normalcy is coursing through my veins
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I am only going to post sporadically for the next few weeks. Work is crazy. I can barely find time for lunch, let alone posting. So, until I get it together (read: save enough cash) to buy the laptop I've been eyeing for a while now so that I can post from somewhere other than work, you might just have to be patient.

Today, though, you can blame slatch for the lack of posts. Any free time I had was spent playing Bookworm, which I got to from his site. As I said in my email to him, it's like crack for word geeks and I am fast becoming an addict. Click on the link if you want to, but consider yourself warned.

Friday, October 25, 2002
You'd all be grand prize winners if I weren't so damn poor

More musical brilliance from the contest, in the order in which they were received.

On Love, John Denver, Sirens and Sex
by This Fish

He fell in love with me the moment he first heard me sing.

Or at least that was the way he told it. I was so aloof back in those days, piously abstaining from drinking and unwittingly setting myself apart as just the kind of girl a mixed-up fellow like Rob would latch onto. We’d spent the night singing in raised voices at a smoke-filled, noisy piano bar downtown. When it closed, I piled the drunks into the backseat, and took the keys. Driving home, in a huskier version of my own mellow voice, I sang to them as they floated in and out of tipsy mellow hazes, lullabies and sad strains of John Denver classics.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

After that night, Rob announced that he wanted to marry me -- wanted to be the kind of man worthy to be with me. What a siren I was! I laughed him off and ever so temporarily broke his precautious and freely given heart. (Rob was the sort of guy who fell in love more easily than most people fell asleep.) And when whimsy took him to the West Coast, he called my cell-phone en route to the airport, so that I could sing "Leavin’ on a Jet Plane" to him, one last time. I did. But it lacked all the magic of that one drunken night when my voice was rough and the air in the car was so still. I’d lost my siren powers.

Then, John Denver on the stereo only a few days ago, while we girls leaned over kitchen counters making the first apple pies of the fall, El laughed and reminded us.

“Do you remember when Rob said he wanted to marry you?”

“Because he fell in love with me, after I sang this to you guys?” I flicked a string of green apple peel off my thumb. “Yeah, I do.”

“And how he said he wanted to convert?”

“Boy, would he be sorry now!” It had been years since I’d set foot inside the church that had made me so untouchable to Rob.

“Well, you may have a really beautiful voice,” Amy said, retreating from the hot air of the oven. “But when he fell in love with me…” her voice trailed off. We looked at her, waiting.

“It was because of the great sex.”

And there you had it. Even John Denver couldn't compete with that.

I'm No Jethro Tull
by Nicole

My mother happens to be a professional classical musician. Still, to this day,she wishes I would have followed in her footsteps. Unfortunately when I was nine years old, I hadn't quite mastered the skills to thwart her every plan, skills that I now have ready at a moment's notice.

In the fifth grade, under my mother's watchful eye, I began taking flute lessons. Little did I know this would spawn a new name for me, given by my fellow classmates. The politically un-correct title of "band fag" was now mine. I didn't know what fag meant, but from the kids' tones, I knew I didn't want to be one. I also knew my mother would never let me quit, so I had to come up with an idea to save my floundering reputation.

Cool songs. I needed to teach myself all those songs that the cool kids listened to. Unfortunately, I had never actually spoken with any of these cool kids, so my song choices may have been slightly off. Over the years I acquired a list of these songs that I could play, which would make me feel not so horribly un-cool. Following are a few selected highlights. Now remember, these were played on the flute:

"Dancing on the Ceiling"—Lionel Richie
"Right Here Waiting"—Richard Marx (remember him with the hair?)
The theme song to the movie Top Gun
"The Final Countdown"—Europe
"25 or 6 to 4"—Chicago
Many tracks off of Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet, especially "You Give Love a Bad

I won't tell you if my plan worked, but I'm sure you can figure out the answer to that on your own.

by Erica

One night when I was twelve, my aunt called me up and asked if I wanted to go with her and my cousin to see the AIDS quilt at our local community college (my cousin had to write something about it as extra credit for health class orsomething.) Not having anything better to do, I went. It was freezing cold because the community college was directly on the beach and it was November, and I remember my cousin and i running to the building while my aunt parked the car further away. The quilt was in the gym. It was all over the walls and the floor. Naturally, as a snotty 12 year old, i was being rather blase about the whole thing, at least until i looked at the sections of the quilt that were on the most prominent display behind the big podium while speeches were being made. There were a couple of panels for a woman named Phyllis Leto, who was the sister of a woman who used to live in our apartment building and had been a friend of my mom's. At this point, we hadn't seen the Calvello's (that was Phyllis' sister's married name) since they moved, and no one had told me that a) Phyllis was dead, or b) she had had AIDS. Phyllis' nephew, Michael Calvello was the biggest crush of my life at that point, and the first crush that i could ever remember having. he used to pull my hair and push me really hard while we were playing Nintendo, but his mother always told me it was because he liked me. So, anyway, I saw one panel that was in honor of Phyllis as an aunt, and it had pictures of Michael and his brothers. At this point, they began to play Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" over the PA system, and I burst into tears. Like, completely uncontrollable sobs. The first time I ever really cried in public. To this day, if I hear that song, I start bawling, no matter what the context.

Thanks again to everyone who entered.

Thursday, October 24, 2002
The waiting is the hardest part

Sorry about that subject heading. I don't know what came over me.

So, the contest. Right. You've all been patiently awaiting the announcement of the winner. And I haven't received too much hate mail, so thank you. See, the thing is last week was the busiest work week ever, and then there was a long weekend trip to San Francisco, and a nasty cold that has left me so stuffy-headed that even writing this ever so brief announcement seems to require a colossal amount of concentration. Plus, it has been really hard to decide. If you don't believe me, ask the co-judge I brought in, who was also unable to decide.

Here's the deal. There were five I thought were quite good, and so I am going to reprint all of them here. In the end, I narrowed it down to two winners, but only because I can't afford to send everyone prizes. Sarah B. wins because hers is both sad and oddly funny, as most of the best moments are. Liz wins because hers is well-structured and conveys a fun rock-star obsession I haven't encountered since the days of reading Sassy magazine. Thanks again for your patience. Even more thanks to all who entered. The honorable mention entries will be reprinted tomorrow. And now, without further ado, here are your winners:

by Sarah B.

When I was eleven years old, my grandmother was very ill, and she lived with us for the last six months of her life. I was in sixth grade and just hitting the most horrible awkward years ever, and so my puberty compounded with the family problems made for a sort of kaleidoscope of constant joy. For my twelfth birthday, I was allowed to have four friends over, and my dad was to drop us off to see Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, bring us home for cake, and then unleash us in the backyard to spend the night in this huge tent we'd borrowed from a neighbor. While sitting around the table eating cake, my friends and I were talking about this horrible girl who lived down the street named Gretchen when my mother came in and asked to see my upstairs for a minute. I thought I was in trouble for gossiping until the minute she shut my bedroom door, and then I knew my grandmother had died. Not a fun story, right? No, it gets worse. The one thing I remember about this moment is not my mother's words of comfort, or the embrace, but the fact that the pink ghetto blaster in the corner of my room was on, and Great White's "Once Bitten Twice Shy" was playing. All I could think was, how inappropriate, and then, oh my God, I am going to remember this for the rest of my life. And I have.

Calvin Johnson was aware of my existence for approximately 36 hours in 1999
by Liz

During my junior year of college, Dub Narcotic came to play a show. I was unbelievably excited, given my love for the band and, more specifically, for Calvin Johnson. I worshipped Calvin, loved his voice and his dancing, got goose bumps during “Shock Mount,” and considered “Fuck Shit Up” to be the greatest song ever. Therefore, when I saw a flyer announcing the show, I stole it, taped it to my bedroom door, and wondered how I was going to find a way to make him realize that it was high time that he fell in love with me.

On show night, I donned the brightest red shirt I could find, thinking it might attract attention amid the sea of black-and-navy-clad show-goers, and headed over to the venue. I was early, because Alissa and Abigail were, respectively, the General Manager and Music Director of our radio station, which was sponsoring the show, and they might get me backstage to meet the band. I walked into the main room of the venue, which was fairly dark, and as my eyes adjusted, I focused on one of the few people already at the show. There, mere feet away, wearing thin orange socks, was Calvin.

I didn’t panic, I didn’t start to shake, I didn’t scream “ohCalvinIloveyoulet’sgocheckoutmybed.” I didn’t, in fact, do anything except stare. I was still staring an hour later, from my spot in the third row, when Dub Narcotic took the stage. Apparently it’s hard not to notice when a girl stares at you for sixty straight minutes, because Calvin finally looked my way – and a minute later, during “Teenage Time Bomb,” he jumped off the stage and into the crowd – and started to dance. With me.

Now, maybe you were at this show, and maybe you’re thinking, “Liz, he also danced with some guys in the front row and a couple of girls to your right.” This may be true. But obviously he was just using them as a means to get closer to me. I was the goal. Don’t even try to argue this one. I am positive that he intended to dance with me all along. The reason: after he danced with me, he got back onstage and announced that he’d just fallen in love with me.

Okay, that last sentence is completely untrue, but I’m appeased by this: after the show, the band ended up staying at Alissa and Abigail’s apartment, and according to Alissa, Calvin pointed me out in a photograph hanging on her wall, saying he’d danced with me – and when I drove by the next morning, Alissa said, “There’s Liz,” and Calvin remembered me as “the girl in the red shirt.”

So yeah, we’re totally getting married.

Thursday, October 17, 2002
Smoking grass and taking Christmas trees

Contest winner to be announced shortly, but I just had to tell you how ecstatic I am about the fact that I am seeing Wilco at Roseland tonight. I am listening to this cd of YHF demos that Sarah was kind enough to leave on my chair this morning, thus persuading me to break my rule about not listening to the band I am going to see on the day of the concert. I am falling in love with them all over again. The cd came by way of slatch, to whom I offer my sincerest thanks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002
All Apologies

Workday from hell = no time for contest-judging post. I promise the results will be up tomorrow. I know you are all kind people who are forgiving of such minor transgressions, right?

Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Patience is a virtue

The winner of Contest #2 will be announced tomorrow, after I spend tonight diligently reading over the submissions I received.

Monday, October 14, 2002
Just call me Merriam-Webster

My favorite thing about this quiz is that it told me I was "practically a human dictionary!" when I got all fifteen right.


The deadline for contest #2, wherein you tell me a wonderful little music-related story from you very own life, is being extended until tomorrow at five. As of this very moment, I have received one entry. (Thank you, Fish.) One! A sad showing indeed. There was some grumbling about it being Columbus Day, there was some grumbling about procrastination. Fine, you win, take today off if you must. But you better send me your entry by five tomorrow or I am going to cry. Right in front of you. And then you'll have to stand around with your hands in your pockets, trying to think of something to say. Do you really want that? I didn't think so.

Friday, October 11, 2002
Purr, I didn't know you could get down like that?

You must click on this link immediately. It has provided my office with endless amusement on this rainy Friday afternoon.

On the beat

Another busy day, more music-related tidbits. Some of these are top secret, but I know I can trust you.

Contrary to what Liz may have told you, I am not giving preference to contest entries featuring the Dave Matthews Band. She doesn't have an About Me page, so I'll give you a two-word description: Compulsive Liar. She's been trying a whole bunch of medications, but so far none of them have worked. Forgive her, she really can't help herself.

I went through the Indigo Girls phase in high school. I learned how to sing harmony from their first album. I used to really love them, but now they kind of bore me to tears.

I went through the Ani DiFranco/Dar Williams/et al phase during the early college years. I can play "Both Hands" and "Iowa" on guitar. While I can still appreciate why people like them, I mostly don't ever need to hear them again.

I really like that Bush song, "Glycerine", even though I know it's cheesy. No other song calls up my freshman year of college quite like that one does. And, as long as we're digging out the embarrassing stuff, I also have a soft spot for the first Counting Crows album, excepting "Mr. Jones" and "Rain King", both of which are truly abominable.

I played clarinet for ten years. I was first chair for most of those years. I participated in All-State Band. I can also play alto saxophone.

I have always wanted to be able to play drums, but I lack the coordination required.

The Pixies and the Talking Heads are the first bands I remember being really obsessed with.

Jeff Mangum's voice frequently makes me cry, in the best of ways.

I am going to see Wilco, Elvis Costello, and Sleater-Kinney live within the next three weeks. I am very excited.

Thursday, October 10, 2002
Contest #2

So the previous entry gave me another contest idea. I'm sure you all have musical memories of your own. Tell me about one of your favorites. Write me a short piece about an actual event in your life that has some sort of song attached to it. Vague enough for you?

The only rules are that it has to be a true story (not that I'll probably know, I'll just have to trust you), that it can't be longer than 500 words, and that it has to be turned in by Monday at noon Eastern Standard Time. (Theme week is being extended so as to give you the weekend to craft something good.) I will judge the entries. Bonus points for originality. Spelling and grammar count--I do work in publishing, after all. The winner will be announced next week. I will send yet another cool prize. And publish the story on my site.(See what I do for you people?) Seriously, please enter, I know you all have lots of amazing things to say. Plus, I'm even more dorkily excited about this one than the last one, so don't break my fragile heart.

I like lists

Apologies for the rapid decline in theme week material. I have been hit with a sudden deluge of work that requires me being away from my desk on research errands that don't allow for the crafting of quality blog posts. I also have to leave work early today in order to attend a reading, so I have to keep this brief. I have this insane memory for details and music only sharpens it. What follows is a list of random musical moments in my life, in no particular order:

Fall, 1994: "Angel of Harlem" plays on FM radio station in high school crush's Ford Taurus while he drops a mutual friend off first, despite the fact that this makes him go totally out of his way, in order to kiss me for the first time.

Fall, 1990: I admit to my best friend, Heather, that it is my lifelong dream for some cute boy to sing Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" softly into my ear while slow dancing with me.

Winter, 1994: Some cute boy does sing Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" into my ear while slow-dancing with me, and it annoys the hell out of me.

Fall, 1998: Soul Coughing's El oso plays while Lee and I sit in his little red car in the parking lot outside of the local Blockuster, after having spent nearly two hours picking out movies for a movie marathon. We agree that if Soul Coughing were the college band instead of the hippie jam band that currently holds that title, parties would be a lot more fun.

Winter, 1997: I begin taking guitar lessons. I find out that in order to get credit for said lessons, I have to participate in a recital. I decide to play "Let it Be" in that recital and practice it obsessively, thus causing my roommate to develop a lifelong hatred for the song.

Fall, 1995: I walk past my freshman dorm neighbor's room and she is playing Ben Lee's "I'm with the Star". I like the song and wander in to chat. We become friends.

Spring, 1996: Jody and I obsessively rewind and replay REM's "Ignoreland", trying to figure out what the hell Michael Stipe is mumbling.

Today: Alissa gets "Love in an Elevator" stuck in my head all day, prompting me to devise ways to get even with her, including setting up some sort of mailing list that would automatically send her mp3s of the world's most annoying songs daily. Playlist would include "Who Let the Dogs Out?", "Mr. Jones", and that Queen song that goes, "I like to ride my bicycle, I like to ride my bike."

[Editor's note: This is fun. There may be more tomorrow.]

Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Breaking news

So, the results are in, the dream lyrics have been counted. The winner, with thirty-four lyrics, is none other than the (newly-redheaded) Cate! Congratulations, missy, I will be contacting you via email shortly to get your address so that you can receive your prize. Promise you'll share nice with Conor?

I am also awarding an honorable mention prize to Bryan. While he did not have the most entries, he did have the distinction of coming up with a substantial list of lyrics, not one of which appeared on anyone else's lists, which was tough to do. You, sir, will also receive email from me soon.

Total number of entries received: 13
Total number of entries received before deadline: 11
Number of participants who made a point of stating that, although they could have used a search engine, they in fact had thought up every one of these lyrics themselves: 5

Worth mentioning:

Alissa deserves the I Swear I Actually Read Your Posts award. She sent her entry in past the deadline and sent song titles instead of lyrics. (You get an A for effort, though, babe!)

An inordinate number of Bill's lyrics came from either the Cure or Sunny Day Real Estate.

Almost all of Julie's entries were Peter Cetera quotes. (It's a good thing I've known you so long, otherwise I might have to stop talking to you.)

Sarah B. had my favorite commentary about her lyrics:
Dream lover/come rescue me/take me up/take me down - Mariah Carey, "Dream
Lover" (shut up)
You're still the one I dream of/still the one I'm searching for - Shania
Twain, "Still The One" (dude, I said shut up)

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was especially great to hear from new normalcy readers. I hope you keep coming back.

Stay tuned for more of my musical history and one more contest later this week!

Monday, October 07, 2002
You are a winner

Here's your chance to prove it.

During my last vacation, a group of us became obsessed with a board game called Encore, which gives you a word and then asks you to go head-to-head singing lyrics containing said word. Last team to come up with a song wins. While I would love to have the pleasure of hearing your own off-key renditions of your favorite songs, I don't want to give my phone number out to everyone on the web. So we'll do it by email instead. Send me an email list of all the lyrics you can think of containing the designated word. Lyrics must contain at least eight words. The person who comes up with the most lyrics that no one else has come up with (I'm combining Encore rules with Scattergories rules) wins a fabulous prize. No joke, I'm actually going to send you something. And it will be cool. Entries must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time tonight. Winner will be announced tomorrow.

Your word is: dream
(I will accept different forms of dream, eg. dreaming, dreamer)


[Update: Title of song and artist are not required (although you are welcome to include them) unless it's a particularly obscure lyric--then you might want to include them for verification's sake.]


For my seventh birthday I received a General Electric cassette player. It was not a boom box. It was not a bright color. It was absolutely no-frills. It was a simple, utilitarian model not unlike those on which we listened to informational materials at school. It had an orange button in the middle of the black play button that had to be depressed in order to record. I loved it immmediately.

In addition to the cassette player, I received two blank cassettes (my illustrious recording career was about to begin!) and a copy of Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual." The days of insisting upon wearing bright pink skirts with bright orange tights to school were about to begin. So, of course, were the days of being mocked mercilessly for such attire, which, try as she might, my mother was unable to dissuade me from donning in public.

I think my mother cursed herself for buying me that tape for a long time afterward. Here I was, this seven-year-old kid thus far raised on The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and the Bee Gees (my dad liked the good stuff, my mom was into disco), who was now leaning toward Madonna and Pat Benatar. Forget pastel-colored corduroys, I wanted fingerless lace gloves and a red streak in my hair. My first dance recital ever came during these days. I danced to the Go-Go's "Our Lips are Sealed" whilst wearing campy bright red lipstick, and later to "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" wearing black faux leather cuffs with fake plastic studs. (Many years later, I am horrified that my parents allowed me to dance in public in what I now see as pseudo-S&M gear. Ew.) There followed dancing in front of the television to rented Madonna tour videos and an admonishment from my mother upon seeing me practicing my "sexy walk" in the front yard.

The love of feisty girl rock has remained (although it has become more mature in its old age--more PJ Harvey and Sleater-Kinney than Cynid Lauper and Madonna), but the passion for eighties fashion has thankfully passed. The blank tapes were first filled with my own off-key renditions of the hits at that time. After being given a real boom box on a later birthday, my croonings were taped over in favor of songs stolen from the Weekly Top 40, some including the tail ends of advertisements or the cheesy introductions made by none other than Rick Dees. I filled many cassettes with songs taped from the radio. I probably still have a few of them packed away in a dusty box somewhere. They all had oh-so-creative titles like Radio Hits or Stuff I Listen To, Volume 4. I probably wouldn't want to listen to them now, but popping them in the player would probably call up years seven through nine in a way nothing else could.

Trumpet flourishes and drum rolls, please

Jackie-O announces the first ever normalcy theme week! The theme will be my musical history. There will be theme-related contests and prizes. You will be invited to participate. Your participation will determine the fate of events such as this in the future. We here at normalcy want to hear from you out in cyberspace. Are you excited? You should be.

So here's the deal: I have had a music obsession since my formative years. My tastes have changed dramatically since the days of taping Debbie Gibson off the radio and singing "Foolish Beat" into my hairbursh in front of the mirror, and the mission of this week is to recount select moments from my musical chronology and share them with you. There will be a couple of music-inspired contests (yes, with actual prizes) along the way. Get ready.

Friday, October 04, 2002
Reeling in the years

Today is Liz's birthday, so I instruct you to send her e-cards or go dance in front of her cubicle (depending upon your proximity) at your earliest convenience. This is not a request, it is an order. Do it now.

(Hint: If you're trying to decide what music should accompany your e-card, Liz really really loves the Dave Matthews Band. Like total.)

(And in case you're wondering: Yes, I did quote Steely Dan in the title of this post. It's an AM radio kind of day.)

Wednesday, October 02, 2002
I prefer blondes (with the "e")?

So, the other evening, whilst Sarah N. and I were taking the scenic route to the F train, we passed one of the many LCD signs that reports news bites to those strolling through midtown. (By the way, I maintain that these signs are a traffic hazard, as I have wandered out in front of a car more than once because I was watching the letters instead of the traffic lights.) The headline that caught my eye was "Natural blonds will be extinct by 2202, World Health Organization study indicates." It went on to say something about the population of natural blondes being too small for the trait to be maintained beyond that year. This intrigued me because I am a natural blonde (albeit, ahem, a slightly enhanced one). I started getting a little worried for us blondes. I was imagining a "Save the Blondes" campaign, in which single blondes throughout the world would be united in the hopes of keeping the line alive. It even made me reconsider, if only for a fleeting moment, my long-standing lack of attraction to fair-haired men. I mean, maybe it was my duty to overcome this predilection for dark-haired boys. Maybe I would have to suffer a little for the sake of the people. I've been worrying about this for days, I tell you. I was on the verge of doing something drastic.

But today, there is news that it was all a big hoax. I, for one, am most relieved.

I love NPR

This morning, in addition to giving me the latest news about the proposed weapons inspection in Iraq, they also told me about this investor in Oregon who takes market advice from his chickens.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002
When we came here today, all I wanted to say...

So the thing is, I'm tired and sad. These two conditions do not usually make for the best of posts, but I'm trying here, people. Bear with me, this might take a while.

I've been having trouble sleeping. It's in part that we're at a seasonal turning point and I am embroiled in a heated conflict with the comforter about whether or not I really want to commit. The weather is making things worse, teasing and flirting and being coy. I think it likes to cause trouble. The fan on the air conditioner is trying to mediate, offering to change from high to medium to low speed in order to make it easier for us to work things out. Very diplomatic, that fan. But I get all nervous every time the comforter and I get together. I don't know what to wear. I keep showing up later and later. I think the comforter's starting to get annoyed with me, which is maybe why it gets so clingy and tugs on my arms all night, but then pulls away just when I really need it. I'm staying in tonight. There are tentative plans for A Talk. I'll let you know how it goes.

It's also that I have a lot on my mind. My job is eating my life at the moment, and any time I want to read something not directly related to work (for instance, Middlesex, which remains, still, in the "currently reading" section at left), I feel guilty, but not guilty enough to actually sit down and plow through a stack of pages. So I end up not reading anything at all, and then I spend time lying in bed at night compiling mental lists of everything I didn't get done today, which get tacked on to the long list of things I need to get done tomorrow. I suppose this list-compiling should be soothing, like counting sheep, but it's not. It's aggravating and leads to wacked-out dreams, the details of which I will spare you. If you really must hear about my dream-relationship with a young Bob Dylan, wherein he is murdered, possibly by me, and I am traumatized (or any other of a number of equally bizarre-o nightmare scenarios), email me and I'll put you on the freaky dream mailing list.

That about covers the sleep issues, which leaves the sadness. This is the point at which I run out of words, or at which I find myself repeating the same series of syllables over and over (I miss, I wish I could, I love, I know), until they are too worn-out to carry even a fragment of the feeling they are meant to convey. The words are as tired as I am, and so maybe we both need a rest. The problem, of course, is that other people aren't so cooperative with my word-rest plan. So I have to keep talking about what I'm reading, answering the telephone, trying to explain. And the words and I grow wearier and wearier, so that by the time we get here, we just want to stare at the screen. Forgive us. We are exhausted, but we are trying our best.

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