Ohiopyle is."
We walked up to a brother and sister pair lounging on a picnic table.
"Excuse me. Hi. How far is Ohiopyle?" I asked.
"About three miles that way," the lady said, pointing her finger toward the trail.
"Thanks," I said.
We spent the next mile walking along the trail, leading our bikes like miniature ponies.
"Do you want to try to get on my bike?" Eric asked.
That plan turned out to be a disaster. Imagine me getting on Eric's bike while he pedaled AND held onto my injured Roadmaster's right handlebar. Yeah. That was not happening.
"This isn't a three-ring circus," I said.
So we quickly abandoned that plan and continued to walk. We asked passersby if they had a bicycle pump, but no one did. Go figure.
An older couple passed us and asked why we weren't biking the trail.
"Flat tire," I said, quite flatly.
"Try riding on it," the man said. "Just go slow."
I jumped back on the bike and pedaled it about two miles down the trail. And here's what I learned during that little experiment: it's really hard to pedal a bike with a flat tire. Really hard. A challenge.
Eventually Eric and I decided to switch bikes because I was going approximately 0 m.p.h. and I knew that he would be a trooper and up the ante by at least 2 m.p.h. He's athletic like that, whereas I was sweating and frustrated and embarrassed.
We made it to Ohiopyle and found the bicycle repair shop. The teenager at the counter said that he could replace the innertube, but my rim was crooked and in desperate need of repair.
"It'll be $5 for the innertube and $5 for the service," he said.
"And that'll get us back to Conflluence?" Eric asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"That'd be great, then," I said. "How much time do you need?"
"Half an hour."
"Cool. See you soon."
Aside from music, here are four things that can make me feel better: ice cream, cookies, cake, and chocolate. Find a way to combine two or more of them and that's even better.
We went to the little ice cream shop and I ordered one scoop of Extreme Brownie Batter and one scoop of Oatmeal Cookie Extravaganza--two flavors I had never tried, but sounded delicious enough to put a big smile on my face.
After we ate our ice cream in the warm sunlight, we went back to retrieve my bike. It was good as new--or as good as it could be. Whatever. As long as I could get back on the trail, all was well.
"Do you still like your new bike?" Eric asked about a mile into our journey back to Confluence.
"I do," I said. "It may need a little tune-up, you know, but I'm just happy to own a bike."
And I was so happy to be alive.
With the wind against our faces, and at times against our backs, we pedaled the 12 miles back to Confluence. And it felt so good--the wind in my face, in my hair, in my pupils, in my soul. Fresh air. Tall trees. Beautiful flowers. As much as I sometimes complain about living in this area, Rails to Trails makes me feel grateful to live in this part of Pennsylvania. It's postcard worthy.
Twenty-four miles and one flat tire later, I was grateful for the experience. I did it. We did it. And even though my legs felt like Jell-O and my butt was sore, I felt as if I could have kept pedaling into the sunset.
"That was pretty sweet," Eric said after preparing our bikes for the long drive home.
"It was," I said.
"It was kind of like life, you know? Some joys, some struggles, some monotony . . . some people come, some people go . . . yeah, a bike ride is a lot like life."
On our way home, I rolled down my window, watched the shadows of our bikes drift along the road, and let the wind tangle my hair.
I don’t know how to meet Chris Carrabba when I meet Chris Carrabba.
Let me explain.
I think you can meet someone and make a great impression (for what it’s worth, anyway) and I think you can meet someone and totally geek out despite your best efforts not to (I did this the first time I met Chris and I’m pretty sure I did it last night).
I probably could’ve stood in the I’m Waiting to Meet Super Talented and Super Hot Chris Carrabba Line for hours, rehearsing what I wanted to say over and over again. But it wouldn’t have made any difference. After my cousins and I walked up to Chris and introduced ourselves, I wasn’t sure what to say next.
Okay, he already knows that my name is Kayla.
Shit. I’m sweating.
Well, I want him to sign my setlist and my CD.
I also want to take a photo with him.
Wow. He is gorgeous.
“It feels like it’s been forever since you were in Pittsburgh,” I said.
Okay. Not a bad start.
“Last time you played in Pittsburgh was at Stage AE,” I said.
“Stage Eight?” he asked, looking slightly confused.
Crap. We were at Stage AE! I meant to say Mr. Smalls!
“Wait! I mean, Mr. Smalls, Mr. Smalls, Mr. Smalls. Sorry.”
And then he said something in his angelic angel voice, and my ears kind of melted because I just . . . I just think the world of Chris Carrabba. I really do.
Chris and I exchanged some more small talk before my cousins and I asked him to sign our CDs. Might I add that this was a pretty exciting moment for me because the last time I met Chris Carrabba (I’ll get to that later), I didn’t ask him to autograph anything. (Spoiler alert: You’ll learn that I was kind of a wreck.)
Next up was the photo op.
Patty went first. I was up next. Hooray!
Chris put his arm around me and I smiled a big smile--the kind of smile that, as you’ll see below, shows just how ecstatic I was to be meeting a man whose music has become a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. (Seriously, if a movie was made about my life, you can guarantee that Dashboard’s music would NOT be excluded.)
After Krysta got her picture taken with Chris, I leaned in and asked him if he would take a group picture with all of us. Sweetheart that he is, he agreed. After a kind stranger/fellow fan took our photo, Krysta, Patty, and I somehow managed to drop all of our CDs and everything else that was on our persons. Geesh.
By the time we were picking everything up off the floor, Chris was already talking to other fans (more folks entered the I’m Waiting to Meet Super Talented and Super Hot Chris Carrabba Line after The Lone Bellow’s set concluded). In truth, I kind of felt bad that I didn’t get to tell him how awesome Twin Forks’s set was or ask him about the new album or heck, even compliment him on a job well done when it comes to the recently released Further Seems Forever album.
Alas, I walked away feeling grateful that I got to meet Chris in a laidback setting, at an awesome venue, with my cousins, on a beautiful Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The night was everything I was hoping for it to be--and more--and that started when, during Twin Forks’s set, Chris kept looking our way and smiling. I was also thrilled to be reunited with Sara, a sweetheart of a girl whom I now have the pleasure to call my friend. We met back when Chris performed at Diesel.
That, my friends, was the first time I met Christopher Ender Carrabba.
My boyfriend-at-the-time and I arrived early for the show along East Carson Street. The date was July 26, 2010. Our destination was Diesel. My mission was to meet Chris. It.had.to.happen.
As luck would have it, by the time Logan and I were getting out of my car, Chris and the rest of the band were just walking off their tour bus. (If ever I need an example when it comes to perfect timing, this experience would be it.)
Logan and I followed the band down the street and watched as Chris entered a Starbucks. We lingered around outside, trying to play it cool and trying not to make our creeper business obvious. But as soon as Chris walked out of that Starbucks, I almost lost it.
I had dreamed of meeting Chris Carrabba for years. YEARS.
I don’t remember the conversation we shared that day and how it compared to the conversation that he and I shared last night, but I snagged a photo with Chris and a few of the other band members before thanking them profusely and parting ways.
I didn’t make it that far down the street before I started bawling. I was so happy to have met him. The lead singer of my favorite band. Such a Bucket List moment, let me tell you.
Last night I did manage to keep my composure but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t just as excited to meet Chris again for the second time.
He’s always so grateful and kind and accommodating. So even though in many ways I’m just another Dashboard/Further Seems Forever/Twin Forks fan who gets all starstruck and awkward and nervous, I’m pretty sure that one day I’ll figure out how to meet Chris and carry on a memorable, light-hearted conversation and give him a high-five rather than shake his hand. Yes, maybe one day I’ll reach silver-star fan-level status (whatever that means).
‘Cause I’m going to support every piece of music that Chris Carrabba makes, in whatever band that he’s in. And I’ll go see him perform in whatever band he’s in whenever they’re close, and I’ll arrive early and/or stay late and I’ll have the time of my life, just like I did last night.
I don’t dream about Michael Jackson as often as I’d like, so when I do, my dreams tend to be particularly memorable and meaningful.
As was the case last night.
I dreamt that Michael visited my hometown. Prior to his visit, I was responsible for hanging a sign that said, “Michael Jackson: Turn Left” (strangely, I have no recollection of hanging said sign during my dream).
Suddenly--and I’m very grateful for this part--my best friend Cristy appeared beside me. While I’m pretty sure she was preoccupied with trying on hundreds of pairs of goggles (?!), she seemed just as excited to meet Michael as I was.
When he finally arrived, crowds gathered around our idol and--somehow--I waited patiently for Michael to make his way to me.
When he did, he and I made eye contact and exchanged smiles. I also happened to notice how his hands formed fists at his sides; I took those fists, put my hands atop them and I held those fists in front of his chest with all my might, gently shaking them as I told him over and over again how much I loved him. And I meant it. And I knew he could tell that I meant it.
I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone “I love you” with that much force, enthusiasm, and honesty. It was incredible.
Michael kept smiling and nodding his head, and then suggested that perhaps I could meet him backstage later that evening. I was thrilled.
By the time he walked away, I told Cristy that I couldn’t believe that I didn’t get a photo with him, but she and I managed to sneak a photo of him walking away. By that time, he was trekking through snow up to his shoulders with the help of his bodyguard (and wouldn’t you know that his bodyguard was Robin Williams!). Michael continued to greet fans by shaking their hands and shyly nodding as they complimented him. Before he disappeared into the snow, he turned around and looked at me and I looked at him.
And that was it.
That whole “I love you” scene--the part where I’m repeating those words over and over and over--is a scene that reminds me that outside of my dreams, Michael has taught me to love, love, love. I not only love him, but music, nature, art . . . everything in life that he loved, too.
Genuwine’s “Pony” is a helluva sexy song.
It’s the “Let’s Get It On” of the 1990s. It’s the song that my friends and I listened to on repeat in high school, when our hormones raged like cage fighters on fire. “Pony”--in all its metaphoric glory--was the song that made sex seem sexy.
Sex as a theme appears so often in pop/rap music today that you would think that artists aren’t permitted to sign recording contracts without first agreeing to a very specific provision statement, which maintains that at least 65 percent of the songs they write must contain sexual innuendos. Or perhaps no innuendos at all (I’m pointing my pointer finger at Ms. “S&M” Rihanna, you “whips and chains” lover you!).
While there are a lot of sexy sex songs out there--I put Usher’s “Love in This Club” and Flo Rida’s “Right ‘Round” among them--it is very difficult to achieve the level of ear-popping, heart-throbbing sensuality that Genuwine accomplished on “Pony.” That song is smooth. It’s voluptuous. It’s melted chocolate poured on your outstretched tongue.
Heads up, folks: out of left field comes the fly ball that is Miguel’s “Adorn.”
This song begins with a dreamy, subtle intro that sounds completely unsuspecting. But damn, by the time the meticulous beat and Miguel’s vocals evaporate into your ears and enter your bloodstream, you best be prepared to find yourself the nearest makeshift fan (I would recommend the latest issue of Rolling Stone, where you can later read about Miguel’s sudden rise to stardom).
While it may not have the bouncy energy of “Pony,” “Adorn” is one of those “lay you down and love you right” songs that all women can appreciate. If this song was a man, he would have full lips. Silk in his shoes. And, hopefully, a belt that’s easy to unbuckle.
To Genuwine and Miguel I must say: thank you for keeping my hormones in check.
One of my favorite perks of being a correspondent for two local newspapers is the opportunity to receive press passes when bands and celebrities come to town.
One of my first press passes was for a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, and that press pass gave me the best seats in the house for the first two or three songs (typically, press passes only give you so much time to make other fans super jealous). I felt like a million bucks as I took photo upon photo of a band that my dad listened to throughout my childhood. I like them too, of course, so that press pass was more than just an "I'm on the job" sticker; it was a golden ticket for a fifteen-minute thrill.
Tonight was no different. When I was little, I remember my mom and aunts watching The Cosby Show on a regular basis. And there I was this evening, watching Bill Cosby--albeit an older Bill Cosby--cracking jokes in front of a nearly sold-out audience. It took me back to the living rooms in which I played with my sister and cousins. I can still see those TV screens and hear his voice coming through them. It was like he never went away.
And he really didn't. Not at all. You can bet that Bill Cosby still makes everyone sitting in their seats touch their heads to their knees in laughter.
Again, what a thrill.
Here are two photos that I took tonight; the first was taken from the side of the stage and the second from front row (one of my favorite shots):
Here's to Bill Cosby: a legendary comedian who has charmed America for decades.
The spine caught my eye.
I pulled the book from the bookshelf and examined the cover. The designs were intricate, the pages worn. That old book smell lingered up and into my nostrils as I flipped through the pages enthusiastically yet gently.
The copyright date was missing, but an introduction by the publisher was signed with the year: 1891.
So there I was, standing in the corner of my favorite bookstore, unable to put down a book that contained famous short stories by an author whom I very much respect.
But the book itself--gosh, the book itself--the book itself was a story. Where had it been since its publication date in 1891? Whose eyes wandered upon the pages? How did the book get there--who passed it on and who passed it down? These are all questions that one must ask when holding an old book.
It’s a glorious experience, really. An old book is time turned tangible.
When I took the book to the checkout counter, the bookstore owner placed a dab of lotion on a soft cloth and showed me how to make the cover more becoming.
“It won’t hurt it,” she said, as I watched her rub the surface with care before lifting up the cloth and showing it to me. “See how much dirt is on there?”
But I didn’t mind the dirt. It seemed natural. It seemed as though it had been there forever.
The beauty of books is that they have long lifespans. Think about it: old books have survived wars and outlived thousands of people. Maybe the pages are earmarked and yellowed, and maybe the spine is dented or the inside page missing . . . but smell them. Hold them. Love them. Appreciate them. They’ve traveled a long way just to get to you.
Those of you who are following my bubble-blowing project on Facebook should be delighted to know that I ended my first bubbly month with a spectacularly bubbly purchase.
I didn’t go to the grocery store yesterday with the intention of walking out with 24 packs of gum. I really didn't. Please believe me.
This is what happened. I was walking out of the store very innocently when I came across a shopping cart full of gum priced at a reasonable 25 cents per pack. I couldn’t resist.
I dived into the shopping cart and grabbed as many packs as I could. My arms were overflowing. My mouth was salivating. I sprinted to the register and poured all the gum onto the belt.
"Gum overload," I told the cashier.
"That's okay," she replied.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Fifteen more times.
I'm both proud and pleased. Let month #2 of this bubble-blowing project commence!
P.S. If you have no idea what said project entails, please feel free to click on the following link for an explanation: http://www.dailyamerican.com/opinion/editorials/da-ot-daily-bubble-gum-fun-20130116,0,7412452.column
On New Year's Day, my boyfriend invited me to watch NPR's "The Most Stylish Music Videos of 2012" with him. He had already watched a few videos on his own while I was blowdrying my hair, but kindly replayed Fiona Apple's "Every Single Night" before scrolling down the page and clicking on this one. Explosions in the Sky's "Postcard from 1952" was recognized as "Most Gorgeous Video That Seems to Remind Us of Something . . ."
Key word: GORGEOUS.
I'm convinced that this might be the most beautiful piece of filmmaking I've ever seen. I'm serious.
1. Turn up the volume on your computer.
2. Expand the YouTube screen.
3. Click on the play button.
4. Bask in this video's beauty.
5. Feel an undeniable sense of nostalgia.
6. Reflect upon your own life.
7. Shed a tear or two. It's okay if you do.
8. Share this video with a friend.
9. Replay as often as you see fit.
10. Feel grateful for the artists who lovingly created this.
What a great way to start the New Year. Thanks, Eric.
An epic snapshot of life
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .