But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant 2 last

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Sometime in the late 1980s, on a weekend evening when my 10-year-old ass should’ve been in bed, I came downstairs and my dad was sitting in the living room watching Purple Rain. I don’t think my mom was there because if she had been she probably (and rightfully) wouldn’t have let me sit down to watch, but I don’t think I asked permission.

The movie was at the scene where The Kid is playing out his revenge-fantasy from “Darling Nikki” on stage and Apollonia is embarrassed and seething next to Morris Day. I remember this because I was thinking that it was nice seeing a parallel universe where my afro-curly hair was still hip, and also that I had never seen anything so weird in my entire life. I’m pretty sure my dad fast-forwarded through just about the rest of the movie, but I saw the clip again years later when the internet became a thing and I smiled so big.

My dad and his vinyl collection are the reasons I found such love and fulfillment in music, and I have been so grateful looking back at that moment the last couple of days. He led me to Prince. I’ve seen Purple Rain about every year since then, and I can still tell whether I’m going to like someone if I make a joke about purifying oneself in Lake Minnetonka and they get it not because of Dave Chappelle, but because they’ve seen Prince’s marginal acting.

Prince was “getting it” for me. He was weird, deviant, and compensated for his shyness with attitude, all of which describes me far more than I’d ever like to admit. He was from Minneapolis for chrissakes, and he was the biggest pop star I could imagine. If he made it through life without imploding on his teenage self — have you seen an 21-year-old Prince talk to Dick Clark?! or his 1980 appearance in leopard-print bikini bottoms on Midnight Special?! — I had hope that I could make it, too.

I knew I had reached pure Prince awakening when I broke up with a long-time boyfriend with the line “I never meant to cause you any sorrow.” He either didn’t get the reference or didn’t care to respond because, ya know, I was breaking up with him, but I felt better knowing that the breakup was Prince-approved.

Back in 2012, I moved from Pennsylvania to Nevada and drove the northern route up past Chicago and into Wisconsin and Minnesota. I drove all the way up through Minneapolis that day, hours out of my way and further into mosquito territory than was comfortable. I drove there because Prince (and my dad’s vinyl) taught me about the Minneapolis Sound. I wanted to see that place. I couldn’t even get out of the car when I drove by First Ave because I had two dogs with me and two states to cross before the end of the day, but I drove through with my windows down and I listened carefully to try to hear what Prince heard. I’m glad I did.

I’ll miss you, Prince, with your intellect and savoir-faire (sort of). No one in the whole universe will ever compare. Here’s to 57 years of His Royal Badness.

Those old discs made of sound

My husband and I own approximately 2,000 CDs. You know, those shiny round discs we previously used to listen to music in the 1990s. The ones we slipped into our Discman players at the bus stop.
You know the ones.

All the damn CDs
Lucy is helping.

The discs accumulated over the 10 years we both worked as music journalists, back when labels had money to mail out endless bubble packs of crappy mainstream pop to anyone with a byline in a Kinko-printed zine.  All 2,000 of these babies have been decorating wall space ever since. They really are beautiful, made up of bold colors and carefully chosen designs. They have been my favorite decoration in my office wherever we’ve lived.

But over time they’ve become burdensome. That many discs take up a lot of space and we’ve moved them from California to Colorado (two houses) to Pennsylvania to Nevada (two houses) to Washington. That’s seven moves. That’s a lot of effort to keep a collection intact.

And guess what? I haven’t listened to one of these discs in close to seven years.

So basically we’ve been carting what equates to inconvenient art around for 10 years for no reason. And I’ve had enough. This week I am going through all of it and giving away. (Summer break!) My dad likes old tech so he’s getting the loot. (Sorry, mom.) And it’s been so wonderful to go through it all and realize how little I care about 99 percent of this shit.

WHY DO I HAVE A BACKSTREET BOYS ALBUM?!

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Backstreet’s back.

*Not anymore I don’t.

There are a few things we’re keeping. But it’s a complicated factorial to decide what is worthy:

1) If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow (or, you know, Spotify stopped functioning), would we really miss this music? Would it make a positive difference in our lives if we could listen to it. If the answer is yes, then it stays. There are not many of these, believe me.

2) If it has sentimental meaning, it stays. This is Fiona Apple (October 2005 pile: “I am an extraordinary machine, goddamn it!”), The White Stripes’ “De Stijl” (September 2001 pile: “Why yes, I do want to be a music journalist. Interview Jack White for my first interview? Sure!”, or Kylie Minogue’s “Fever” (October 2001 pile: Hell yeah we danced to this record in the offices of The Vista), or the like. This is also a small pile, but it’s not going anywhere.

3) If the record has great cover art, it stays. We’re going to make a single shelf display of all our favorite cover art and we want our favorites up there. This is Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights,” REM’s “Monster,” or Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”

That’s it, though. That’s only a handful of discs that are staying and I’m packing the rest of them up in boxes to ship off to dad in San Diego next week. It feels weird and a bit painful. But when the shelves are this dusty, and the discs are this cold, it’s time to let go. Time to move forward to the future. Maybe a music blog is on the horizon, but in the meantime, it feels good to clean house.

But no one, and I mean NO ONE, is getting their damn paws on my vinyl.

Where I once was

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This post is a version of an email I just sent to my husband, but it felt so big to me today, I thought I would jot it all down.

I was reading this letter from Sheryl Sandberg to her husband today in my office with tears just streaming down my face. It felt like all the things from seven years ago that I felt and did and said after my brother killed himself. And you know what? I didn’t feel sad when I was reading it because she was sad or that she lost her husband or that I lost my brother, although all those things are sad. I felt sad because I felt like I’d lost touch with THAT me, the me who knew that everything was ephemeral and the me who was cheek to cheek with the greater feeling of making life matter because I had to since Garrett wasn’t here. I felt so weird reading that because it made me feel like I’d misplaced my grief, as though I’d failed at remembering how important the big picture is after someone dies.

I’ll always feel like something is missing. I say it all the time and postulate whether it’s my keys that I’ve misplaced or my phone I’ve dumped in the fridge or the stack of papers I was supposed to bring to work, but it’s never those things. He’s always going to be missing and that’s never going to change, but I think sometimes I miss my grief. As though it’s a person and that I should be hanging on a little tighter to it because it’s the last of him that exists on earth. It never goes away, but it doesn’t live in the same state anymore after this many years. Which is probably a good thing. Its proximity just felt like an oddly fitted shoe today after reading Sandberg’s letter.

About 20 minutes ago I caught myself thinking about another harebrained idea and eventually I was knee-deep in googling barn kits because why shouldn’t we buy a plot of land and erect a barn and open our hofbrauhaus from scratch? Life is short. We best get to it.

Top five stories I’ve ever worked on

UnknownEvery quarter I give my new classes one 15-minute chance to ask anything they want about me, my career, my life, or whatever they want, and I will answer honestly. The questions I get vary from the pets I have to my favorite weekend hobbies, but the question I get most often is, “What is your favorite story you’ve worked on?” or some variation. I have trouble with this for the same reason that Rob Gordon/Rob Fleming has trouble naming a favorite album in the film, High Fidelity: that’s what ever-changing, highly fraught top-five lists are for. So here it is, a post I will edit 8,000 times, the top five stories I ever worked on, in ascending order:

5. A question of identity: We went to hours of court hearings about the name change to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the city sued the team) and started talking to the community about what mattered to them. The story that happened was a team effort and resulted in a front page at the Register.

4. I once interviewed the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and we talked for a long time. Most of it didn’t make it into the short piece that ran in San Diego CityBeat, but he made me a fan. I went to their show afterwards, in a packed room at The Casbah in San Diego with 100 other people, and I couldn’t help but think they would be playing bigger rooms after that. I was right.

3. Did you know squirrel fishing is a thing? It’s a thing. No animals were harmed in the making of this journalism.

2. Mental health care is an issue that matters to me. When I moved to a small town in Nevada and started working on the staff of the paper there I was appalled that the closest psychiatrist office was four hours away. I dig some digging and after the piece ran there were three changes that happened: 1) the state legislature started talking about rural mental health care access as a problem, 2) the local hospital hired a psychiatrist, and 3) the community started to talk about health care access as an important issue.

1. Former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth is out of his mind on a usual day, but on the day that I interviewed him he had just shot an intruder in his home and he couldn’t wait to tell me all about it, how cougars love him, and how he wanted low fat meth. I think I was disoriented by the bluster and the piece was just ok, but the interview was the best I ever had.

And that’s why you always leave a note

f47db4327d68f7bc38f0feab94c9632177ff2ecf4a31ee6836c1f86096aecc0aI’ve always used social media for thoughts, rants, explanations, and the like, but this is the spot where I post them in the long form. Want a five-page explanation of why High Fidelity is the best movie in history? It’s coming, right here, I promise. This blog is named after a bit in Arrested Development in which the Bluth family patriarch is constantly trying to teach lessons, one of which ends up being that children should always leave a note if you use up all the milk. The lessons come off heavy handed, but are well-meaning. I hope I can do better than that obviously, but this space is still a reminder (or a lesson?) that sometimes I can’t explore complicated things in 140 characters. And that we all need a healthy sense of humor.