Thursday, August 27, 2015

Shazam (revisited)!

Sometimes I worry about me. Mostly it's at 3 in the morning, when I wake up from my slumber, my brain whirring, abuzz with worries that seem so ridiculous and silly during daylight hours. But at 3am, stupid stuff keeps me awake, suffering with concerns that don't seem to concern me the next day at all.

I have to watch old episodes of That 70's Show to get back to sleep. And if you think I'm kidding, come over sometime and check out the 27 episodes I keep DVR'd. I don't actually watch them per se.  I just turn on the TV, set the timer to turn off in 30 minutes, and roll over, listening to the familiar soundtrack replay for the umpteenth time, keeping one side of my brain occupied so that the other side can fall asleep. Frasier, Cheers, Golden Girls and Three's Company will also work in a pinch.

Now you're worried about me too, aren't you?

But the worrying I was referring to was more of a musical worry. Worrying that my taste has gotten a little bipolar lately. Maybe even quad polar, if that's a thing. Tonight I sat down and checked the songs I've Shazammed recently. Shazam, for those of you without a smartphone, is an app used to identify songs. Say I'm in a restaurant and I hear a song that strikes a chord. I open up the app, and it tells me (usually) the name of the song and the group performing it. I've written about it before.

Tonight I opened up the app again, and realized that lately, I'm just all over the map. A band called Pomplamoose, a Bob Dylan remake, a reggae mashup of Elvis and Led Zeppelin, a bunch of really cool stuff I heard on JPR's Rhythm & News Service, and then some weird guy named Lunchmoney Lewis. And I have no idea where I heard him, but obviously I did. Because I Shazammed him. Twice in the past year. I have the evidence. Anyway, like I said, I'm all over the map these days. Maybe that's a good thing? But when you hear today's playlist, don't judge me. I'm already judging me enough for the both of us.

For the most part, I can't recall where I was or what I was doing when I heard the songs I've Shazammed. It could be anywhere. A few stand out:

Marty Robbins, from Fallout New Vegas, a video game my daughter has been playing a little too much lately. But the song kept playing over and over again, and eventually it got stuck in my craw, and I had to know who did it. It was right there on the tip of my braintongue, and I couldn't stop thinking about it until I Shazammed it.

Another one came from some video on YouTube of the most adorable little boy, dancing to a Cuban mambo by a public pool, much to the delight of his parents, I'm sure. Much to my delight, actually. Enough that I had to know what he was dancing to. You know, so that I could dance to it, but maybe not poolside, and maybe not in front of my parents.

One of them, I remember, was because I just couldn't believe, no matter how fervently my daughter tried to impress upon me, that it was being sung by the most highly paid and in demand actress of this century. That would be Jennifer Lawrence. But for about 5 minutes, her song "Hanging Tree" was played on radio stations everywhere, and made her a little bit more money.

One of the songs on the list was featured on a Walking Dead promo (I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's my favorite TV show). I can tell from the timestamp on the app that roughly half of the tunes came from JPR, and the rest? I dunno. But this is the stuff that rolls around in my head, the music that moves me enough to make sure I have some record of what it is so I can hunt it down again later on down the road, and share it with you. Lucky, lucky you! You like Marty Robbins, right?

Without further adieu, here's today's Shazam Revisited Playlist on Spotify. It's just a musical peek inside my head over the past year, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or even something to be proud of. But I think you'll still enjoy it, regardless. But if you don't, I'm not gonna worry too much about it. Until 3 in the morning, that is.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

True Story

Have you ever had a story to tell that you knew nobody would believe? A story with so many instances of insane coincidences and cosmic connections stacked up on top of each other that even the most hardcore agnostic would be hard pressed to deny that some kind of supreme commander of the universe isn't pulling all the strings to control your destiny? I've got one of those stories. And I hope you believe it, because it's true. Call it fate, destiny, synchronicity, or plain ol' coincidence. I just gotta get this out to anyone who will listen.

It's kind of a long story, but please, bear with me, because I need to know your opinion. The Force of Destiny, or Random Coincidence? Chance or Fate?

Some folks around these parts might call it my divine appointment with Brenda.

The Story Behind The Story:
If you've been following my columns for the past few years, then you know that the day after I graduated from college, I flew across the Atlantic Ocean, then the Mediterranean, and ended up on a Greek Island. At the end of the summer, I landed my first full time public radio job, as a reporter on an island in Alaska. I flew back across those oceans,  made a quick trip to Stockton to visit one of my older sisters before returning to Ashland to pack up everything I could (record albums, pillows & comforter and as many clothes as would fit) into my Ford Escort for the 3 day ferry trip to Petersburg with my little sister.

Before I left, we had dinner with Ann & Bob Clouse, my parent's best friends. Bob was an Oscar nominated movie director (Remember Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon? That was his). Ann was a set designer, which came in handy when she renovated an old mill into a very plush B&B, the Water Street Inn. Ann told me that when I got to Alaska, I should try to look up Brenda Kleinfelder, because she was a good family friend. Family, really. Their daughter Celeste and Brenda were best friends, but the two were also sisters-in-law because Celeste fell in love with and then married Brenda's brother. Brenda was living in Alaska, on the very island I was moving to. And I should look her up, they said. So I wrote her name in journal, promising to look her up someday.

Thrilling & Wonderous Fact #1: 
 So I got to Alaska, and started my new job as a reporter at public radio station KFSK. They'd been waiting for me for a while, since I had to travel halfway across the world to get there. While they waited for me to arrive, KFSK had hired someone to fill in, as an interim reporter. Her name was Brenda Kleinfelder. The very name I'd written in my journal

Brenda and I met, reveled in the amusing discovery that we had some very close friends in common, and then we went on with our lives. We were friends, making our way in the same little community on the same little island for many years. We traveled in the same friendship circles,  probably got our rubber boots mixed up more than once at potluck dinners, and eventually, in 1997, we ended up having babies born just a few months apart. Born 3 months later, Sophia was the lucky one who got all of Maddie's hand me downs, and many times Brenda and I would get the girls together for baby play dates.

Impressive Sideline Fact #2:
At some point during our 13 years together on Mitkof Island, Brenda mentioned that in high school, down in Stockton CA, she had dated rockstar Chris Isaak. Before he was a rockstar, of course. I'd been a fan of Isaak since his first album in the mid 80's, so I was completely impressed. I recall asking her lots of questions while we drank a lot of wine one night during a wedding reception at the Sons of Norway Hall. But what I've always really wanted to know is whether or not San Francisco Days is about her. I'm just going to pretend it is.

Startling Fact #3:
I don't remember the year, but sometime in the 1990's, Brenda's mother passed away from cancer. Towards the end, when she was in hospice, Brenda went home to Stockton, for the long, painful wait. She stood vigil at the bedside, with the family and her mother's minister. When things got heavy, Brenda stepped outside for a few moments, only to be joined by Reverend Diana a few moments later. They chatted for a few minutes, and then the minister asked Brenda where she was living. Reverend Diana thought it was really an astounding coincidence that her sister also lived in Petersburg, Alaska. Her sister Valerie.  Brenda shared the story with me as soon as she returned home. We thought it was incredible that we were connected in so many ways. It was like we were meant to know each other, meant to cross paths and to be in each other's lives. And then we got over it and moved on.

Minor - but still kinda cool - Sideline Fact #4: A few years earlier, my sister Diana served as the minister at my wedding. Which was held in Ashland at the Water Street Inn. My little sister got married there. I even lived in the Inn for a month when I went down to Oregon to give birth to my daughter. I could never have afforded it. Each time it was a gift from Ann & Bob Clouse.

When I say we moved on, we really moved on. When Sophia and Maddie were both about 3 years old, Brenda and I both moved away from Alaska. She went to Colorado, I went to California. We both divorced, and ended up raising amazing daughters who love to dance and run. I only found this out because I tracked Brenda down about 10 years after we'd moved away, when Chris Isaak came to Redding to perform at the Cascade Theatre. Telling him that he and I had a mutual friend in common was a great icebreaker.  I didn't track her down until after I met Chris, so I didn't realize that she was in Eugene, Oregon now, and had divorced.

When I found out Chris Isaak was coming back to the Cascade in August, I immediately texted Brenda and invited her and Maddie to come down for the show and stay with us. Her response? "Heck yeah sister! It's a double date!" I haven't seen Brenda for 14 years, and the kids don't remember each other at all, so I'm really looking forward to getting together with my star-crossed sister to reminisce (and to see that incredible rocker do his thing onstage again).

This Startling Fact #5 Will Knock You Off Your Feet: A few Mondays ago I finally got the tickets for the show. Front row, baby. And yes, I pulled some strings, but mainly it was because Chris Isaak's people were nice enough to give their artist comps to his old high school girlfriend. That was not the fact that will knock you off your feet. This is: I immediately called Brenda to share the exciting news. When she answered, she could not believe I was calling her at that exact moment. "You'll never believe where I am right now," she said.
"Well the last time we spoke you were in Thailand. I give. Where are you?"
"I'm on my way to Aptos," she said. "But I just got off Southbound I-5 on the Market Street exit in Redding. I pulled off the freeway to get gas! How did you know I was here?!"

Pretty crazy, right? All morning I'd been thinking about how I'd better check on that request I put in to Isaak's people, and then when I finally pulled the trigger, the force of destiny put Brenda right on my doorstep.

We only had a few minutes of face-to-face time before she had to get back on the road and I had to get back to my radio show. She pulled up to my office, jumped out of the car with little Maddie in tow (who, freshly turned 18, isn't so little anymore), and it was like 14 years had never gone by. We hugged, discussed our upcoming visit, and then she said the thing that just blew my mind.

Prepare To Be Blown Away By Fact #6: 
"Sophia's going to college this Fall, right? Where?"
"Southern Oregon University," I said.
Brenda's mouth dropped. She looked at Maddie. Maddie looked at her.
"No way! So is Maddie! Track scholarship!"
"That's great! Sophia's going on the 'My-Mom-Works-At-SOU-So-We-Get-A-Staff-Discount' scholarship!"
Bren asked if Sophia was going to live with her dad or stay with my parents, and I said, "Dorms. I thought she should have the experience. Which dorm are you in, Maddie?"
As it turns out, Maddie and Sophia will be living not only in the same dorm, but in rooms right next to each other on the same floor. Mind blown.

It's like everything clicked into place when we realized that maybe this didn't have as much to do with Brenda and I being destined for a friendship, but instead it was our children. Our girls who don't even remember one another, but played for hours as babies, wore the same clothes, and toddled on the same beaches of Alaska. It all started when the Clouse's gave me a name to write in my journal the night before I left Ashland, and now it's coming back to Ashland, full circle, Sophia and Maddie synching up.

My husband says I'm the girl who connects the dots. If I meet a person, I find a way to connect us. To diminish the six degrees of separation down to one. I quiz people about their lives and their background, their interests and the places they've lived until I find the one thing that connects us. But in this case, I feel as if no matter which way I turn, I'm still connected to Brenda. And no matter what we did or where we went, our daughters were destined (or coincidentally going) to meet each other eventually.

Fate or chance? Destiny or random coincidence? Which do you believe in? Well, I don't know about you, but I believe I'm going to have to just put on some music so I can stop thinking about it. Enjoy today's Coincidence or Destiny Playlist on Spotify, and hope to see you at the Chris Isaak concert at the Cascade August 19th. You already know where we'll be sitting.