Wednesday, February 15, 2012

21 random things I love

Per the topic, these are all random, goes-without-saying things (in no particular order) that I love.  Though it goes without saying, I must mention that I will assume that those who know me know that inherently, my family, friends, dogs, and Widespread Panic are at the top of this list.  Because they are not random, however, they are not on this list.

  1. Intervention and Hoarders (reality TV shows on A&E):  I like Intervention a whole lot more than Hoarders, but I think it's safe to say that a large part of me enjoys these shows because watching these poor people who are in various stages of awfulness in their lives make me feel better about my own.  Is that bad!?
  2. 80's hits:  I will always have a special place in my heart for the music hits of the 80s.  My girlfriends and I had many a dance routine to everything from Bobby Brown to Debbie Gibson.  Some of my greatest memories come flooding back to me when I hear such a song from my past and can recall every word to most songs from the 80s.
  3. Quotes:  I try to read at least one new (new-to-me) quote a day.  And some days, I even write them on the wipe-off board at work to share the wisdom or humor that is worthy of repeating.
  4. Fake tattoos:  Though I have a few real tats, I really love wearing a fake tattoo that is exceptionally large or noticeable - especially when I'm going to WP shows, music festivals, etc.  The great things about them is that they aren't a permanent mark but they are a great expression of yourself.  They give you that little surge of rockstar-feeling, and I would wear one every day if I could.
  5. Helping people:  Whether it be volunteering for a worthy cause or simply paying a stranger a nice compliment, I honestly get pleasure from putting a smile on someone's face.  You never know what kind of day a person is having, what thoughts are crossing their mind, or what terrible fate may await them in their near future.  Sometimes something as simple as kind words in an elevator can change a person's day and remind them that they are important.
  6. Toe socks:  yes, the silly ones that are basically gloves for your feet.  While they take some getting used to, I thoroughly enjoy wearing them - especially because they allow me to wear my Chacos (sandals) even when it's cold outside.
  7. Fall season:  while I like summer and winter, I LOVE the fall and the spring.  Basically, I love the milder seasons.  Extreme heat and extreme cold get old fast, but unfortunately, those extreme seasons seem to last longer every year.
  8. In accordance with #7, I simply adore camping.  Whether it's light-weight backpack camping or full-on-bring-all-the-amenities camping, I love to be in the woods, surrounded by nature and hearing the sounds of wildlife and the trees blowing in the wind.  The icing on the cake - the crackle of a campfire.  Just talking/writing about it makes me want to go now!
  9. DVR:  I despise commercials, so I have officially eliminated them from my life through the use of a DVR.  Aside from the obvious of not having to be at home at a particular time to catch your favorite show, it's absolutely great to be able to hit the fast-forward button when that annoying Aflac duck invades my nightly news.
  10. Cups with lids/straws:  I remember as an early elementary age student, I loved to still drink from "sippy cups."  There was just something about being able to lay in bed with your cup turned sideways/upside down without spilling and being able to drink from a 'nozzle.'  Now, as an adult, I am in love with my Tervis Tumbler/s, complete with lid and straw.  I can't explain the pleasure I get from it, but I can just say that it makes me happy.  That's why I have over 8 Tervis Tumblers, I suppose.
  11. My car:  I have a 2006 green Subaru Outback wagon that I got in mid-2005.  It has over 125,000 miles on it, but I still love it just as much (if not more) than I did when I first got it.  The beauty of a wagon is that it has the perks of an SUV (extra storage space, seats fold down for the doggies) but it gets the gas mileage of a car.  Plus, my model has a sunroof that is half the length of my car.  I can't imagine ever having another car (and I plan to drive this one until it dies), but if I do have another car, it will either be a new Outback or another wagon (Volvo Cross-Country, if I'm lucky).
  12. People who stand up for what they believe in.  Even if it is something that I don't agree with, I have respect for people who aren't afraid to support what they believe - especially when they aren't just "following the crowd".
  13. Hammocks:  I love the old school rope knit hammocks (my mom has a really great one in her huge backyard overlooking the lake that is her backyard), but I was recently gifted with an ENO hammock (double nest, to be exact) and it is absolutely wonderful.  So far, I've only used it on my recent trip to Mexico, but it is outstandingly durable and you can pretty much always find a place to put it up.  I plan on doing some hammock-camping in the upcoming spring and my ENO hammock will be something that remains in my car so that I always have the option to put it up and hang out, read a book, or take a nap wherever I go.
  14. Water:  hot, cold, mild.  Drinking, swimming, bathing.  I love it all.  It makes sense that my sign (Scorpio) is a water sign.  My wish when I die is to have my ashes spread in Greers Ferry Lake, as I grew up on that lake and have many great memories (as well as our family having a current house on that lake) there.
  15. Trashy humor:  I have always had a love for humor (dark, dry, you name it), but I have in the last few years developed an intense appreciation for humor that is borderline (if not over-the-line) offensive.  As long as it is not racist or judgmental to a specific group of people, I'm willing to attempt a laugh.
  16. I love to laugh.  Giggling is good, but the kind of laughing that you just can't stop, the kind that causes your face to hurt from laughing so hard, the kind that makes others laugh even when they don't know what you're laughing at - it's good stuff.  Contagious.
  17. Meeting new people.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great group of friends - many of whom I've been friends with since childhood.  But I think you can never have too many friends.  My lifestyle (specifically traveling to see Widespread Panic) has opened up a world of opportunities to meet new and different people from all over the world.  I can (and have) make conversation with a stranger in a bathroom line and end up being friends with the person because we discovered we had a lot in common.
  18. The feeling I get at around 5:10 on a Friday afternoon.  There is nothing better to me than walking out of the office knowing that I have nothing to do (or just as good, something fun going on that weekend) until Monday.  The cycle of feelings changes throughout the weekend, but at the very end of the workday on Friday, the amount of weekend-time is at an all time high and the possibilities for the weekend are endless.  I live for Fridays.
  19. Being appreciated and showing appreciation.  This tends to make me think primarily of work.  I currently work in a thankless job, and while I don't perform my job duties for recognition or even for thank-yous, it is especially nice to hear from time to time that there is someone out there who appreciates the hard work that I put into my job.  I try to remember the same thing and show appreciation to those who do things that may go unnoticed.  Appreciation goes a long way (and that's a two-way street).
  20. The excitement that my dogs exhibit when I get home from work.  While much of their excitement is directly related to the fact that the know they're about to get food and treats, I like to believe that they are also simply excited that I am home and they are glad to see me.  The love of my dogs is such a wonderful, no-strings-attached, exciting love that it keeps me going at times when I feel like nothing I do is right or appreciated (see #19).  Every single day when I pull into my driveway, I can count on - without a doubt - Moby being in the front bedroom of my house, chin on the windowsill, awaiting my return.  And although he knows it's me, he barks at the front door until I've unlocked the door and made my entrance.  What a great feeling of acceptance.
  21. Singing.  Though I may not have a great singing voice, I've always been a song-lyrics-fanatic and I love to express myself through singing.  Specifically when alone in my car or in the shower.  I have to refrain myself from singing while at work when indulging myself in loud music at my desk.  I know that I think I sound better than I actually do, so I'm doing the world a favor by keeping my singing to myself.  But I'm also doing myself a favor by singing my heart out whenever I can - because it makes me a happy (and a much more tolerable) person.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Panic en la Playa: What a dream!!!

June 21, 2011 - I received confirmation of successfully obtaining a room/entry for me, my sister, and my brother-in-law that we would be attending the first ever Panic en la Playa.  This confirmation came just a few days before I departed for a 3 night Panic run at Red Rocks, and I was so excited about it.  It seemed so far away, but I had plenty of Panic activities planned for 2011 to keep my mind off of how far away February was.  I knew that I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime for a legendary experience.  

Fast forward to January 2012.  The time had finally come.  I thought that if it was possible to die from excitement, that I was on my death bed.  :)  I've been to Cancun/Playa area on several occasions and even been to all inclusive resorts, so I knew what a grand experience that is.  However, my mind simply could not 'compute' the thought of a 4-night Panic run combined with an all-inclusive resort vacation in Cancun!  

Between the time I booked Panic en la Playa, the band announced that they would be doing a 4-venue acoustic Wood Tour that would sandwich the Mexico run.  Having started my Panic career in 1997, I was always intrigued by the Sit & Ski tour, an acoustic tour that the band did in 1996.  I'd heard the shows on tape (yes, on tape - back then, anyway) but aside from seeing the boys do a semi-acoustic first set on New Year's shows, I'd never experienced a fully acoustic Panic show.  I had to go - or at least try.

As with most things Panic these days, there were a LOT of people who wanted to go to the Wood shows.  I decided to try for tickets to the Atlanta shows and if fate would have it that I would get tickets, then I would be there.  It just so happened that the Atlanta shows were the weekend before the Monday that I already had my flight booked to head to Mexico a day before the shows.  Fate is a fabulous lady.  I got 2 tickets for Friday and Saturday (via the phone, no less).  I was more-than-pleasantly surprised when my best friend, Jennibette, said that she would like to go with me, as lately many of my closest Panic travel buddies have been busy with families, etc - which has resulted in me "flying solo" to see the boys.  While I have no problems with doing solo Panic shows, it's always better to have your loved ones by your side.  I was absolutely thrilled that JB was going to the ATL with me!  There will be a separate blog about the Atlanta Wood shows, but I couldn't write about the Playa trip without mentioning the "appetizer" of Atlanta Wood leading to the "entree" of Panic en la Playa.  Wanna see pictures of my ATL experience, go here.

After 2 nights of awesome, better-than-I-expected acoustic Panic in Atlanta, we flew back to Little Rock and I had a night at home to switch gears, luggage, and haul ass to Mexico.  I am so glad that I went to Atlanta - it was the perfect precursor to Playa Panic.  And while I loved the acoustic shows, I was ready for some plugged-in-Panic.  Some loud as hell electric ringing in my ears Panic.

Since I went a day early (ahead of my sister and her husband), I was able to meet several new friends and have a nice evening with a great dinner and tropical drinks on the beach.  I was nice and rested the next day, which was when the majority of the crowd arrived.........and show #1.

The mass of fans brought with them a surge of excitement and the reality (for me) that this was really happening.  As I waited on Brooke and Jay to arrive, I sat for about 30 minutes on the beach just staring at the stage that was set up.  It was so surreal, and just too good to be true.  In fact, there were so many things on this trip that seemed too good to be true that it still feels like a dream.

I won't do a daily blow-by-blow writeup of everything we did, but I will say that there is not a single thing/detail that I would change about this trip to make it better - because it could not have possibly been any better.  Here are a few reasons why this dream trip was absolutely the most fun, awesome, ridiculous, epic week of my life.

  • Upgrade to first class going to and from Cancun (a little unexpected bonus that makes flying so much more tolerable)
  • Oceanfront room that was a 1 minute walk from the stage, including a jacuzzi tub on the balcony overlooking the ocean
  • Having an awesome room to myself for the entire week, as my 'guest' stayed in the room with his wife and her friend
  • A resort which had several restaurant options with great food - all at no cost 
  • Free drinks all.week.long................have I mentioned that I LOVE all inclusive resorts?
  • A resort that was full to capacity - with like-minded people who were all there because we love Widespread Panic ('love' is an understatement)
  • Meeting people from all over the world (yes, world - Go Team JAPANic!), many who I know will be friends for years to come
In addition to the overall experience, there are some highlights of the FOUR SHOWS that I have to acknowledge, in no particular order:
  • Every single night, the band was having fun.  Not that they don't always have fun on stage, but you could tell how much they were all enjoying themselves.  I would get cracked up watching Dave and Jimmy jesting with each other.
  • Though it wasn't my first, I've been chasing Vampire Blues for almost 2 years.  It's one of my favorites and it's been on my wish list for a while.  It was so good.
  • The return of old Visiting Day - electric:  I got to hear the "old school" Visiting Day in Atlanta acoustic-style, but I thought it was just because they were playing it acoustic.  The crowd went wild when they played VD the original way, and though I like the new way too, I immensely enjoyed the throwback.  I think Jojo did too because he was preachin' it.  Maybe they'll keep it up!?
  • Many Rivers to Cross:  they played this Jimmy Cliff song in Atlanta - another one that I thought would be a one-timer.  This was the first song of the encore on the last night, and I cried like a baby.  JB's voice is perfect for this song.
  • Night 2 in general
    • I'm not usually one to fight the crowd and make the commitment necessary to be a rail rocker.  However, we got down to the stage early enough that there was rail space directly in front of Jimmy and planned on hanging there for a few songs then moving back.  We stayed there all night, and I loved it.  Dave was really showing out that night and I had a front row viewing of it.  
    • Sharon, Tortured Artist > Spoonful > Sleepy Monkey > Kinky Reggae > Sleepy Monkey > Stop-Go > Disco
    • Did I mention Kinky Reggae?  JB has rapped it before during Sleepy Monkey, but never played the full song.  It was stellar!
    • Protein Drink > Sewing Machine - they always rock this song out, but on this night, it was especially intense.  Jimmy nailed it and I headbanged for 10 minutes. :)
  • Ballad of John and Oko; this was played first time ever at one of the DC Wood shows, but I figured it was a one time thing.  They opened with it on night 3.  Awesome.
  • Bust it Big.......twice (night 1 and night 4).  I've always loved this song, but it's become even more special to me since finding out that I was going to Mexico.  Many people complain that they play it too much.  I can't get enough of it.
  • Lawyers, Guns, and Money to end the last set of the final night.  They turned that place out during the song and the shit hit the fan!  
  • The final song of the entire run - Postcard.  One of my all time favorites, and perfectly appropriate.
Cloud 9 Adventures definitely knows how to throw a "party."  Mad props to them for pulling off an event that will go down in history.  I know that coordinating such an event with so many people is not an easy task.  They nailed it, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  Here's hoping that Panic en la Playa will be an annual event.  It was absolutely a priceless event.

The best part of it all?  "Doing" Panic en la Playa with my sister/best friend.  

Here are a few pics from the trip.  To view the entire album, go here.

I love to wear fake tats to shows, so it was mandatory that I created my own for this event.  I made enough to share with about 150 people, and it was awesome seeing people wearing them around the resort.

The lights were amazing all week!

The view from my room - chillin' in my new ENO hammock

Me, all smiles on the beach

My crew

The very talented Valentine Cranford exhibits her creativity on the beach.


My family - Night 4

Me and my sister/best friend