Another Post Where I Make Fun of Musicians

Here’s how I pick a restaurant.  I walk up, see this sign…

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…and then I pick another restaurant.

If I’m out to dinner, I want to be able to chat.  I’d like to unwind and delight in some sparkling conversation.  I have really important things to discuss with my dinner companion, like how unfair it is that Eva Gabor was the most talented Gabor sister, yet Zsa Zsa is the one everybody remembers.

“But!  But!!  Green Acres!!”

Zsa Zsa Gabor was not on Green Acres.

Eva Gabor.  Eva Gabor was on Green Acres – and I’m sick and tired of having to snottily set people straight when they say otherwise.  It makes me look reeeally petty, especially when I pull out the charts and graphs, and pettier still when I make them wear a sign around their neck for the rest of the evening that says, “I should have stayed in my lane as a merely casual classic television watcher.”

So!  There are two issues I have with this live music at restaurants.  (I should note that bars and clubs are fine, so you don’t have to throw one of your classic hissy fits, Axl Rose.)

The main issue is that I am a musician.  I know many musicians.  Oh god, so many musicians.  Like a plague of locusts in tight jeans that have been raining down on my withered soul for decades.  Like a bucket of hot dogs being thrown at my face every time I walk out my front door.

And they’re all too goddamned loud.

When they’re so loud that it’s splitting your eardrums while you’re trying to enjoy your fish dip on the patio at Whale Dick Dave’s on The Wavez (your better Florida-style restaurants are named after midlife-crisis fishing boats), it’s because they think they are way, way more important than anything you’ve got going on at your table.

More important than your right to sit and have a pleasant dinner with someone at Whale Dick Dave’s on The Wavez.

More important than Whale Dick Dave’s on The Wavez losing business over how loud they are.

Your attention must be on them at all times, fish dip enjoyment be damned.  If you don’t pay attention to “local legend” Shreddin’ Steve up there wanking away at that cover song like he himself invented the guitar, then guess what?

Shreddin’ Steve
Would be just fine
To have you leave

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Poetry.

I can’t even tell you how many grown adult musicians I’ve known, who when they’re finally told to turn it down by the manager of the restaurant, unplug their gear in a huff and storm out the door, their straw fedora all rumpled and askew atop their Counting Crows chin-length faux-dreadlocks, the clanging of their thumb ring knocking against their guitar case as they borrow someone’s cellphone to call their mom to come pick them up.

Oh no!  Now I guess I’ll have to just hum Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” to myself since Phil Spector here has absconded with his magical talent machine!

Which brings me to my second issue:  Song selection.

I realize these things are regional, I am in South Florida after all, but I swear to god if I have to hear some guy in a Hawaiian shirt barf out “Margaritaville” at Ballz Deep-Seafishin’ Depot one more time, I’m driving straight to Jimmy Buffett’s house and bulldozing it – with a parrot on my shoulder the whole time – because I like poetic imagery and stuff.

Ohhh, Jimmy Buffett.

Look, I don’t have a problem with the man personally, not at all, but by the 818,000th time you’ve had to endure “local legend” Jammin’ Joey at the Flick The Beanz Café playing Dance to The Left with an acoustic guitar and a drum machine at 200 decibels while you’re just trying to eat a breakfast wrap and chat about last night’s episode of Green Acres, it takes everything you have to not want to go back in time like The Terminator and push a young Jimmy Buffett out of a tall coconut tree.

And as for the blues, let me tell you.  I am a blues fan.  Bury me in Memphis – please!  I’m not a blues snob, either.  I can admit when something “newer” is good.  It doesn’t have to have been recorded prior to 1950 for me to like it.  And for the record, blues snobs think anything recorded after Truman left office isn’t “real blues”.  < eyeroll >

That being said.

You would think, based solely on the live music that is played in South Florida at restaurants, that Stevie Ray Vaughan is the only blues artist who has ever existed.

And not just Stevie Ray Vaughan, who recorded like twenty albums.

Two songs by Stevie Ray Vaughan:

  • Pride and Joy
  • The Sky is Crying

That’s all you get.  Occasionally, you’ll get Cold Shot, and even though you’ve heard that one 56,000 times, it will seem like a breath of fresh air that it’s not Pride and Joy.

You will reach to the sky, arms extended, to thank the stars that it’s not Pride and Joy.

You will give all of your worldly possessions to charity to show your gratitude to the universe that it’s not Pride and Joy.

You will have a baby just so you can fly to Hawaii and chuck it into a volcano as a sacrifice and say, “Thank you, Pele, Goddess of Fire, for not making me sit through Pride and Joy again.”

Do I have a problem with Stevie Ray Vaughan as a person and musician?  Hell no!  Does hearing the beginning chords of “Pride and Joy” for the 2,654,925th time make me want to rip my own ears off and throw them at “local legend” Rockin’ Randy whose playing a $2,500 guitar but arrived at The Salty Dogbonerz Bistro on a borrowed BMX bicycle?

One time, I swear I melted out of a dining chair and rolled onto the floor when the first chords of Pride and Joy started – because it was the second time I’d heard it that day.  Then it turned out I was wrong, and it was actually The Sky is Crying, so I turned into booger slime and escaped from the restaurant like ooze down a storm drain, Rockin’ Randy crooning out “Can’t you see the tears rooooooolll down my noooose?” as a fitting soundtrack.

No.  No, I can’t see the tears roll down your nose, Rockin’ Randy.  Because I am in my car, speeding away from Mermaidz Tittiez Raw Bar like it’s on fire.

Also, none of this applies to my current band because we are awesome and don’t even know any Jimmy Buffett or Stevie Ray Vaughan songs.

It definitely applies to my previous band.  Times one trillion.

My Girlfriend / She’s At The End

This is a funny little story I wrote about how I used the Violent Femmes song “Blister in The Sun” as a relationship test.  It’s 90% humiliating.  The other 10% is merely embarrassing to the depths of my soul.

You can check it out here:  My Girlfriend / She’s At The End

I am so thrilled, excited, humbled, and freaking out that it found a home with one of my favorite publications, Queen Mob’s Tea House!!  Many thanks to Reb Livingston for giving this piece a chance.  She’s the Misfit Documents editor over there at Queen Mob’s, and a damn fine writer, too.  Check out her bio and pick up some of her books while you’re at it!

I would run a woo-hoo happy lap around my office right now, but I can’t run more than about twenty feet before I have to use my asthma inhaler, and that sort of ruins the whole “Not a Cartoon Nerd” thing I’m trying to accomplish in my daily life.  I think if you use an inhaler while wearing Invisalign, an after-school model rocket club appears and forces you to get a bowl-cut.  (And the Invisalign is going great so far!  More to come on that in the next couple weeks!)

Thanks again to all of you for hanging out here every week and being so cool and awesome and stuff.  Many, many hearts to you.  🙂

Ohh yeah and, as always, to this guy.

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How Greg Brady Got My Groove Back

How did we get here?

This is the question that’s been plaguing me since I heard the news that an editor has nominated one of my published pieces for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.  The Greg Brady one.

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I know, right?  This was the one that when I submitted it to the journal I thought, “Yeah right.  We’ll see if literally anyone is interested in publishing this weirdo little piece.”

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then as always, first of all, I’m sorry, and second, you know that I have a scorching case of Imposter Syndrome as a writer.  I barely graduated high school, and I did not attend a single day of college.  I’ve only ever had office day jobs since I was 18.  I’ve always really loved writing, but growing up, nobody besides my ninth grade English teacher ever told me I might be good at it.  I was taught to graduate high school and get a job, preferably something that offered health insurance.  End of story.  So that’s what I did.

People will tell you that nominations and awards are just external reinforcements that don’t matter, but they absolutely DO matter to me.  It’s how the writing community tells me that I might be good at this – and as an Imposter I never think I’m good at this – so it’s tremendously helpful when an authority in the writing community says, “I think you’re good at this.”

People will tell you that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a writing education, but I can assure you, especially after mingling with writers for the past year, it DEFINITELY matters.  It matters when someone asks you what your favorite braided essay is and you have to stall for time while you google, “What is a braided essay?”

As it turns out, I write a lot of braided essays.  Who knew?!  I’ve always just called them “rambling”.  There’s a whole writing lingo world out there that I didn’t even know existed.  What the hell is slipstream?  Ekphrastic poetry?  A lyrical essay?  I have to constantly google things to keep up with these people.  I only learned how to use semi-colons this year, after I spent about three months googling, “How do you use semi-colons?”

When you have to put your work up against competition who have a freaking PhD from Stanford, or people who have already put out books with major publishers, or people who are tenured writing professors at Columbia, a lack of education matters.  It is intimidating as hell and it makes you feel like an outsider.  These people all know each other from years of networking through academia and workshops and they are a club.  I spend a tremendous amount of time every day knocking on their doors and introducing myself, hoping they’ll let me in and not ask me how I got there.

So how did we get here?  I’m not sure I’ve ever told you the whole story, but I feel ready to tell it today.

I’ll give you the Non-Cliff’s Notes version, despite the fact that my name is not Non-Cliff.  Oh, but if it were.  I would be such a dick!

Back in “the day” as the kids say, roundabout 2004-2005 when the band was first starting out, I used to send out emails to our mailing list to let people know about upcoming shows and band news.  I would write a couple paragraphs, maybe tell a little story, act like an asshole.  You know, be myself.

One of the people on our mailing list was Audra Schroeder, then-music editor for The New Times in Broward/Palm Beach.  She emailed me and said she liked my writing voice, and did I want to freelance for the magazine?  Maybe write a band review or something about upcoming concerts?

You should have seen the look on my face.  Someone wanted to pay me to write something?  So I did.  Working with Audra was a blast.  Eventually a new editor came in, and we didn’t mesh well at all (he edited the term “local yokels” into a piece I wrote about one of my favorite local bands), so that was the end of freelancing for New Times.  I’m touchy about the use of the term “local yokels”, apparently.

Then I started a little myspace blog for the band where I could air out my unedited thoughts on a daily basis, and I was really surprised at how well it was received.  I mean really surprised.  Eventually The New Times declared my blog “The Best Blog in South Florida”.  Holy crap-balls.  I had to leave my desk that day and go outside and cry.  (Truth be told, I still cry every time I get an acceptance.)

The blog kept on keepin’ on, and I was getting a really nice following.  I started writing freelance pieces for other local music and culture magazines.  Things were going great.

Then, in 2012, my boyfriend and bandmate/songwriting partner of ten years ran off with one of my best friends, married her, and they started churning out babies together, their gleeful lovey-dovey faces plastered across my social media on a goddamned daily basis while I tried to pick up the shattered pieces of my exploded life.  I had to block, delete, unfriend mutual friends, and eventually burn down all of my social media accounts and create new ones, and even that didn’t stop it.  When I went to see friends’ bands, they were there.  When I went out to brunch, they were there.  When I tried to go to the movies, they were there.  It felt like a nonstop assault.

The hurt, the anger, the humiliation.  It clawed through my body like a wolf and, pardon my French, ate my fucking soul until I was hollow.  It wrenched every creative bone out my body and pounded them into dust.  My writing, my painting, my singing, the band.  Whatever I had was gone.  Dead.

I cast writing and art and music out of my life and climbed into a shell where nothing could hurt me.  I had no desire to ever feel exposed again, in any way, shape, or form.  That part of me was officially over.

And I tell you what, I never thought those things would come back to me, but they did.

After six years of creative silence (and the love and support of my amazing husband), I decided to take a chance and start writing again last year with the promise to myself that I was really going to try this time.  That I owed it to myself to give myself a chance.  Not just start a blog, but send out work for publication, write a book, really put myself out there and dive into the writing community to become a real part of it.  Walk into the big, scary room all by myself and say, “Hi, I’m Maggie.  Let me into your world.”

I started the blog in February 2018 and sent my first piece out for submission on November 26, 2018. Here’s where we’re at today, eight months after that first submission:

I have had sixteen pieces either published or that are awaiting publication this year.

One of those pieces has been nominated for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.

I finished writing the damn book, all 73,600 words of it, and it’s currently a semi-finalist for the 2019 Pamet River Prize from YesYes Books.

I have been accepted as a member into The Author’s Guild.

The blog is now read in 62 countries.

Best of all, I’ve got a really awesome group of people who read and comment and subscribe to this blog, and I’m so grateful to all of you who come here to read about whatever I’m pissed off at during any given week.  I treasure, and I mean really treasure, the fact that you take time out of your lives to listen to me ramble about, relive, and work through the stuff that keeps me up at night.  You have no idea how much it means to me.  I do not take your support and friendliness and senses of humor for granted.  You’re all so freaking awesome.

What I want, from all of this, more than anything, is for all of us to not feel alone with our struggles.  You all make me feel less alone with my struggles.  I hope I make you feel less alone with yours.

You can come back from the things that you thought destroyed you.  You can start over.  You can work your ass off and make things happen if you’re willing to take a chance to put yourself out there.  You can pull yourself out of the scorched rubble and rise like a goddamned phoenix from the ashes.

I’m just an uneducated dirtbag who spends too much time inside her own head when she’s not listening to Poison.  Sometimes I write stuff down.  When I don’t know what I’m doing, I google it until I figure it out.

If I can do it, you can do it.