Monday, June 30, 2014

Old School

1984. I'm either laughing my head off or screaming because my shirt's buttoned too tight. 
To put it mildly, I was kind of a rebel back in the day. I was the kind of kid who liked to march to the beat of my own drum. I just thought I knew what was best for me, and nobody else was going to tell me what to do or how to do it. In fact, if someone attempted to get me to march to the beat of someone else's drum, that was pretty much a guarantee that I was marching the other way. It made things difficult at home, made things difficult at school, and made things difficult at a couple of jobs.

By the way, welcome to a special Independence Day edition of Mistress of the Mix. To show you what an independent soul I am, today's column won't be used to wax on poetically about our founding fathers or the Declaration of Independence (even though I'm related to Thomas Jefferson). Instead, I'm going to talk about my own stubborn independent spirit and how it's sort of come back to bite me in the ass.

 I was suspended from junior high for a week after standing up in English class and flipping off the teacher, in a verbal manner. She'd given me a C on a creative writing paper. I still don't think I deserved it. I lost my entire allowance countless times because my father would try to get me to behave by methodically docking money every time I didn't shut up. It didn't work. I left my first (and last) fast food job after six weeks, when the Taco Bell night manager instructed me to work the drive thru from register 1 (all the way across the building) instead of putting my drawer into register 6, right next to the window. I thought the way we did it during the day was far more efficient, and he wanted me to do it his way. So I let him do it all by himself.

 When I got to high school, I already knew I'd never run with the 'popular' crowd. I never played any sports, never officially joined any clubs and never got involved with any of the drama or music productions. The closest I ever got to joining anything was signing up for journalism and landing the position of Editorial Editor of the high school newspaper. Because you know how I am. Never seem to have a problem telling anyone how I feel about anything. I was never a cheerleader, never ran for any kind of student office, because I wasn't a dummy. I knew I never had a chance at any kind of major popularity contest. I ran with the punk crowd, was in a punk band and put on punk rock concerts, although truth be told, I was more of a new wave fan.

 But I was most definitely a known entity.

 I was loud, never shut up in class, and spent a lot of time in the vice principal's office. I shopped almost exclusively at garage sales and army surplus or secondhand thrift stores. I had a closet full of 25-30 year old clothing that was probably just as ugly and garish when it was brand new. I wore a lot of little old lady dresses covered with gigantic flowers with a studded belts, rubber rain boots and brightly colored fishnet stockings. I was kind of a cross between Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and old school Madonna. I even had earrings made of barbie doll heads, weird hats that I wore over ultra-teased bangs, and the ugliest of ugly chartreuse shirts (which I think I wore for Senior Picture Day). Seriously. Compare these photos with the one above. Don't you see it? Less makeup and no recording contract, but other than that….

I'll tell you just how rebellious I was. Up until the year I graduated, our school had a senior graduation party that was very inclusive. All the students were invited, not just the Seniors. It cost $3.50, but covered the cost of roller skating from 10-midnight, dancing at a disco from then until 2, a movie from 3-5, swimming at the university pool after that, and breakfast at the vice principal's house. If you had a sweetheart that went to another school, no problem….bring 'em along. $3.50. It was a blast. I had so much fun, that I looked forward to my senior all-night party for three years.

And then, just when I was getting ready to graduate, along came M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), and the universal, transcontinental idea of tossing the seniors a party in one location so that there's no driving around, and searching their bags when they come in the door so there'd be no opportunity for any hanky panky.

When the parents gathered all of the seniors together to tell us they were throwing us a party so we didn't have to worry about it, they'd take care of all the details, we were all for it. Until they told us there would be no roller skating. No swimming. No underclassmen invited. No boyfriends from other schools or over a certain age. And the cost? It was somewhere between $25-$50. Doesn't really matter which. We'll pretend it was $25. It was still a buttload of money in 1984, almost ten times what it had been in years past. It was outrageous, and a lot of the students were pissed. The whole school was abuzz. Some started talking about throwing a giant kegger up in the mountains.

I wrote perhaps the best editorial of my young life, listing all the issues we students had with their M.A.D.D. party, and asking them to make some changes to accommodate the students. I showed it to Darin Kavinoky, another Senior, to get his opinion. He turned the paper over,  wrote a quick petition supporting my thesis, signed it, and then passed it around school, where it was signed by several hundred other students, and then printed in the school newspaper, the Rogue News. Later, Darin became a lawyer. I see him giving his expert opinion from time to time on cable TV news shows about the court case du jour. He's even got his own show.

The editorial and petition got the attention of the moms. They wanted to have a meeting. So we met. Just me and them. I had a list of demands. They were unwilling to compromise. On any of them. Even the request to have a room with some pillows where partygoers could simply relax, maybe catch a little shut eye during the 8 hour party. Because what better way to celebrate the graduation into adulthood of 200 eighteen year olds than to search them, lock them in a room for eight hours, refuse to let them sleep, and then raffle off a used car at 6am?

We were at loggerheads.

So I told them I'd just hold my own party. The Ashland Senior High Alternative All Night Party.

I rented the disco for a 2 hour dance party, followed by a movie on a giant wall-sized screen, gave away tons of prizes donated by local businesses, and all of this was followed by breakfast, also donated by a local grocery store. I sold tickets for $3.50.

I'll be honest with you. The M.A.D.D. moms probably thought they'd won the battle, because most of the Seniors went to their party. Even Darin Kavinoky went to their party. In fact he won the freaking car. But my party was also a success, because all of my friends were with me. All the underclassmen were with me. There were friends who went to other schools who were at my party. And we had a blast. Best. Party. Ever. And since all of my friends liked the same weird music that I did (and since I was providing the DJs with the music), it was a bonafide new wave post punk alternative dance riot.

 Sometimes its hard to believe that 30 years have gone by since this all happened. Now I'm a 47 year old mom. Still loudmouthed, opinionated and on occasion I make some pretty strange fashion choices (just ask Linda Bott about the time I thought it might be a good idea to wear a table runner as a scarf on stage). I may be a responsible adult who's pushing 50, but otherwise I'm pretty much that same wild rogue that threw her own alternative all night bash, and this 4th of July weekend is my 30th high school reunion.

 I'd be lying if I told you that my feelings weren't just a little hurt that I wasn't taken up on my offer to create the perfect playlist for the reunion party. Everyone I went to school with probably thinks they'd be subjected to 3 hours of Wall of Voodoo, The Sex Pistols and The Cramps if I was in charge of the music, so I don't blame 'em.

Do you think they'll believe me when I tell them that the associated parents at my daughter's high school asked me if I'd be willing to chair her Senior All Night Party when she graduated from high school in 2015? I tried to tell them that I might not be the best choice. But they didn't listen. We were already at loggerheads right from the beginning. But I did tell them I'd be the DJ. They had no idea what they were in for!

Now that I've spent a few weeks thinking back on my high school days, I have a lot of music to get out of my system. You already know what I did, don't you? Below is a playlist of my very very very favorite alternative new wave post punk dance music of the 80's (plus one song that came out in 1979 - I'll let you figure out which one it is - that kind of put me on the alternative music track to begin with). This playlist could've been hundreds of songs long, so I forced myself to whittle it down to one for each letter of the alphabet, except for a little extra B.S. And by that I mean I couldn't bear to make that Sophie's Choice kind of decision between Bauhaus, the B-52s and Bow Wow Wow, so there's a few extra B's. Same thing for the letter S. Enjoy today's A-Z New Wave playlist from the 80's!

  1. Adam Ant - Ant Music
  2. B-52s - Planet Claire
  3. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead
  4. Bow Wow Wow - See Jungle
  5. The Cramps - Goo Goo Muck
  6. Devo - I Can't Get No Satisfaction
  7. The English Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You
  8. Flipper - Ha Ha Ha
  9. The Go-Go's - We Got The Beat
  10. Hoodoo Gurus - Death Defying
  11. INXS - Original Sin
  12. Joe Jackson - Baby Stick Around
  13. The Knack - My Sharona
  14. Love & Rockets - So Alive
  15. Madness - One Step Beyond
  16. New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle
  17. Oingo Boingo - Little Girls
  18. Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way
  19. Quarterflash - Harden My Heart
  20. The Romantics - What I Like About You
  21. The Specials - A Message To You Rudy
  22. The Stranglers - Golden Brown
  23. Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime
  24. UB40 - Many Rivers To Cross
  25. Violent Femmes - Gone Daddy Gone
  26. Wall of Voodoo - Ring of Fire
  27. X - The Once Over Twice
  28. Yaz - Goodbye Seventies
  29. Zounds - True Love

Thursday, June 19, 2014

La Fille De La Maîtresse Du Mix

C'est moi & le Tour Eiffel

I don't know what you've heard about French stereotypes, but I can tell you that -for the most part- none of it's true. At least not in my limited, 10 day experience earlier this month staying with a family in the village of Epernay in France's Champagne region. The home of Moet & Chandon, which I have never tasted. By the way, this is not the Mistress of the's La Fille de la Maîtresse du Mix, Sophia. AKA the little pumpkin. The Mistress has taken the week off so that I could tell you whether or not the fears she talked about in her last column ever came true.

I was so sleep deprived when my plane landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris that I didn't even know what day it was. But everyone else seemed to be making a big deal out of the date: June 6th, D-Day. President Obama landed in Paris just a few hours after me to make a speech with the President of France. In the United States, D-Day is something we learn about in school, and then promptly forget about after taking our history final. But as soon as I met my host family in Epernay, they began thanking me for what America did for France in World War II. Everywhere I went, people asked if anyone in my family had been a part of D-Day (they hadn't. Although two of my great grandfathers were involved in the war effort, they never left US soil). I heard stories from people about how when the Americans arrived to help get the Nazis out of France, the first thing they did was hand out chewing gum to everyone. When the French say it, it sounds like "Shwonghum." Throughout the entire trip people smiled and thanked me (as if I had anything to do with it) when they found out I was une Americaine, totally blowing any preconceived notion about the stereotypical 'Snobby Frenchman.'

 Another stereotype that turned out not to be true was that the French eat VERY slowly. I'd heard that because of this you might end up sitting for a long time waiting for your next course. Though it's possible that I'm just an extremely slow eater, I ALWAYS finished my food after everyone else. It's not the eating that makes them slow. It's wanting to enjoy their time with each other. Every time I had dinner, people ate fast, but then spent a long time talking. And talking. Oh, and also talking. Also present at every meal were multiple baguettes, different types of fromage, and dessert. I was talking to one of my friends about how all these French people managed to stay so fit, even with all the bread and sugar they consumed, and we came to the conclusion that exercise probably had something to do with it. Though the US isn't the most obese country in the world as its typically advertised, it IS in the top 10. So what is it that makes the French so fit? Well in the US, people have a strange phobia of exercise and will try any diet to get away from it, whereas in France, they will walk or bike anywhere. There are entire blocks specifically for pedestrians.

Although I spent a few days in Paris with my American classmates, for most of my stay I was with ma famille in Epernay. It was glorious. The parents were very welcoming and wanted to help me dive into the deep end of French culture right away. They took me to local shops, churches, cathedrals, champagne vineyards, and the family farm, where I picked cherries and hung out with the sheep. The French like to stick to small shops rather than huge malls and grocery stores. But there was one supermarket in the area, and mon pere took me there. He pointed out aisles upon aisles dedicated solely to wine, from the 2 euro wines imported from California to the thousand euro wines imported from Paris; he directed me to the horse meat (and laughed at my reaction); and he presented a huge array of cheeses, fruits, and seafood.
Pierre. Such a shy kid.
A la maison, I hung out with the kids, Marie (my 15 year old host sister), her 13 year old sister Alix and 10 year old Pierre. We played games like Uno and Badminton (both of which Alix were very good at), threw some hoops, and sang songs. Pierre and Marie were constantly laughing whenever we were together. We all sang "Zizicoptere," (included in today's playlist) and I taught Pierre the lyrics to "Cotton Eyed Joe" and the correct words to that old 90's song "Everybody Dance Now." Until he learned them in English, Pierre sang in gibberish that sounded a little bit like "Ebber gebben get now."

 Probably the only stereotype that proved itself true during my entire trip were the street vendor/pickpockets. So here's the scam: you're walking down the street, when a guy asks you if you want to buy a bracelet for 1 euro. When you say no, he throws a string around your wrist, so you can't get away, and asks you again if you'd like to buy the bracelet for a euro. From there, they either try to steal your purse, sell you the bracelet for much more than 1 euro after its already been permanently attached to your arm, or watch where you put your money and follow you to pickpocket you later when you're not paying attention. For me, it was a little bit different. I was hip to the scam, so I was prepared to keep my arms to myself, and to either ignore the vendors, or say 'non!' and keep walking.
The Montmarte Carousel
So there I was, minding my own business, walking through Montmarte, past one of the filming locations de mon film Français préféré, Amelie. You know, the place with the carousel and the telescopes. I was with a good sized group of American classmates, but that didn't stop one of the 'street vendors' from grabbing my wrist to pull me towards him to try to strongarm me into buying a friendship bracelet. Unfortunately, the guy didn't take non for an answer. I knew not to give in and just kept walking, but every time I took a step, the guy tightened his grip and tried to pull me closer to him. Luckily, one of the chaperones in my group, who also happens to be a British soccer coach, turned around and yelled at the guy, "Bugger Off!" The guy let go of my arm and I ran back to the group. Disaster averted; stereotype confirmed.

And there you have it, mon voyage a France in a nutshell. My mom didn't ask me to buy her any gifts while I was in France. She only asked that I pay attention to the music that was popular and write it down so that when I returned I could become La fille de la maîtresse du Mix for a day, put together my own playlist de musique populaire and tell you a bit about my journey.

Check out the playlist at Grooveshark or click on the play arrow in the imbedded playlist below:French music by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Sebastien Patoche - Zizicoptere
  2. Keen'V - Ma vie au soleil
  3. Dezil - San Ou (La Riviere) This song was a huge hit in France; the band is from Seychelles.
  4. Karimouche - P'tit kawa
  5. Zazie - J'envoie vaiser
  6. Stromae - Tous les memes Stromae's réal name is Paul van Haver, he's Belgian.
  7. Khaled - C'est la vie An Algerian rai singer
  8. Margaux Avril - L'air de rien
  9. Christophe Mae - Dingue Dingue Dingue
  10. Magic System - Bouger Bouger They're from French speaking West Africa & popular in France
  11. Jenifer - Je Danse
  12. 1789, Les amants de la Bastille - Maniaque the soundtrack from a popular stage musical
  13. 1789, Les amants de la Bastille - La nuit m'appelle
  14. Emmanuel Moire - Beau Malheur
  15. Matt Pokora - Pas sans toi
  16. Jena Lee - U.S. Boy Jena was born in Chile, but adopted as a baby by a French family.
  17. Keen'V - Prince Charmant
  18. Daft Punk - Harder Better Faster Stronger Did you know Daft Punk was French?
  19. Shy'm - Et alors!
  20. Fauve - Sainte Anne
  21. Coeur de Pirate - Comme des enfants This singer is from Montreal, Canada.
  22. Admiral T & Daddy Mory - Hum Riddim Admiral T is from the French island of Guadeloupe
  23. Collectif Metisse - Laisse-Toi aller bebe
  24. Italobrothers - Stamp on the Ground Very popular in France, but this group hails from Germany
  25. Maitre Gims - J'me Tire The lead singer was born in Zaire, but immigrated to France at 2.
  26. Alex Beaupain - Apres moi le déluge
  27. Saule ft. Charlie Winston - Dusty Men Saule is actually from Belgium, Winston is British.
  28. Brice Conrad - Songe
  29. Joyce Jonathan - Je ne sais pas
  30. Zaz - On ira

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ma Petite Citrouille

Sophia dancing with wild abandon on the streets of Europe in 2000.
My little baby left home today. Ma petite citrouille, my little pumpkin, is flying to France for ten days with about a dozen other kids from her high school. I'm used to saying goodbye to my teenager every summer. She spends as much time as she can with her dad in Oregon, and we've also encouraged her to spend at least a week every summer with her favorite aunties, my sister Dana in Oregon and her dad's sister Joannie in Washington. Each time she comes back to me so much older, mature, happy and tan, with fun experiences to tell me about. I think the whole family considers it a blessing that she loves her aunts so much that she cherishes the time she gets to spend with them and wouldn't give it up for anything. So every year, I send her off, trying not to miss her a bit, knowing she's in good hands with some of the people I love most in this world, who love her almost as much as much I do.

But this time it's a little different, and it was a lot harder to say au revoir. She's not on the west coast in the same time zone. She's on the other side of the world, 9 hours ahead. She's not with a family member that I know and trust dearly, she's staying with a family that I've never met in a town I've never been to a few hours east of Paris. Then she'll spend three days in the city of love with her Redding classmates before heading back to the states, visiting the Eiffel Tower, taking a cruise on the Seine, and shopping in the Latin Quarter.
I'm so jealous I can hardly stand it.

As an overprotective mom of an only child, I've got so much anxiety coursing through my veins right now that I may not be able to sleep until I pick her back up at San Francisco International Airport in a couple of weeks. Does she have enough money? Can she keep it safe? Will the airline lose her luggage? Will she fall victim to pickpockets or someone trying to take advantage of her limited understanding of French? I found her toothbrush by the side of the bathroom sink this morning where she forgot it, after taking it back out of her suitcase. What else did she leave behind? Will she have the right clothing for the weather? Did she take the right shoes? Will she get along with her host family?

When she's with her aunties, I know they watch out for her, but now she's pretty much on her own. She can't just call or text me when she's got a mommy question, because the last thing did as she walked out the door was hand me her iPhone and tell me "J'taime."

You'd think I'd be a bit less anxious, especially considering the fact this isn't her first trip to France. It's not even her second. When she was a toddler we were fortunate enough to voyage overseas a couple of times. Sophia was just 22 months old when we spent six weeks abroad, most of it in small villages in the south of France. We rented a house in a village that was so small, in fact, that it didn't have a bakery. A french village without a bakery. Quelle tragédie!

Sophia was just at that age where she was rapidly learning how to speak, and she picked up French more easily than English during that trip, since she was surrounded by it everywhere she went, and her father and I tried to help her by speaking it as well. She ended up learning all her numbers, colors and animals in French before she mastered them in English. In fact, for many years she used 'rouge' instead of red, and 'granouille' instead of frog, 'chat' instead of cat. I'll never forget the evening that she was running around the square of a little village, entertaining several elderly citizens by dancing around, when the top of the hour rolled around, and the town's bell tower began to ring, and she stopped dead in her tracks, pointed towards the pealing bells, and shouted, "Les cloches! Les cloches!" and the townspeople erupted into laughter because she was so cute.

Sophia also made up her first pun one afternoon as we walked for what seemed like miles through a walled medieval city with narrow cobblestone streets and staircases. Friends had given me a cheap umbrella stroller to take with me, promising it would be my savior for days like that one. But Sophia's dad made the executive decision to ditch the stroller at the Seattle airport because he thought it would be too much hassle. I put up a fight, and was going to use my veto power to overrule him, but finally gave in after I made him promise to be the one to carry her if Sophia ever refused to walk a step further with those little legs. She was such a great traveler that he only had to carry her a few times during that trip. The first time was the morning we arrived, when we embarked on what I called the Death March To Haarlem after Sophia conked out completely during the train ride from the Amsterdam airport to Haarlem, and since Glenn had to carry his backpack on his back, he carried her in his arms as she lay prone, on her back, mouth wide open. for a mile to the hotel. He never looked more miserable, and I never felt more smug.

But I was telling you about her pun. She was such a good sport, walking and walking and walking, until we headed down a long flight of stairs. She tiredly started down them, counting them off in French as she walked down, "Un... Deux... Trois... Quatre... Cinque... Seis... Sept... DOWN." And she set her little butt down on the stair, smiling, but refusing to move again. She'd had it, and that was how she let us know.

J'adore that girl.

Sophia today.
In her honor, today I've put together a playlist of French music. It's a combination of music that I've been listening to for years, some of it since I was in my first year of college French, and music that Sophia has been turned on to in the past 3 years as she began studying French in high school. I'm pretty sure she'll come back home in a few weeks with more musique a la Francias, and I can't wait. Literally.

Amusez-vous! Voici, le playlist d'aujourd'hui, courtesy of Grooveshark.
I Love Paris by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. French Cafe - Cafe Chill
  2. Ne Sois Pas Si Bete - France Gall
  3. I Love Paris - Ella Fitzgerald
  4. La Vie En Rose - Edith Piaf
  5. Sympathique - Pink Martini
  6. Dis-Lui Oui - Benabar
  7. Golden Baby - Coeur de Pirate
  8. Adieu - Coeur de Pirate
  9. Bon Voyage - Armin van Buuren
  10. Un Jour En France - Noir Desir
  11. Oh La - Brice Conrad
  12. Boulbi - Booba
  13. Sur Ma Route - Black M
  14. Papaoutai - Stromae
  15. Bella - Maitre Gims
  16. Ca Ira Mon Amour - Rod Janois
  17. Juste une Photo de Toi - Matt Pokora
  18. Caractere - Joyce Jonathan
  19. I Love Paris - Les Negresses Vertes
  20. Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
  21. Blue Monday - Nouvelle Vague
  22. Amoureaux Solitaires - Nouvelle Vague
  23. La Mer - Charles Trenet
  24. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien - Edith Piaf
  25. Melancolie - Cafe de Paris
  26. French Kiss - Equaleyes
  27. La Vie En Rose - Louis Armstrong