Monday, August 25, 2008

In Rod We Trust

I don’t want to make you kids jealous or anything, but guess who spent her Sunday evening kickin’ it in the VIP section at the Rod Stewart concert at Nissan Pavilion last night. Awww yeah. How ya like that, haters?

Admittedly, I wouldn’t have bought tickets, VIP or otherwise, to a Rod Stewart show had there not been some mitigating factors. Like my brother Bob said when I told him where I was going, it’s okay for a late-twentysomething to own up to enjoying some Rod Stewart, especially some of the older stuff. It gets a little more questionable when you actually buy a CD. You’d happily listen to it on the radio in the car by yourself, and maybe even sing along, but if there are other people in the car, you’d probably keep scanning the dial and pretend you didn’t hear it. It bears mentioning that Bob and I are painfully self-conscious, and a touch neurotic.

Anyway, we wound up in Bristow, VA that night because our buddy Shwa somehow managed to get himself booked as the live entertainment in the VIP section before the show, and upon announcing this to Mark, I found out that my beloved S.O. is more of a Rod Stewart enthusiast than I thought. It’s hard to say what packed more appeal — Shwa, Rod, or the surprisingly low lawn seat prices and the promise that Shwa could “pull some strings” to get us into the VIP section — but the combination thereof was enough for us to get tickets, and off we went.

I’m confidant as many strings were pulled as possible, but we still had to wait an hour outside the main gates with the Rod tailgaters (I kid you not — there were RVs and barbecues and a lot of elastic waist jeans in that parking lot), and talk our way into the VIP grounds since homedude’s set had already started. It was a little awkward (“We’re here with Shwa.” “What?” “Shwa.” “Gesundheit.” “Riiiiight…” ) but we discovered that if you’re adamant enough that the guy currently singing onstage definitely has your tickets and would happily give them to you if he weren’t — darn the luck — already performing, they’ll eventually let you in.

Truth be told, the VIP section at Nissan Pavilion didn’t exactly live up to my wildest backstage dreams, which included extravagances like free chicken fingers and laminated passes. There were chicken fingers, sure, but you had to pay the usual exorbitant arena concession stand prices for them, and instead of a pass, you got a little paper wristband that said “VIP” on it. The whole setup was kind of behind the stage, so eventually you’d have to leave the area for your seats to see the show. But you do get to sit in nice wrought-iron chairs on a lovely patio and watch the Olympics or whatever happens to be on stage at the moment on closed-circuit TV while you play Connect Four. Flossy, flossy.

There were about a half dozen of us there specifically to see Shwa and the estimable Jim “the Brit” Beardow do their set, which went over well with the rather sizable cougar demographic in attendance, some of who could be heard at the snack shack wondering if the performers were actually old enough to know who Rod Stewart is. Some of them must have been really curious, because a few waylaid young Shwa at the merch table for what seemed like a fairly long time. I think they really liked his intonation.

Eventually the party moved out to the lawn. It was a perfect night for an outdoor show, and all smart-ass commentary aside, it was a fun show to watch. Say what you will, Rod knows his audience, and prances about pretty spryly for an old dude. He shook his little tush to the ladies’ delight, and accepted flowers from the audience with cheesy lines like “I’ll put these in a vase in my lonely hotel room,” which sent many a menopausal heart a-twitter. He played only his hits, and a few covers, which we all knew the words to and unabashedly sang along. He had surprising number of costume changes (or as Jim maybe more accurately called them, “oxygen breaks”), during which his band played things like the B-52’s “Love Shack.” It was like a massive bar mitzvah reception, complete with drunken aunties. I half expected us all to do the hora at any minute.

We skipped out at the encore just at the start of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (ummm…we’ll get back to you on that one, Rod), and scattered to our respective vehicles. In a tour de force of hauling ass, Mark and I managed to be one of the first cars to squeal out of the parking lot, thus ending our evening as VIP big shots. Or whatever.

For those of you who missed out, here are a few pictures from the VIP section. Viewer discretion is advised. It was one crazy scene back there.

Don't be hatin' on the wristband.

Shwa and Jim rockin' out.

Gettin' wild with Connect Four.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Some people are born with preternatural physical or artistic abilities, and strive to be the best in their class through years of strenuous training, pre-dawn practices, and insane ambition to become the best in their field.

Then there are the spazzes like me who suck at sports and utterly lack grace or coordination of any kind, but can kick major ass at Trivial Pursuit. It’s all I’ve got, really. I was never any kind of athlete, and won’t be going on American Idol anytime soon (though one time I got 100% on an Oasis song in Rock Band – it was totally killer), but I can remember random crap better than just about anyone else I know. Which really only is useful for trying out for game shows. Having been denied glory once on Jeopardy, last week I decided to take the day off work and drive to lovely Arundel Mills mall to try out for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

This was an open audition, which meant I had to get out of bed at 4:30 am, and drive up the BW Parkway to line up with about 500 other yahoos at – of all places – Medieval Times restaurant. Do you know about these? It’s a big, cheesy, castle-y looking thing attached to the mall, or more precisely, Burlington Coat Factory. There’s a big arena where community theater actors dress up like knights and joust each other, and serving wenches bring you flagons of mead, and all the while they try to separate you from your money by selling you horrible sparkly hats for $20 that say things like “Birthday Princess.” Happily, such things were not going on at 5am, as that would have been a bit too much sensory overload, but they were nice enough to run a promotional video ad nauseum and hand out discount coupons while we lined up in a dungeon-y looking setting. Very weird.

But, anyway, Millionaire. They were auditioning for both the regular show and a special movie show, so I had been preparing for the past week by skimming through a movie trivia book, which I also did in line. This is what we like to call “psyching out the competition” or “intensive training” or “being a giant asshole.” After an hour, they herded about 375 of us into the arena, which smelled like donkeys, and we took two multiple choice tests with Scantron sheets, which I hated in high school, but was weirdly, nostalgically pleased to see again.

The movie test was legitimately difficult, but the general one was kinda easy. Ridiculously easy, actually. I’m talking about questions along the lines of “Tokyo is a major city in what country?” Still, about half the people failed both, and were dismissed. For the rest of us, they took our pictures, and sent us on our merry way for three hours with a written application and an appointment for an interview. I killed the afternoon by going to Chik-Fil-A, tried on dresses I had no intention of buying, and saw Wall-E. Not a bad day.

I think I might have blown it on the interview though. I knew I was screwed when I saw that they were breezing through people in about 45 seconds. I can rock the Scantron, but I still struggle with the whole instantly-charming thing. I started out okay with a lame comparison to Millionaire and the Olympics, which at least got a laugh, but then spiraled into a lame recitation of what I did for fun, which, whenever you’re asked that, always sounds like not a lot of fun at all. Homegirl (who was about 22 and popping gum the whole time) barely looked at me, wrote some stuff down, while I kinda panicked and was left spouting “I JUST WANNA BE ON THE SHOW! I LOVE THE SHOW! I LOVE MEREDITH VIERA!” until they sent me on my way. Some people got a second interview. I did not.

So it doesn’t look good for the home team, but all is not lost. Maybe I can win them over with my written application. They’ll tell me in a few weeks if I made the cut for the contestant pool.

And if that fails, there’s always World Series of Pop Culture.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Songs from teh Trash Room

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but the combination of more pressing events and sheer laziness have prevented me from doing so. A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a site called It's a site that lets you upload playlists, so your friends can stream the mp3s on their computer, and then download them if they like them, or ask for a mix for themselves. It's a good way to share mixtapes.

Back in May, I uploaded one of my favorite mixes, and then the site promptly crashed. It came back shortly thereafter, but I felt somehow responsible, and I've been a little wary of spreading the word, lest I love muxtape to death again. But it seems to have been okay for a while now, so I think it should be okay.

A little backstory on this particular playlist: I lived in London in the beginning of 2002 in a horrible flat in a fantastic neighborhood (if you're curious, most of the wacky misadventures of my roommate Christine and I can be found in an earlier incarnation of this little blog). The flat was one little room with one bare bulb in the ceiling for light, bunk beds, and pipes that made a tremendous amount of noise whenever our neighbors flushed. Our front door was literally in the trash room, so we often had to hurdle over giant bags of garbage to get out. But it was just off Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road, so we kept our mouths shut. We had no computer or TV, just a little radio that played Virgin Radio nonstop, where I got a crash course in the finer points of Britpop. When I got home, I made this mix, and it still makes me smile to listen to it. Hope you enjoy, and please let me know if you decide to go and make your own!

And if goes down again, you can blame me. Everything I touch, I destroy.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Ghost Town DC

It's officially August in Washington, and that can only mean one thing. Everyone who has a lick of sense has left town. So naturally, yours truly is holding court in a very empty office while her colleagues are on vacation/taking comp time from a conference we hosted/attending the International AIDS Conference in Mexico/generally naffing off as one should do in the summertime.

So I thought I'd take a quick break from dusting my desk, sorting my inbox and refreshing FaceSpace every 12 seconds to give you a quick update on how I've been pissing away the better part of the summer.

We just got back from a long-overdue trip to Maine to visit the family up there. And there is a lot of them. This was the first time Mark had been, and he asked how many Shepherds he was bound to see. There's a solid 13 proper Shepherds, and if you take into account various other names attached to the Shepherd Familias, it quickly gets to about 30 people. Many of whom live in the same little town. We were lucky to have mild weather, and gave Mark a true Maine sampler by whisking him off to the mountains for a dip in the lake, then off to the coast for a spin in my Aunt's tugboat, and then an all-out lobstah dinnah with steamed clams and blueberry muffins. I think he made a good impression. Plus, my "little" cousins (who in actually are well over 6 feet tall and range in age from 13-17) are now of an age where we can all hang out and talk to each other as relative equals, rather than having the big kid-little kid dynamic in the way. So we naturally set about bonding over raucous rounds of Rock Band, quickly dispelling any threat of there ever being a Shepherd Family traveling act like the Von Trapps. Ayuh.

Otherwise, I finally got my butt out on the highway. It's not been something I'm particularly proud of, but I kinda missed the "learn to drive on a highway" chapter in my general experience. Before I left home, I only ever had to drive on rural Bucks County roads, which when you think about it, are way more dangerous than any multi-lane highway. But then I moved to New York, then DC, and relied on mass transit. But at the age of 27, it became clear that it really was time to get over it. So I've been cautiously exploring these strange new corridors they call "the Beltway" and "I-270" and "West Virginia." Scary stuff. But hopefully, I'll soon be a fully-functioning adult who can actually play an active role on road trips besides navigator and DJ. Though I've become quite good at that over the years.

So anyway, if you see me on AIM or such during the day, it probably means I'm desperate for human contact, so give me a holler!