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My Night at Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever AKA Dreams Do Come True

This is sort of a Throwback Thursday post, since it happened last month but I was so amped up and busy that I just kind of blew past it, but because I want to preserve the memories, and I want you to know, and THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW, here it is, in full: My Night at Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever.

Sometime early in the semester, I was looking up something online and I saw that Ronnie Spector was playing a concert in Milwaukee sometime in November. I thought about going, but was like…I’ll probably buy the ticket and then something will come up and I will have wasted my money. But a few weeks ago, when I was feeling pretty down and out about my prelims and totally bummed by the election, I looked it up again, and realized that it would be on November 29, which would be after Thanksgiving but two days before prelims were due, and a) I would be in Madison, and b) I had nothing scheduled, so I did something I don’t normally do…bought tickets to the show, no regrets! It was only $52, and I’d need to drive to Milwaukee, but I got a floor seat and OMG I DON’T CARE I’M GOING TO RONNIE SPECTOR. I sat on my hands about it for a while, not telling anyone, and was hoping to finish my prelims over Thanksgiving and then have that be my reward. I ended up not finishing but getting pretty close, but I decided to reward myself anyway.

So, come November 29th, I go to teach, and then, I’m off to Milwaukee, to the Northern Lights Theatre at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. I was kind of nervous at first…I mean, this is a big deal, would I get to meet her? What would I do? What would I say? Also, would this place be weird? (I mean, it’s a casino I’d never been to before…) But anyway, I ended up getting there plenty early, and there was plentiful parking, and I headed inside, passing all the machines and bright flashy lights – those places really are mazes. But I was determined to get to that theatre.

Though the casino was full of smokers, the theatre itself was quite lovely. I was guided to my seat in Row F, given a $10 voucher which I didn’t use, and paid $3 for a Coke. The seating was around little tables, and I guess I got lucky, because my table mates were so much fun; like me, they were also teachers, and also like me, they weren’t drinking because they had to teach in the morning (well, two out of three, one of them had just retired). We quickly got acquainted and chatted up a storm while we waited for the concert to start. I was seated next to Harry, the school principal; next to him was the school guidance counselor, whose name was either Marilyn or Marlene; and their retired Spanish teacher, Evie. We didn’t get too much of a chance to talk because the lights came down…

And when they came up, three backup singers dressed as the Ronettes were onstage, as was the band, and they broke out into “Baby, I Love You.” At first, I thought it was just an opening act, but then, Ronnie Spector emerged in all of her black leather glory, and I actually did start crying a little. I mean…Ronnie Spector, the original bad girl of rock and roll, a living LEGEND, was on a stage just yards away from me. Marilyn and Evie giggled as Harry and I passed tissues back and forth through the first song, but then I composed myself. Interspersed with the songs was some lovely Ronnie banter and projections of interviews and TV appearances by the Ronettes in their heyday. She made a lot of funny jokes, and sang all the classics, with several tributes: one to her late sister Estelle (“How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?”), to the late Amy Winehouse (“Back to Black”), and something in honor of the Beatles, which I can’t remember at the moment.

Right when the show was really getting hot…it happened.

Bum, ba bum TSS…bum, ba bum, tss…

Yep, “Be My Baby.”

I was instantly up out of my seat, dancing like a fool, and singing along with the chorus, and thinking to myself, “holy cannoli, Jacob, you are actually listening to Ronnie Spector, singing ‘Be My Baby’ RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW LIVE. It will not get any better than this.”

Minimal crying occurred.

Then she had a costume change and launched into some Christmas tunes (after all, it was a Christmas party) and now a lot of audience members were up and dancing, not just me. And in the middle of her last song, she knelt down and shook hands with the people in the front row, and I was like…”now is your chance, Jacob, just do it…” so I impulsively ran down front, hoping not to be hauled off by security or anything, and squeezed in next to the stage, and I got to be the very last one to shake hands with Ronnie Spector. She even pointed to me and mouthed something like “I saw you dancing” as we shook hands (I think I might have blubbered something like “thank you, I love you”) and she gave me a thumbs-up before finishing the song and heading offstage. I will never forget that handshake…her hand was sort of soft, sort of leathery, but it was still warm from holding a mic and OH MY GOSH I WAS JUST LOST IN THAT MOMENT. The only thing that would’ve been better would have been to get a picture with her, or a hug, but her acknowledgement of my presence was a present in and of itself.

She might be 73 years old, but she’s still got that rock n’ roll. Two thumbs up; I would go see her again if I could.

When the lights came back up, I walked back over to our table, and walked to the exit with Harry, Marilyn and Evie, my new teacher-friends. We somehow managed to get some pictures with the backup singers, who bore incredible resemblances to the young Ronettes. There were a lot of people, so I didn’t manage to get a picture with just me and them, but I have one with all three of them, Harry in between the two who looked most like Estelle and Ronnie, and me standing next to the one who looked most like Nedra. I was hoping that Ronnie would come on out, but it was pretty clear that it was time to go as they whisked us out and closed the door behind us. I stood outside the theater and chatted with some of the other concertgoers about our experiences – I thought that I was pretty crazy for driving in from Madison, but there was a group who had driven in all the way from Indiana, just for this, which is dedication.

Anyways, since there didn’t seem to be any swag on sale, and it was getting late, I decided to exit the casino before I died of smoke inhalation, and headed to Rock Bottom Brewery for a quick snack before heading back to Madison, calling Hanna and my dad on the way, freaking out. Hanna was actually at a party or a gig or something, so I apologized for interrupting, and at first she didn’t register why I was freaking out, but when I told her it was the “Be My Baby” singer, she was like “ooooohhhh wow!”

And that is my story of seeing the original bad girl of rock ‘n roll.

And if you’re reading this, Ronnie…thank you for all the music, I had the time of my life. Next time, let’s dance together or at least get a picture, please.

Baby, I love you.

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Amazing Show, Kinda Crappy Title

Last night, I went to see the tour of Israel Story Live! That’s What She SaidIt was basically a live version of a podcast called Israel Story Live, that told five woman-based stories:

  • the story of Shavit, who became obsessed with documenting the lives of Israel’s female Parliament members
  • the story of Lizzy, who searched for her mother’s past and her biological father, and finding the answers in a childhood photo
  • the story of Mariam, a Bedouin woman who rebelled and went abroad only to come back to her home village and become an entrepreneur
  • the story of Yisca, whose journey to a new identity crossed genders, religions, and oceans
  • and the story of Ruth and Ramonda, wives of political bigwigs from opposing Israeli/Palestinian factions.

There was live music, video, dancers, storytellers, and more than a few technical difficulties, but on the whole, it was AMAZING. I’m running out of words to describe it.

I loved it so much that I bought a CD of the music group who played at the show and halfway home realized that I don’t have any type of CD player. Yep, that good.

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My First Post as a 29-Year-Old

Kind of felt apt to follow up the previous post with this title. So how are you?

Today was a busy day, if anything. I woke up at about 8, stayed in bed until 9. Took a shower, then treated myself to a birthday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, greens, biscuit, and ice coffee at Short Stack, then went to see a panel at the South Asia Conference at the Concourse. Then headed across campus to my office to meet up with Jenna to talk about APO stuff, and after that, to the Semi-Annual Library Book Sale where $16.50 got me a brand new pile for my apartment. Once home, I checked my blog stats, read some blog posts, replied to a bunch of emails, and watched some YouTube videos. Following that, I had planned to run a few errands but ended up only getting to Metcalfe’s for groceries. Had no time for gym, so I went over to Hanna’s for a dinner she was preparing for me.

And let me just say, I was not expecting this.

I get to Hanna’s place, there’s a ton of people there, and even more show up, until we’re roughly 20. 20 people! We ate out back in her sukkah, and then sang and danced around the campfire. Hanna played keyboard, with Edi on sax, Ken on guitar, and Jennifer on the drums. I sang along with Baobei, Esty, Gidon, Bonnie, Bobbie, Jessica, and Andrea, while Haruki watched from the side, and Mohamed, Roger, Judy, David, and Larry watched from the sukkah (I think that’s everyone!). Andrea cooked most of the dinner, which was fabulous: chicken and rice, edamame, lentils, and veggies. And for dessert, Hanna brought out not one but TWO birthday cakes, an orange-and-lemon cake made by Judy, and a tangy, zesty tangerine cake by la Andrea. Judy’s cake was moist and warm, while Andrea’s was juicier, with a little kick to it. After hanging around the remnants of the fire with Baobei, Haruki, Bobbie, Roger, Jennifer, and Raimund (who showed up out of the blue), it was time to go home.

So now I’m sitting on my couch at 11:30 PM on my 29th birthday, Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Jameson invited me out to Plan B, but I might just call it a night, since I have to be up tomorrow around 7 and my bed is covered in books.

Thank you to everyone who made this normally anxiety-inducing day into an amazing one for me.

And for the last time until 2017…

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

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Forgotten Treasures and Secret Ephemera from Memorial Library

Today, I was looking for some books in the library. While I was going through the stacks and the lists of call numbers, I looked at all the codes “PN”, “DS”, “U”, etc., and knew that they meant something, but I wasn’t sure what. So, I looked it up and it turns out that those funny little letters are a code from the Library of Congress.

Most LOC categories make sense; they’re a way of putting like things together, like books on environmental science with books on ecology, or Russian drama with Russian folktales. Some of the categories, however, seemed odd, either in their specificity or their bland subject matter. So, I decided to find my favorite ones and see what the library here at the University of Wisconsin had to offer me. I skipped the ones under N (art) and K (law) because those books are all in a different building, but I went through the rest of the list. For some of the call numbers, I went to the section and either found nothing, or looked at the books and was like “…oh, this actually could be valuable information for someone.” But there were plenty of odd books to be found all over.

Join me on this fun adventure.

First stop:

BJ2195. Telephone etiquette.

There were no books on the shelf under this call number, disappointingly, but the closest book of etiquette was Manners in Business by Elizabeth Gregg MacGibbon. Published in 1937, its table of contents include Getting Along with the Boss, Meeting the Public, Etiquette in Correspondence, Sex in Business, The Party Side of Business, After Office Hours, and Getting Ahead in Business. I really wonder what kind of businessman/businesswoman this was written for.

CC200-260. Bells, campanology, cowbells.

Yup. Bells. Just bells. There were actually a number of books on this shelf, including one aptly titled The Little Book of Bells. What caught my attention was Legends of the Bells by Ernest Morris. Literally, a bunch of folk tales about bells.

CT9999. Blank books for personal records, diaries, etc.

Why would you need a blank book in a library? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? There was only one item, a British Empire day planner from 1939. It was actually quite a lovely artifact, with a British Empire event for every day of the year. It was not written in, so there was not much to see there.

GV401-433. Physical education facilities. Sports facilities including gymnasiums, athletic fields, playgrounds, etc.

Here, I found American Playgrounds: Their Construction, Equipment, Maintenance, and Utility by Everett B. Mero (second edition! I wonder why they needed one…) Chapters included Playgrounds in Waste Places, Making Children Generally Useful, Simple Marching and Running, Interesting the Big Brothers, Fathers and Uncles, Sand Gardens for Little Children, and School Gardens. Shockingly enough, there were indeed several other books on the construction of playgrounds and play areas. Possible dissertation topic? I think so.

GV435-437. Physical measurements. Physical tests, etc.

With a lovely blue cover depicting ladies playing tennis and golf was Maryhelen Vannier‘s magnum opus, the immense book of Physical Activities for College Women. It was chock full of great info on how to do various things like sports, folk dances, and even surfing, but Chapter Two is probably one of the greatest chapters in the history of literature: Body Mechanics and Movement Fundamentals, with subsections on Body Standing, Walking, Stair Climbing, Standing Stationary, Running, Sitting, Lifting, Carrying, Pushing and Pulling, and my personal favorite, Getting Into and Out of A Car. I would now like to read to you from Page 26:

GETTING INTO AND OUT OF A CAR

This is easier to do in some makes of cars than others. It can be done gracefully when getting into most automobiles by remembering to:

  1. First sit on the seat, face to the outside.
  2. Swing one foot in and forward, then the next.
  3. Swing the body around, facing forward with the second leg movement, sit erect, keep shoulders balanced, and your rear far back in the seat.
  4. In getting out of the car, reverse order of actions.

I am totally not making this up. I even have photographic evidence that this was written. In a book. And published. In 1969.

HQ800. Single people.

Yes, an entire call number devoted to the art of being single. There were a lot of self-help titles here, but what really jumped out at me was Why Are You Single? Well, that’s a brash question to ask, and very personal of you too, book. Why Are You Single? was written in 1949. It has twelve authors, and was compiled by Hilda Holland, who probably had a very sad life. Every chapter and sub-chapter title is a complete winner, but a handful of my favorite sub-sections are: Advice for the Working Girl, The Honeymoon, How to Overcome Momism, Marriage as Defense, Fitness for Wedlock, It’s Never Too Late, Ways Out of a Trap, and Why Get Married? Obviously, these people have a lot of opinions.

PM9999. Secret languages.

When I came to this section, I actually jumped into the stacks Mission: Impossible style, for fear someone would see me and get suspicious. Sadly, there were only two books on the shelf. One was in Italian, and one was The Complete Enochian Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Angelic Language by Donald C. Laycock. Yep, a book about the language of angels. Huh. I guess the rest of the books will remain a secret.

SH388-391. Algae cultures.

I was disappointed not to find anything under SH393 – I really wanted to see the latest literature on sea grasses – but Jose Rodolfo Lim gifted us with Farming the Ocean. 101 ways to use seaweed in your everyday life. Riveting.

TS2301. Toys.

Mostly a how-to section. There was a thick book on the history of the top, but How To Make Foreign Dolls and Their Costumes by Julienne Hallen is a healthy dose of 1950s handicrafts. Especially exciting is the section on how to make dolls for your dolls. Dolls for your dolls. Dollception.

TT980-999. Laundry work.

There’s a history of everything, including how to do one’s laundry. Household Textiles and Laundry Work by Durga Deulkar (also a second edition!) dishes you the dirt on detergents, laundry equipment, and vessels.

And that’s how I spent two hours sending myself on a library scavenger hunt.

In other news, I’ve gotten 100+ views for three days straight, so welcome all readers new and old. Which gives me an idea -of which one of these books would you like me to legitimately check out, read, and write a review? Leave your title of choice in the comments, and I’ll read and review it so you don’t have to! Here’s what’s on the table.

  •  Manners in Business by Elizabeth Gregg MacGibbon
  • Legends of the Bells by Ernest Morris
  • American Playgrounds: Their Construction, Equipment, Maintenance, and Utility by Everett B. Mero
  • Physical Activities for College Women by Maryhelen Vannier
  • Why Are You Single? by Hilda Holland
  • Farming the Ocean by Jose Rodolfo Lim
  • How To Make Foreign Dolls and Their Costumes by Julienne Hallen
  • Household Textiles and Laundry Work by Durga Deulkar 

Choose wisely, friends!

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A Free Coffee and An Update on Yesterday’s Goals

So, today, I went to my favorite Madison-area Starbucks, the one on University and North Blackhawk. Since they were out of cold brew, I decided to get an iced East Timor Peaberry. About halfway through it, I realized that it didn’t taste so great. I told the barista that it didn’t taste quite right, and they said that it was towards the end of their supply. They asked me if I wanted it remade, but I just asked for a regular iced coffee instead.

While I was sipping the replacement iced coffee and writing letters 9 and 10 of my 16 Penpals for 2016, one of the head baristas came over to me with a gift card, saying: “you come here often, you appreciate good coffee, and you took a downgrade from your Reserve coffee to a regular iced coffee.” I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted I take a $4 gift card.

So now I have a Starbucks gift card.

I had a somewhat productive day, with some of my goals accomplished, or started on, from my list:

  • Finished and returned 1 library book from the old stack, and 1 from the newer stack.
  • Exercised.
  • Wrote to 6 new blog friends.
  • Got 101 views on yesterday’s post.

Hey, it’s a start.

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A Meditation on Malfoy

So, I’m not the most humongous Harry Potter fan out there, but I do like it, and now I like it even more after my discovery last night of A Very Potter Musical.

I had just completed the 750-piece puzzle I bought last week that actually turned out to be a 748-piece puzzle because two pieces seem to be missing. While I was looking around for them, and scrolling through some YouTube links, I came across “Going Back to Hogwarts,” the opening number from the show. I played it, expecting it to be subpar, but it was surprisingly catchy, almost Billy Joel-like in its rhythm and lyrics. It’s also really funny; Cho Chang has a Southern accent, and quite obviously from the voice, Draco Malfoy was sung by a female actor.

Then, today, I looked for more on YouTube and sure enough, StarKid Productions uploaded it, in about twenty parts.

And I watched them all.

And it was totally awesome.

All the actors really shone. I actually couldn’t tell that Harry Potter was played by Darren Criss, who I find annoying in real life, but not bad as an unrecognizable Harry. The actors playing Ron, Ginny, and Snape kind of camped it up a bit, but I really liked Voldemort, Dumbledore, Hermione, and most surprisingly…Draco Malfoy.

I’m not the type of person who jumps at the evil characters. In fact, quite the opposite; I’ve always felt oddly drawn to Gryffindor, even though it’s kind of turned into the House for overachieving losers. Slytherin’s where all the cool kids are, and despite a lot of my Harry Potter-loving friends singing the praises of that house, I guess I’m just such a fan of playing by the rules that Gryffindor seems to be the house for me. Many who read the books found Harry Potter to be annoying, but I rooted for him most of the time, and definitely against the Slytherins, because when you have that much power, why waste your time being mean and petty when there are bigger fish to fry? Anyway, Draco Malfoy always seemed to me like a Wizard version of Harry’s cousin Dudley Dursley; rich, spoiled, overweight, and generally a nuisance, even though he seemed to redeem himself in the later books.

But in AVPM, Malfoy is totally the opposite.

Whereas most of the characters are played straight, brilliant actress Lauren Lopez accentuates all the quirks of Malfoy from the books and stretches them to the max, whether she’s drawing out words in a posh accent or seemingly forgetting how to walk and rolling around the stage for no apparent reason. Combined with the bad wig, the glazed expression, and the bitchy scowl, this interpretation of Draco Malfoy makes him turn from evil to downright adorable.

See for yourself:

And that’s how I spent the majority of this beautiful day in May.

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Why Our Great-Grandchildren Might Have Claws Instead of Hands

What did we ever do before smart phones?

I feel like the real question here is, what the heck are we doing after smart phones?

One of my friends linked me to this article today via Facebook, and I think that this is brilliant.

Photographer Eric Pickersgill chose just this as his subject matter for his latest photographic piece. This series depicts scenes from everyday life – children playing, a bridal party – only with smart phones digitally erased. The resulting series looks, for the most part, silly. The couple shown in the above photo look like anything but a romantic duo; they’ve transformed themselves into a set of human bookends in some sort of Grecian-urn pose.