Weekly Photo Challenge: Down

I was kind of excited when I saw the theme for this week’s “Phooootoooo Challllllenggggge”.  I apologize, the excitement got away from me and I envisioned Ben Bailey from Cash Cab announcing the WordPress weekly challenge. This is my first time joining this cult, I mean group.  Moving on.

I just happened to have taken a photography class in the Fall at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center.  As we walked around to shoot, our cameras that is, I tended to shoot so much of the ground.  I’m actually kind of surprised I wasn’t mugged because I upon review of my photos, I didn’t spend very much time coming up for air and checking my surroundings. This of course began with my feet, which like Sara Russo and many other bloggers I’m guessing, marks the location and the fashion of choice.

So here we have it, Down in Philadelphia.  Enjoy.

I Hate Country Music; Or So I Thought

I always told myself that country music is horrible. From the time that I was very, very little, I detested it and really rallied my mind against it. I honestly have no idea why. It was something that I made a point in letting people know when we discussed music taste. My response to it almost bordered on aggressive. It’s one of those things that I look back on and though I’ve tried to analyze my reasoning, I can’t come up with anything to defend my logic, except for the fact that I was immature and must’ve been trying to fit a mold.

Over time, I started to hate country music less and trend to a more indifferent feeling about it. My parents didn’t listen to country music, but they certainly never taught me to hate it, or hate anything for that matter. The closest thing that played in my house was Gordon Lightfoot, which is more Folk, but certainly has twang-y elements to it.  I’ve basically loved the fundamental instruments in country music all my life, which are no different from rock music, but it’s just a different style and a slightly different structure.

Still, having grown up outside of Philadelphia, I never understood the crowds that flocked to country music concerts in the summer, with cowboy hats and a Budweiser in hand. I’m all about being a patriotic American, and I realize that country music probably depicts the American persona more than any other, but where did these people pick up the taste for it?  Where did they come from?

It wasn’t until I realized my Uncle had a love for country music that I started to think about it in a different way. He was a city kid, grew up loving heavy metal bands in the 80’s and had the style and hair to rival bands like Van Halen in his day. He played in a metal band, loaded up with tattoos and although he never lost his love for a bad rock ballad, he loves country music now too?  As he is a person I respect, good for him, I thought.  Then I met my husband, who is from Iowa; who knew all the country songs when we went to a piano bar early in our relationship. Then I discovered the country station presets in his pick-up truck. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots or anything, but I must’ve been slow to not see that coming.  I feel kind of sorry now, that he didn’t come out spurs blazing to show his country roots. I always wondered if neglecting his country roots publicly was his way of finding himself in another part of the country or if he was that concerned I’d dislike him for it.  That would be something I’d truly feel sorry for.

As I grow up, I’ve found there’s nothing more important than being open minded. Hell, I can accept most anything else in the world and look on the bright side of most any situation, why can’t I accept country music? Then it happened, crossover music. Though I’m sure it always existed in some form, country has crossed over into mainstream music in a very popular way over the last few years and onto mainstream stations.  There are even bands that I really like that use country elements. I think I might like it. Though don’t tell anyone yet, because I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment just yet. I haven’t bought a country album, but I may have programmed a country station on the second set of presets in my car. We’ll know for sure if it makes the top 10, but its tough competition.

I knew I was lost when I got hooked on the Mumford & Sons album last year and there was a heavy bluegrass and banjo vibe on it.  I’d really love to play banjo, once I get guitar down a little better, but I’ve convinced myself that maybe I’d focus on old Irish music to ease my way into this American genre. I know, none of it makes sense, but at least there’s no longer a deep misunderstanding about something that never truly deserved it.

I Belong to Nowhere

I visited an old friend last weekend and she was asking what my husband and I were up to, and if we had any future plans.  I told her that depending on what happens with my career, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Europe or some authentically historic American town, but we’ll see what happens.  She said how she could never do that, just pick up and leave, but it’s something that we have grown accustom to and maybe it’s slightly hereditary.

I’m an avid ancestry enthusiast.  Every key member to my family tree, at least going back a few generations, had the same defining quality; the ability to be fearless and never look back.  This to me is a quality because I admire their courage and ambition, to pick up from their place of birth and independently find a new home in a new state, country, continent, etc.  And they did it alone.  They all did.

This is a blessing and a curse because combined; these adventurous ancestors gave me life.  Had they not, I don’t want to say “ran away”, but rather “looked for better opportunities”, I wouldn’t exist.  It’s a curse because, as a researcher, it’s very difficult to track them.  I run into possible distant connections and it appears my ancestor was always the black sheep who left and never wrote home.  There never seems to be hostility or a tragic story that I’m aware of based on family stories, they were just ok being independent.

That being said, I began frequently re-establishing myself early and being the “new kid” by changing schools throughout my youth.  Not by my choice, but my parents, due to transportation, tuition, educational factors and eventually a move just before high school.  I settled in well for the most part at each place and sought my own adventure to California after graduation.  I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. Though I did find myself back in New Jersey a few years ago, close to family and old friends, I really don’t feel that I have a home.  The town I grew up in until I was 13 would probably be the closest thing to a “home” feeling but most of the people who lived there are gone or have passed away.  If you remember, I was friendly with the elderly people.  Sure I had friends that were my age, but they’ve since grown and moved too.

Today we live in a town close by, which feels like a neighborhood that people grew up in, finished school, started to grow their own family and then moved back in.  There is a sense of community, but not for me.  I am friendly with people here, but my roots weren’t here.  I think it is why I find the idea of moving anywhere that feels comfortable, so appealing, because I don’t need to stay anywhere out of obligation.  No one else in my family has.

My husband and I are the same way.  Having grown up in Iowa, and then joined the military, it caused his zip code to change more than a few times.  We come from heritages that we didn’t technically belong to.  My family has strong Irish and German tradition, but I don’t necessarily belong there.  My family for generations lived in Philadelphia and I was even born there, but then became the first to be raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Although it’s only minutes away, I didn’t grow up in a row home with a corner candy store or play baseball on the asphalt, so I can’t claim that as home either.  I grew up in a house where people had their own space and minded their business.  They were people looking to remove themselves from city culture; maybe culture altogether.  I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, I’ve had a fortune life with loving parents, but the circumstances have just left me feeling a little lost as an adult.

We aren’t tied to anywhere and maybe we’re not quite sure where home is yet.  I suppose we’ll have to find it together and make it that way ourselves.  We can be the “new kids” together.

Rock Star Incident of 1998

Perspectives really change with age.  I’m not quite 30, so I’m nervous about how many things I have yet to look back on and shake my head about, but needless to say, it’s funny how time changes things.

I heard the song “Shimmer” by Fuel on the local rock station tonight, WMMR.  I drove along and snickered a bit when I thought about my first “rock star” experience.  I was fifteen and Fuel was in regular rotation on the airwaves at my favorite Modern Rock station, Y100.  RIP.  They were holding a Sonic Session, which was a somewhat regular promotional event in which the station got a popular band to play a mini concert at a local recording studio as they breezed through town for a concert.  One of my best friends at the time won tickets and asked me to go.  If saying “OMG” was popular at that time, I would have said it about 150 times the day leading to and following this event.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My Mom had been the type to idolize musicians in her youth and met the Bay City Rollers at a similar event when she was that age, so she understood the true excitement to it all.  My Dad on the other hand, was none too pleased about his little girl going into the city on a school night to drool over some guys in a band.  Looking back, it’s fair to say he was right to feel that way.  They both were, really.  Mom won and I went.

There weren’t that many people allowed into the small recording space, but it was pretty exciting as we sat on the floor and watch a band, which was signed to an actual recording label, jamming out in front of us.  The lead singer Brett was barefoot and blonde, and giving the full rock star vibe to the small-time performance.  The show ended and we were allowed to ask for autographs.  Guess who was first in line.

At that very moment, I remember thinking that I didn’t have enough things for the band to sign.  I should have brought posters or bought a second CD in case something happens to this one.  A bundle of excited nerves, I handed over my CD and introduced myself to Brett.  I probably just said my name and nothing else, afraid to throw too many words out there at the same time, in case they got jumbled.  He said it was nice to meet me and then in a quick panic and sheer brilliance, I thought at the time, “Can you sign my shirt too?!”  Of course he did, what a nice guy, to take the time to sign a barely developed girl’s chest.  Then he saw I had a camera and offered to take a picture. O-M-G.  We posed for a picture and then it happened.  He pinched my ass.

Now, if a guy today, even a popular musician did that, although I’d be flattered, I’d have the presence of mind to say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”  I didn’t.  I glowed.  Since we were just fifteen, my friend’s Mom waited outside for us and I bounced around outside, in the car, at home and for a month following exclaiming “He grabbed my ass, it was awesome!”  I can only imagine what my Dad was thinking.  I clearly looked underage too, all big cheeks and innocence.  And by big cheeks, I mean the ones on my face.

I don’t have children, but I’d be torn about whether or not I’d let them go to something like that.  Experiences like that as a whole, minus the groping, don’t happen often.  It spurred a nearly ten year concert spree that I am currently still paying off, which included hundreds of concerts and memories that always make me smile and that I’d never give back.

(Don’t worry Dad; this experience never turned your little girl into a groupie.)

You lived where?

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I recently read a fellow blogger’s account of San Diego. We lived there for seven years, but relocated three years ago to the Philadelphia tri-state area. I thought of all the great experiences my husband and I had there, from Legoland to Los Angeles daytrips. I realized that all my life, I’ve lived in places that people pay good money to visit.

We heard Sea World’s fireworks every summer night from our apartment and viewed the San Diego Harbor from the top of our street. We were within minutes of the Gaslamp Quarter and the famed beaches. We enjoyed each special place lesleycarter noted in her blog but San Diego simply never felt like home to us. I guess we weren’t California people.  As beautiful as it is, it is expensive as well. We often worked so hard to live, that we actually rarely lived at all.  Sure, we hit all the main highlights over the years, but we probably have seen the beach more by visiting now, then we ever did living there.  Yes, it’s regrettable, but there is no going back now.  We will always remember what we did do instead.

There was one place missing on Lesley’s list.  Sunset Cliffs was a special place that I miss the most. The eroding cliffs stand tall over jagged rocks with, you guessed it, gorgeous sunsets as the backdrop each evening. The regulars were so varied; the occasional homeless but harmless wanderer, the rich jogger, stoned surfer and eclectic photographer. The weekends brought pale tourists and couples taking their pups for a long stroll. It was free and beautiful, while expanding just long enough to find an escape from the crowded San Diego freeways and neighborhoods.

We are now lucky enough to live within a short drive of every historical and prominent city on the East Coast.  The amount of cultural and geographical points of interest is simply astounding.  Still, there’s no doubt that when the snow starts to fall, people will ask, “You moved from San Diego?  Are you crazy?”

Now, we make an effort to incorporate ourselves in as much of the culture as we can here, without taking it for granted.  So one day, when we’ve worn out our welcome or find a new destination, we can look back and say that we really lived.

Check out the referenced blog:  Top 10 Favorite Cities Visited – #5 San Diego, United States of America. By LesleyCarter

*Sunset Cliffs photo courtesy of www.toomuchwinetoolittletime.com

Were Colonial Politics Any Different?

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Tonight, I watched the State of the Union Address, rather, #SOTU in the Twitter age. Hell, if Twitter will get our country talking about politics and something other than a Kardashian, I’m all for social media.

When I watch Democrats and Republicans, so divided, I wonder what our Founding Fathers would think. They too had drastically divided ideas about what our Nation should be, but I wonder if it ever felt like this. Would the Continental Congress drag progression out so far that the Declaration of Independence would have dried and curled up without a smattering of ink?

Did colonials speak freely or did politically correct conversation exist even then? Did they tack leaflets to their carriages condemning Democrats or the Whigs?

We know that the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his son, the Governor of New Jersey, was severed on the argument of Independence versus Loyalty. We know that Colonial Americans had strong feelings and aspirations; a feeling of new patriotism with dreams for a future of forward thinking.

Today, will Americans truly voice their opinions, without fear of social slander, without ridicule for their beliefs? Will we fight for what we believe in?

Watching tonight, both the President and the Republican response, the American political atmosphere simply feels stalled.  I’d love to be naive sometimes, jump on a bandwagon and feel giddy with optimism because this speech touted positivity and aspirations. It just doesn’t feel as though it’s a matter of the country growing and progressing any longer, but simply a halfhearted attempt to stop slipping backward. It’s like trying to grasp pedaling your bicycle as a kid; you lose your footing and the pedals just keep swinging up and smacking into your shins.

As the wife of a Veteran and the youngest in long line of many, I wish nothing more than success and Democracy for this country, which so many fought and died for. The first step is getting people to pay attention to more than the formulated celebrity facade the politicians use to sway opinions.  It’s not a popularity contest, it’s our future. It sounds dramatic because it is.

By the way, I take it back; I hope I’m never so naive that I stop questioning what is best for our country.

“Back When I Was A Kid…” The Spectrum Was Happenin’

Mid-demolition of the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Winter 2011

How many times have you heard an “old” person start out a sentence just this way?

Well, back when I was a kid, the Spectrum in Philadelphia was a big concrete stadium that always felt outdated. It remained this way till last year, until a wrecking ball took aim. It was probably outdated for years by the time I got to be old enough to remember it. I was going through yet another folder and found these pictures of a mostly demolished Spectrum in South Philadelphia last winter. My husband and I actually drove down there on a pretty and brisk Saturday to take some shots of a place that holds so many memories, before it was only a pile of dust.

  • My first circus with Grandmom
  • First of many concerts
  • First NBA game
  • First college basketball game
  • Countless other random events

The first time I smelled drugs was at my very first concert here. My Mom took me to see Elton John when I was in 4th grade. He was always her favorite.  I’ll never forget it.  She turned to me and at one point said, “Shannon, do you smell that? That is marijuana. Try not to breathe it in”. Well the story goes that she turned away to sing along and when she looked back I was straining to hold my breath in my big chubby cheeks. She told me I could continue breathing, but being the good girl I was, I was cautious.

I also always loved the corridors to get to my seat there. Each section felt like it had its own little dramatic tunnel that opened up in a world of bright lights and excitement. The nosebleeds were so high and the inclines so steep that it felt slightly dangerous, and the ceiling felt surprisingly close. The walkways were too narrow and during intermissions, it felt like a traffic jam. The concrete columns looked stained and filthy and it never really felt fresh and sparkly like many of the newer arenas today.

The building has equated to a large empty lot by now and in its place will be a big construction site soon. Xfinity Live has been touted as another stadium experience, but with colorful restaurants and events, giving concert and sports fans a reason to stay within walking distance to Citizens Bank Park, Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field.  Sure it sounds nice, but being local, we love our underdogs and unsightly appearances; I’ll always have a soft spot for the ratty old Spectrum.

What It’s Like to Be Apart of a Philadelphia Sports Team

Phanatic Fans

Welcome to Philadelphia.  We are truly passionate about our sports and anyone who tells you otherwise has never attended a game here.  If they have, they haven’t attended many games in any other cities, because they’d know the difference.  Philadelphians take losses, bad trades and any negative press Philadelphia teams produce quite personally.  We also put ourselves into the equation when discussing any local sports related topics.

“I can’t believe we won.”

“We had that game; I can’t believe we blew it.  I really thought we had it.”

A big loss doesn’t just stink, it ruins our day.  We have two major sports talk radio stations in town that have competitive ratings on the city’s radio dial, WIP and The Fanatic.  Most of us know the sportscasters by name; their typical skewed sports analysis tendencies and can provide great arguments in the car to and from most anywhere, and regarding any of the city’s major teams.  “We” are a major part of the Philly sports equation.  Press conferences are held to keep us happy and if you don’t give us the answers we want, and we aren’t shy about letting you know it (i.e. Andy Reid 2011).

I can give you the old routine and how we are fans because Santa was creamed with snowballs, but I wasn’t alive to witness that.  I am alive to hear my Dad talk about how he blew out his horn on his 6 month old car when the Flyers first won the Stanley Cup in 1974, amongst streakers and flipped cars.  I lived the Phillies World Series in 1993 and as a kid waited patiently in front of Mitch William’s house before and after the loss for something, anything to give us confidence and later appease the sadness.  In better times, we survived the Phillies riots after the World Series win in 2008 and celebrated in the parade, where Broad Street was filled with passionate fans who seemed so proud, you’d have thought each individual person threw the last pitch instead of Lidge.  Just as important, we joined together as a city in despising Joe Buck for not only hating Philadelphia on a regular basis, but by also sounding so disappointed when “we” won that series.

There are simply too many heart wrenching moments to name when it comes to Philadelphia fan experiences and sometimes not enough proud ones.  Still, we wait on lists for season ticket packages and watch each game, whether we are disheartened by repeat losses, injuries, management decisions or not, because we never turn our backs on family.  I, for one know I spent more hours with Harry Kalas then some people in my family.

Man, I can’t wait for baseball season to start.

Mae

Mae might be my alter ego.  Or maybe she’s just a lot less shy and a lot more outgoing than life allows me to be, the true me.

Why Mae? I grew up in South Jersey, raised by my Philadelphian parents.  I moved to Southern California after I graduated high school and a couple of years later I met the man who would be my husband.  Until I met him, I never really knew I had an accent, besides the fact that waitresses could never get my water order right.  “Root beer? What did you say?”  “I said water.”  No, apparently I was saying “wudder”.  My in-laws still giggle at this.

Mae is one of my vocal imperfections.  That is apparently what I say instead of saying “me”.  As I got to know my future husband and his friends, we’d talk and share stories until eventually I got asked who Mae was and why I was talking about her.  Mae has stuck with me, and she’s got a devilish grin and a glimmer in her eye.  She sneaks backstage at concerts, debates passionately over a Guinness and plays in the rain.  She’s always with me and but comes out when I’m at my best, and I’m probably the luckiest girl in the world because she gets to visit pretty often, when responsibility doesn’t wear her down.

Mae loves history, ancestry, Ireland, Philadelphia sports, Superheroes, Red Hot Chili Peppers (even when Kiedis is trying to rock that porno ‘stach), dorky science, tea parties, whiskey, playing guitar, oil paintings, culture, debating, photography, Los Angeles after a rainstorm (no smog), U2 (for both music and humanitarianism) and hates that she hasn’t found a way to make a profitable career out of the passion she has for life…yet.  Mae and I co-exist, never straying too far from loving life but being responsible.  Oscar my pug begs to differ…he’d rather I take him on a walk then write you.

It is beautiful out tonight…Mae, you up for an adventure?  Oscar, grab your leash!