Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Deserted Island Soundtrack

A friend of mine who is a fellow blogger recently had a post entitled "My Island CD" stating the 10 songs he would want to be stuck on a deserted island with for an indefinite period of time. He mentioned to me after writing this blog that he would be interested in finding out what mine would be, since he knows how passionate I am about music & how it's influenced my life.

Now, he had some stipulations with his list, which he has every right to since it is his list. I am not going to put any restrictions on my list - the only thing I do want to say is that it will consist of songs that would fit on a single CD (which is about 80 minutes). Also the order is merely the suggested way I would listen to it (but shuffle works with it too).
So here it is:

1. "Over the Hills And Far Away" - Led Zeppelin (4:46)
Most people consider Led Zeppelin one of the best rock bands of all time. I consider them THE best. Led Zeppelin is one of two bands that if I was asked to pick my favorite song by them, I wouldn't be able to. Not only do they have so many amazing songs, but they all have different vibes & meanings to me. How I'm feeling/the mood I'm in makes a difference on what I would want to listen to. This song ranks in my Top 5 Led Zeppelin songs. It makes me smile and it is a pretty awesome song to start off a soundtrack. Oh, and if the opening guitar solo in this song doesn't make you want to pick up a guitar, you must hate music.

2. "A Girl Like You" - Edwyn Collins(3:55)
I love this song just as much as the first time I heard it. This song reminds me of High School and at times it does bring me back there when I listen to it. It's most known for being on the Empire Records soundtrack and getting Edwyn Collins his 15 mins of fame/one hit wonder. It has that Iggy Pop/David Bowie vibe to it (and most mistake it as a Bowie song) but then you hear the electric guitar, vibraphone & other instruments and its slight new wave feel but not overly so. And anyone that uses the word 'allegorically' in a song gets brownie points in my book.

3. "Bad Reputation" - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (2:48)
If guys can have man crushes, Joan Jett is my girl crush. She is my idol. I loved her & my She-Ra action figure growing up. I hope to God that I can look half as awesome as she does when I'm her age. She was & still is SO FUCKING bad ass. I love the message of "I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks, I just do what I want because it's what I want to do". If I could pick an anthem, this would be it. "...and I don't really care if you think I'm strange, I ain't gonna change"... sing it Joan, sing your fucking heart out.

4. Thunderstruck" - AC/DC (4:52)
I love AC/DC, from both the Bon Scott days & Brian Johnson days. This song would have been amazing to see live back in the late 70s. To me, this one of those songs that defines what is amazing, mind blowing rock & roll. I have said on many occasions that if I played for the NY Yankees, this kick ass song would be the one they play every time I would go up to bat.

5. "Lie In Our Graves (Live)" - Dave Matthews Band - Live in Chicago 12.19.98 (12:21)
I had the hardest time choosing a song by this band. (so I picked 2, ha!) It's like asking a chef to pick their favorite food or an artist to pick their favorite painting. I could easily write an essay on why I love this song. Hell, I could write an entire book on why I love each album of theirs and the difference between listening to a live recording of a song or the studio recorded version. Ok, I admit it, I'm obsessed with Dave Matthews Band. Anyway, I chose this specific song, a live one, because 2 words come to mind if I had to describe it - passion & energy. DMB shows are full of both but this particular song has hit me more so than others. The violin solo in this song is one of the best pieces I've ever heard Boyd play and I can hear & feeling the emotion come off the strings & bow as he plays it. Tim Reynolds makes a guitar talk and in this song I can almost hear its pain. I also just love this song - it's fun & reminds me of summer and driving to all of shows I've been to in the my life, especially DMB shows.

6. "Sunday Morning" - No Doubt (4:33)
When Tragic Kingdom came out in 1995, I listened to it CONSTANTLY. I almost burned out my stereo & a hole through the CD. This particular song opens with a 1min+ drum line, it has this amazing smooth yet punk beat throughout the song, and Gwen's vocals & the lyrics all add up to my favorite track on the album. It also makes for an awesome karaoke song.

7. "One" - Metallica (7:27)
I have so many memories that involve Metallica and their music. My late friend Dan gave me my first Metallica album in 1995 and I never turned back. This is one of my top 5 Metallica songs but I picked this song for this soundtrack because I love how simple & melodic the guitars are at the beginning (if you haven't noticed already, I'm a sucker for a good guitar solo) but then all hell breaks loose and they rock the fuck out... while never breaking a sweat. You can't get much heavier than the end of a Metallica song. I do enjoy the meaning behind the song as well (a soldier's reactions/memories/feelings towards losing his mind & own body parts due to fighting in war) but even without knowing that this song is truly an amazing piece of work.

8. "Run like Hell" - Pink Floyd (4:24)
This is my favorite song off the 'The Wall'. There are many others that are amazing and iconic but I have never been one to agree with the masses about things. Maybe it's because it has the only keyboard solo on that entire album or the fact that they incorporate the live crowd effects into it or the chanting of "Run" by David Gilmour to start off the song but there's just something about this song that pulls me in. It is one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs, but this may be the only song on my soundtrack where I don't have a concrete reason why or how I came to love this song. I just do.

9. "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" - The Ramones (2:46)
I love the Ramones and this particular song just reminds me of all the shit hole bars and venues I've seen bands perform in NYC, especially CBGB's. I never got the chance to see them live but their presence was definitely felt every time you walked there. I miss that place.

10. "Caught Up in You" - .38 Special (4:38)
Some may disagree with the following statement: this song is the 'cheesy/corny' track on my soundtrack. But I do love this song. This is another feel good, windows open, sing-a-long song that makes me want to just dance around my apartment and totally rock the air guitar (don't you judge me - i know every single one of you have done it).

11. "Bad" - U2 (5:51)
This song is about addiction. I find it kind of funny that not only is it my favorite U2 song, but it made its way onto a list of songs I'd want to be stuck listening to quite possibly for the rest of time... yeah I have a problem. I know A LOT about music, enough to impress people at trivia nights and have decent conversations about it at least. I even impress myself with the tidbits that come pouring out of my brain. When it only takes me 3 notes to name a song or name the artist of that one-hit wonder no one else can ever remember, a thought comes to my head, "I think I'm addicted to music" - is that possible?

12. "Crash" - Dave Matthews Band (5:16)
See, I told you. I couldn't pick just one DMB song. But I thought it was fair that I picked 1 live & 1 studio recorded song. This song means a lot to me for many reasons, not all of which I will name here, but one of the most important is simple: it's so beautiful. Everything about this song - the opening melody, the lyrics, the rising tone Dave's voice throughout the song, the way Boyd and LeRoi play so delicately but add such depth to the song it makes me want to melt, I could go on but this is one of the songs that seriously changed the way I think about, listen to & love music. This song also is one of the few songs that makes me almost want to cry. (I said almost.)

13. "Possession" - Sarah McLachlan (4:39)
While Joan Jett is my idol/girl crush, Sarah McLachlan is the sister I never had. She is probably my favorite female solo artist. She has an insanely amazing voice that is so sweet & smooth. She seems like a person I would want to have as a friend or a sister or someone to turn to. I used to fall asleep listening to her albums my 1st year of college because it would block out noise & also just comfort me. This song specifically I remember hearing for the first time in 7th or 8th grade and just loving everything about it.

14. "Fix You" - Coldplay (4:54)
Coldplay had me at Yellow back in the distant year of 2000. I'm actually sort of shocked that I would consider putting a Coldplay song on my island soundtrack but this is one of those songs that I just absolutely fell in love with from the first time I heard it. I didn't know this initially but Chris Martin wrote this for his daughter after she was born and has put even more meaning into this song for me. It is also one of those songs that it doesn't matter what mood I'm in or what kind of day it is, I could listen to this at anytime. For some reason I can't really explain, I just feel an immense connection to this song.

15. "Dancing with Myself" - Billy Idol (6:01)
Good Lord I love this song. I dare anyone, ANYONE, to put this song on and just sit still & not sing along. If this song doesn't make you want to get up, dance 'Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club' style and want to be Billy Idol, then you have no soul. AND that also means you don't like Billy Idol or the 80s and I don't think we should be friends anymore.

16. "Thank You" - Led Zeppelin (4:46)
Starting and ending with the best. I've never been the type of girl who thinks about her 'dream wedding' or has specific plans for her special day... except when it comes to my wedding song. If I ever get married ('if' being the keyword there), there is a 66.7% chance that this will be the song. I have a few others that come close to possibly beating it out but if I make no other decision on my wedding day but to choose the music, I would be fine with that.

There you have it. My deserted island soundtrack.
and in case you were wondering, the Total Running Time is 79 minutes and change.
Go ahead, add up minutes. I dare you.

Side Note: If for some reason I could have multiple albums with me (like a case of CDs) these would be the albums I would want with me:

Led Zeppelin Boxed Set
Incubus "Science"
The Cranberries "Everyone else is doing it so why can't we?"
DMB "Under the Table and Dreaming" "Before These Crowded Streets" and "Live Trax Vol. 3 - Meadows Music Theatre"... hell, I'll just say my entire DMB collection to make things easier.
Linkin Park "Meteora"
Pink Floyd "Echoes"
Alanis Morissette "Jagged Little Pill"
Queen "Greatest Hits"
No Doubt "Tragic Kingdom"
Sarah McLachlan "Fumbling Towards Ecstacy"
Metallica's entire catalog up to "Load" & also the S&M live album.
Bob Marley & the Wailers "One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers" (because you can't be stuck on a deserted island without some Bob Marley)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

wanna hear a story?

Last night I told a story. I got up in front of friends, my fellow classmates & their family/friends and performed... and it felt soooo good. Except for some radio bits I did several years ago & some workshops/classes where we would present our work in class, I hadn't performed in a long time. I honestly can't remember the last time I acted/performed on a stage. I can't say I wasn't nervous (let's just say I was nervous the minute I knew there was a performance at the end of the class) but as I heard my name being announced last night, I just took 2 deep breaths and got up and went for it. I felt really good with how my story went & I had people tell me that my story was really amazing & that I had the audience holding their breath & on the edge of their seats.

Last night I told this story. This is the full, written out version. (It's not the same as seeing it be told live, but I figure I'd post this for anyone who couldn't make it last night. I also might be getting the video footage too since someone was taping our stories.) I hadn't told this story in over 10 years yet I still remember it & feel it as if it happened only yesterday. I'm really proud of it as a written piece of my work & a story that I found buried deep inside me to have the courage to tell. This story may just have reignited the performer inside of me...


Contrary to what you've seen or heard, Lifeguarding isn't always as easy as it looks. I became a lifeguard when I was 17 and for 4 summers I worked at a camp that was located on a college campus in Westchester County, NY. Lifeguarding definitely had its perks: sitting outside in the sun all day poolside while my friends bustled their groups of campers in & out of the pool area. The summer of '99 though, I got more than just a tan.

It was a hot Friday afternoon in the middle of August. I was sitting at the side of the pool, probably yelling at some kids to stop running around the pool deck, when a male counselor comes up to the fence of the pool area yelling. I turn around and see counselors going over to see what he wants and he sees me and points. I go over to the fence & he says a kid is hurt down by the basketball courts and he looks pretty bad. I asked him what happened - he said he didn't see it happen but the kid is screaming & he's kind of bloody. I said ok I'll come down and see what's wrong. I bring a few things from the first aid kit; gloves, bandaid, gauze. As I go out the gate of the pool the male counselor and I go down the hill to the courts.

I can see some other counselors standing around the kid. As we get closer, I can hear him crying and screaming. Then I see this boy, no more than 11 or 12 kind of chubby, gripping his left arm, rolling around on the hot asphalt of the parking lot, dirty, kinda of bloody, sweaty & crying out for his mom. I also notice no one else is standing closer than 3 feet to him or doing anything to help the boy. I instantly shouted "I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NOW" Then another thinner boy of about the same age comes over to me and says "He fell". Without hesitation, I looked at him and said "Off of what?" I hadn't looked at the boys face until that moment and I could see the guilt & sadness mixed in his eyes. He points over my left shoulder and I see 2 dirt bikes laying off in the distance on the far edge of the hill. I immediately knew this kid had at least one, if not multiple broken bones. He needed to be stabilized and taken off the boiling hot pavement & out of the blazing sun.

I started throwing out instructions to the other counselors...
"go call 911 and the office"
"go get the backboard from the pool & tell one of the other lifeguards what's going on"
"someone please get all the kids and clear the basketball court - take them up to the pool or inside".

I go up to the boy and lean over him and ask "Where does it hurt?" but he won't stop crying or moving. Then, with a bit more force, I say to him "Listen, I need you to relax. I'm trying to help you and you can't keep rolling around because you could hurt yourself more." He looks up at me with his dirt stained face & tear filed eyes and yells "my arm my arm my arm" and then continues to scream. A counselor comes back with the backboard and I have 2 counselors assist me to get him on the board, I put the neck brace on him and we move him. Once in the shade, I sit overlooking him because he's still crying & freaked out and I need him to focus on something, anything else right now. So I start to talk to him. I ask him his name, where he lives, what school he goes to, what grade he's going into... and it seems to calm him down a bit. The counselor who I asked to call 911 & the office comes running back & says ok "an ambulance is on it's way" but before I can say thanks, she also says, "& The office is NOT happy" and I said "why? it was an accident" and she responds, "No, this boy isn't a camper". I immediately froze inside but I tried to not let it show to the boy who already was scared out of his mind. I gave the counselor who just told me this the "are you FUCKING kidding me?" stare. I tell the counselor to take his friend up to the office NOW and call both of their parents. I continue to sit with the boy who isn't crying as much anymore and ask him some more basic questions to keep him calm.

20 minutes can seems like forever when you are trying to convince a 12 year kid everything is gonna be ok and his mom is on her way. The ambulance finally arrived & started to unload a stretcher & gear. I explained to one of the EMTs what I knew and what I had done in the meantime. The Mother, who luckily worked in town, arrived a few minutes later. She was white as ghost when she saw him on the backboard and started asking a million questions so the other EMT took the mother aside to get her out of the way and ask her some questions. As they loaded the boy into the ambulance, the mother came back over to me with makeup & tears running down her face & looked me dead in the eye and she just said "Thank You" - I think that was the most heartfelt thank you I've ever heard. I was still wound up and on edge from what had just happened but that felt really good to hear.

As I start to head back to the pool, the counselor who took the boy up to the office came back and told me that they wanted me in the main office. I walk in to see both directors standing in the doorway of the office, waiting for me. Then the interrogation started.
"What were you thinking?"
"This child does not go to camp here!"
"Do you know the liability you have put the camp in? not to mention yourself?"
"This family can sue the camp, the college, and you!"
"We are very disappointed in you, Nicole. We never expected something like this from you."

After their tirade they asked me if I had anything to say. I explained exactly what happened, that I was not aware that he wasn't a camper, that NO ONE else wanted to help, let alone go near the boy and the last thing I did say was: "I was just doing my job". They said we would talk about this further next week once we hear back from the college & the family and they let me leave.

I walked out to my car, got in the driver's seat, put the key in the ignition and then just sat there and cried. I was sweaty, tired, drained & overwhelmed with emotions. I just helped this boy in need & did my job yet I just got the third degree from my employers, and their camp, my job, and my life is in potential jeopardy. I realized I had been sitting in the parking lot for several minutes so I collected myself & drove home.

The following week I found out from one of the EMTs who came back to return our backboard to the pool that the kid had in fact broken his collarbone, arm and fractured his wrist. They also said he was lucky, he could have hurt himself severely & permanently had he not been mobilized. I personally never heard from the family or the college about any lawsuits (the kids weren't supposed to be on the campus to begin with since they weren't associated with the camp) and I didn't lose my job. But I also didn't get an apology or any sort of recognition from the camp directors.

I didn't return to work at the camp the following summer but I did continue to lifeguard elsewhere throughout college, taught swim lessons and even coached some junior swim teams. That August afternoon made me realize for the 1st time in my life that not only am I a whole lot stronger & assertive than I had ever imagined, but you must always stand up for what you think is right.

N. Strawbridge

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Light 'em up.

This was the 1st story I told in my storytelling class. I thought maybe I would tell this story the night of our performance but it's terribly long & could probably be broken down into several stories. I read somewhere that David Sedaris said he sat down to write about his relationship with smoking and he ended up with around 10 different stories. I don't know if I could write 10 stories but here's the start of one...

Everyone has a vice. Every single person has something that controls them just a fraction more than you control it. For some people it's lying, drinking, biting one's nails, working out (I consider it a vice), gambling, collecting things to the point of hoarding. Mine is smoking.

I have a love/hate relationship with cigarettes. I've been surrounded/exposed to them all my life, even in utero. Yep, my mother smoked while she was pregnant with me. I have photos to prove it. Honestly, I don't know if people back in the 70s knew just how horrible smoking was to your health. Just by looking at the way everyone dressed, we can pretty much agree their decisions weren't always the best. I do partly blame my shortness on her smoking during pregnancy - way to stunt the growth of your only child, Mom. I still love you. Both of them are now ex-smokers, my Mom having the easier & less stressful time of quitting then my father. She quit when I was a toddler using acupuncture while my father had a pretty nasty battle quitting. I think I was around 7 or 8 when he finally quit for good. I remember during that time the house and cars were always littered with bottles & bottles of seltzer in all sorts of flavors. To this day, I think this why I've never liked seltzer because I associate it with my Dad's smoking.

Not until a decade later in high school did I have my 1st personal experience with smoking. I was 15 & had a part time job at a local stationary store. We sold cigarettes & one day I decided to 'take' a pack (yeah, I stole them - I couldn't obviously buy them). A pack of Marlboro Reds were all mine. To all you non-smokers out there, Marlboro Reds are not the "easy, yeah I'm gonna smoke for the 1st time" kind of cigarette. What the hell did I know? A combination of peer-pressure, curosity & rebellion in me made the choice. I had to go with the Marlboro Man. I did always have a little thing for cowboys. Waiting until my parents were both out of the house, I made my way towards the kitchen which led out to our deck. It was mid to late February or exceptionally cold & snowy for March because I remember I didn't want to go all the way outside (and also feared being seen by noisy neighbors). I remember thinking 2 things as I opened the pack of cigarettes: the first was "wow, there's a lot of packaging that goes into these things" and the second was "I'm not quite sure I know what I'm doing or how to do it." So as I stood halfway in & out of the house, I lit my 1st cigarette & took my first drag (not that I knew what I was doing). It wasn't so bad - I didn't cough my brains out or drop dead from a blood clot. I thought, this is pretty good. Honestly, I don't think I enhaled at all, because a few drags later I finally felt this sensation in my chest that felt like I had just swallowed the lit cigarette whole. My chest ached & burned and I started coughing. I probably looked like the choking victim in those "How To" posters in schools & restaurants. Needless to say I didn't finish my 1st cigarette but that burning & coughing didn't deter me from trying it again.

I smoked in High School & college although my smoking at this point was more a casual & social thing. My smoking didn't effect my ability to compete in swim meets or play soccer. In my mind, smoking wasn't really changing me, especially not my health, at least not that I could see.

I have gradually become a more frequent smoker. I hate to say it, but yes I am in fact an addict. (This is why I prefer calling it a 'vice') For me, it does wonders for stressful times, although that's not a valid excuse. It's just an excuse.

A little over 10 years ago, my Dad came down with a pretty bad case of Bronchopneumonia. While respiratory issues tend to run in my dad's family (when I was younger I was always guaranteed to get strep throat twice a year & at times bronchitis) this specific instance changed my dad's health permanently. He now has severe asthma & always has to use inhalers and other breathing devices & constantly is taking an array of other medications. He has this constant cough, that makes him sound like he's choking, but it's because his lungs are so compromised that they're not getting in enough oxygen. He pretty much is internally drowning. He gets winded from just walking & the cold weather just makes it worse. He's had to go to the ER several times just get his O2 levels up. I'm pretty sure if he doesn't die from the stress of working for a major TV network for 40 years, he'll die because of this.

I know his health issues weren't solely caused from his smoking (allergies also run in the family and his are pretty moderate) but I'm not ignorant to realize that smoking hasn't contributed & greatly impacted the severity of them. You'd think that it would make me go through my apartment & immediately get rid anything relating to smoking. You'd think I'd be completely against smoking and had given it up years ago or possibly not even want to start ever. You'd think.

Quitting something is no easy task - especially when it's something you enjoy. I've tried several times, with patches, gum, medication. Most attempts were careless, weak and didn't really get me past a week smoke-free but my most recent attempt had been successful - 4 months I went without smoking. And I did miss it at times, but I had been successful in quitting for more than a week's time. I got my sense of smell back which I didn't know had really gone away to begin with. There were no more standing out in the cold in mid-December or running to the store late at night to get a pack and honestly I didn't miss that. I had survived not smoking for 4 months. But my well-known friend called stress slowly crept back into my life & I buckled. Just like a typical addict.

There isn't just 1 way to describe how smoking makes me feel anymore. I love it one minute and can hate it the next. It's become so second nature and you have no idea how much that bothers me. It bothers me that something so small & disposable can have such control over me at times. Lately I've been trying to tell myself how stupid that last sentence sounds and it shocks me how unfortunately real it is too. I've been doing better at cutting down (save for the occasional night out or a more recent stressful couple of weeks) and I know that's not as good as quitting... but who ever liked a quitter?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

beware the Ides of March

Holy Shit it's March already? When did that happen?!? I've been so distracted lately. What? You haven't been glued to the TV for the last 2 weeks watching endless hours of Olympic coverage of sports you didn't even know existed? Oh, well at least I can use the fact that the Northeast has turned into the North Pole in recent weeks or February is the shortest month of the year as excuses too... oh, that doesn't count either? Shit. I'm out of excuses. Seriously though, lately I've been a combination of a procrastinating space cadet/busy bee with a dash of karaoke rockstar in there.

Well, this month did fly by. People coming, going, changing, creating, laughing, reacting, crying, playing, loving. Here are the interesting things I learned/observed/discovered/felt over the course of the past month:

i've been slacking on my new year's goals. i probably sound like a broken record: "i started out SO STRONG! i don't know what happened!!"... actually i do know what happened - LIFE happened. every fucking day LIFE happened. i'm not going to give excuses about my lack of blog entries, my feeble attempts to get through reading 1 book in 2 months or even for the escalation in my smoking. Nope, no excuses. Because it, the craptastic life i try to lead, just happens. In more positive news, I have found that I am drinking more water & I have rediscovered my love for Yoga (which wasn't on my orginial list of goals & I had unconsciously neglected for several months). if i can give you one piece of advice - never doubt the power of yoga.
this is what i have to say about my goals: I'M WORKING ON IT!

winter needs to over now. I'm sorry was I not clear? i mean like RIGHT FUCKING NOW. no more cold wintry snow, rain or ice storms or temperatures that will make your appendages feel numb after 5 minutes of being outside. i'm sick of seeing white. Bring on that extra hour of daylight, all the endless colors beginning to reappear, opening day at Yankee Stadium, the bright warm sun not masked by clouds or rain or snow, growth and change and new starts. yeah i need all of that.

i find it somewhat ironic & also slightly alarming that my possibility of moving in the next few months is the sole thing that is helping me keep things together. (more on this in possible future blogs)

I've recently reconnected with the unpleasant experience of being nervous. Nervousness is in my top 5 of "I'd rather be mauled by a bear than feel this way" list - it's sandwiched right between between heartache & anger.

i believe because i haven't been home much recently, i think my cats are angry/pissed off/irritated with me. until i feed them or pet them at least.

i will never understand people who go to concerts, shows, games etc and leave early. it just boggles my mind that you would go out of your way to attend something and then not want to stay and enjoy it in its entirety. i understand there are emergencies & things of that sort, but if you just are leaving to leave, then why did you bother to come in the first place?

currently, as in right now, i have a LOT of things to do. i know because i wrote them down on my to do list yet i am doing none of them at this moment. i should get on that.