Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ten favorite Christmas songs.

Now that December is upon us, it is finally ok to start listening to Christmas music.

But you've been hearing it for months already, haven't you?

As soon as the first autumn leaf hits the ground, Christmas stuff is inescapable. It's in every store and on every radio station. It's in your head - especially when you REALLY don't want it to be in your head.

And by the time December actually rolls around, you're pretty sick of Christmas music.

Well, that's me, anyway. I have a Christmas hangover before the Christmas season has even really begun.

The early onslaught of all things Christmas has made me a little Scroogey, I must admit. I'm mostly annoyed because Christmas merchandise always encroaches the Halloween territory, and Halloween is my favorite holiday so just BACK OFF ALREADY CHRISTMAS.

But now that we're a few days into December, I'm going to try and leave my grinchy attitude behind and get into the Christmas spirit.

And I'm going to do that with Christmas music.

So hopefully you're not as Christmas-ed out as I am and will enjoy my ten favorite Christmas songs!

"Little Drummer Boy"
David Bowie and Bing Crosby

This is my favorite Christmas song of all time. Period. I obviously love David Bowie, and I have a solid appreciation for Bing Crosby. Put them together, and what you get is pure Christmas magic. What I don’t really understand is what exactly is going on in this skit: this particular video cuts right to the song, but in the original video, there's all sorts of weird banter and general confusion. But then THE SONG. I’m not a goosebumps kind of person, but seriously: chills.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late”
Alvin and the Chipmunks
This song is very much a polarizing “love it or hate it” song. I am firmly in the “love it” camp. I grew up with Chipmunks songs and the Chipmunks cartoons, and I am happy to look past the completely bizarre baseline plot of a weirdo single guy living and singing with three chipmunks he refers to as his sons. Anyway. Whether you are pro- or anti-Chipmunk, this song is catchy as hell, and it’s rare that I can resist a waltz. If you can’t stand the Chipmunks, check out She & Him’s version of the song. You’ll like it.

“Carol of the Bells”
Home Alone version
Home Alone was my childhood, and everything about it brings me back to snowy days in our tiny old house, with all five of us snuggled up in our cozy living room. “Carol of the Bells” is the background music as Kevin is setting the booby traps in his house, so of course, it’s very intense. Even though I’ve seen this movie approximately one million times, it’s always very stressful because THE WET BANDITS ARE COMING and IS KEVIN GOING TO GET EVERYTHING DONE ON TIME??!

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Simon and Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel aren’t especially known for their Christmas music, but they do have some hidden gems. They have a delightfully cheesy version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” on their first album, and they also did a haunting rendition of “Silent Night” with the 7 o’clock news playing the background. But my favorite is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which is a pretty great (and underutilized) carol to begin with. Add in the flawless harmonies that Simon and Garfunkel are known for, and the result is freaking magical.

“Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
The Piano Guys
The Piano Guys have been having a moment for the past few years, and I’m totally into it. They released a Christmas album a few years ago, and one of the songs was a "Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" combination. It’s all instrumental and totally amazing.

“Father Christmas”
The Kinks
I like my Christmas music (and most things, really) with a healthy dose of irreverence. Enter “Father Christmas.” It’s about a guy who dresses up like Santa and gets beaten up by some kids who demand money. These kids are not so well off, and they tell him to “give all the toys to the little rich boys.” It does take a turn for the heartbreaking when one of the kids says, “Give my daddy a job cause he needs one/he’s got lots of mouths to feed.” And one of the last lines is, “Have yourself a very merry Christmas/have yourself a good time/but remember the kids who got nothing/while you’re drinking down your wine.” Thanks for the reminder – we need it from time to time.

Mele Kalikimaka
She & Him
This is a pretty new addition to my list of Christmas favorites – I heard it for the first time when I first watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – which, shamefully, was just a few years ago. The version in the movie is Bing Crosby’s, but I really appreciate She & Him (and really, who doesn’t like Zooey Deschanel?). “Mele Kalikimaka” is pretty much the antithesis to every Christmas song ever, as it’s about Christmas in Hawaii and makes no reference to snow or any of the other wintery grossness with which we tend to be stuck on Christmas. Listening to the song with its Hawaiian music almost makes you feel warmer, and we can always use that in December.

“It Feels Like Christmas”
The Muppet Christmas Carol
There are SO MANY great Christmas songs in The Muppet Christmas Carol; it was hard for me to choose just one. There’s “One More Sleep Til Christmas,” which Kermit (Bob Cratchit) sings on Christmas Eve, and there’s “Thankful Heart,” performed by Michael Caine (Scrooge) after he has seen the Christmas light. And then there's “Bless Us All,” which Tiny Tim sings as his family is seated around their meager Christmas dinner and I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING. But ultimately, my favorite is “It Feels Like Christmas,” which the Ghost of Christmas Present sings to Scrooge as they are standing in the town square on Christmas Day. The Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge that Christmas is all about kindness: “wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.” Warm fuzzies.

Snoopy’s Christmas”
The Royal Guardsmen
As we’ve established, I was a super weird kid (who has since become a super weird adult). I was listening to exclusively oldies radio stations by the time I was twelve, and that’s how I became acquainted with “Snoopy’s Christmas.” Starting in mid-November, the oldies stations would play this on a near-constant loop. Having read scores of Peanuts anthologies at my grandma Sheila’s house, I was familiar with Snoopy’s WWI flying ace alter ego and his battles with the Red Baron. However, until my foray into the oldies stations, I had no idea that Snoopy and the Red Baron had their own Christmas song. It’s just bizarre enough for me to totally love it.

“Holly Jolly Christmas”
Burl Ives
As a kid, I LOVED the television Christmas specials (but who didn’t?). We waited for those with almost as much anticipation as we waited to open our presents. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was (obviously) one of our favorites, and to this day, I have a healthy appreciation for all things Rankin Bass. Rudolph was not only a harbinger of Christmas spirit, but it had great songs: notably, “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Nothing sounds as much like Christmas as Burl Ives singing this song.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Home Alone/Mel Torme
There are eight hundred thousand versions of this song, but as a 90s kid, the Mel Torme/Home Alone version will always be my favorite. It’s at the almost-end when (spoiler alert) the Wet Bandits are getting hauled away in a police car. I’ve always thought it was a nice song, and it gained meaning as I grew older. My sister was in the military and couldn’t always make it home for Christmas, thus: “someday soon, we all will be together/if the fates align.” And for the past few years, the fates have indeed aligned.


For all my poo-pooing of the early onslaught of Christmas music,  I really do love it. (After December 1, that is.) There are still plenty of songs that didn’t quite make my top ten list, and I plan to listen to all of them. On repeat. From now until December 25.

Because on December 26, Christmas music once again becomes verboten. That means that Christmas music stays special – if there are only 25 days out of the year I can listen to it, I get excited about it every year. Every December 1, it feels like a treat to once again listen to these songs that I’ve filed away for the last almost-year. And every year, they feel like old friends.

Whatever your Christmas music listening preferences, I hope you have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

on this day in 2004: excerpts from a journal, November edition.

15 November 2004

So I got up early this morning to go to the Touchdown Jesus church for oral interp regions. Our Readers' Theatre put on a good show, but there were too many others better than us. Oh well.

After Readers' Theatre, Bob and I went to eat (Mrs Wendland drove us). Everyone (but Bob) got Subway, and we took it back to the church. Mrs Holzer yanked Bob off to serious plays (editor's note: this is an oral interp category) before he could eat his food. He returned two hours later to two disgusting cold cheeseburgers. While waiting for Mrs Holzer, we were talked to Kristi Jensen, who I really enjoy. I mentioned that I would cry if Bob's and my duet didn't make it to State (which is in Pierre), and Bob said, "I'll cry for you." After they announced the qualifiers (Bob for serious plays, Kristi for humorous, Jessica for poetry), Mrs Holzer took Jessica, Kristi, and Darryl to eat since they hadn't had lunch. Bob and I just sort of came along, and Bob made me smuggle is one remaining cold cheeseburger into Subway.

Back at church, Bob and I practiced our duet because we had both added lots of stuff. We were sixth, so we had a long time to wait. The ones we heard before ours were decent; nothing spectacular. When it was our turn, I was terrified. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Oral interp isn't supposed to be like this! Anyway, we rocked. Lots and lots of ad-libbing, which is now our new best friend. The three judges all laughed a lot, as did the rest of the room. Finally, they announced the results: Bob and Calla for duet! We got our little medals and shook everyone's hands. Whew! So relieved! Bob and I requested a State Oral Interp pep rally and shirts that say "We're Going to the Dome! (in Pierre)". We're also going to wear our medals around school tomorrow and insist that people refer to us as "your majesties the State Qualifiers."

Back in Arlington, we went straight to play practice. Sarah congratulated us when she heard the news, and Tiff gave me a hug. LouAnn Jensen came in with a sign reading "AHS INTERP ROCKS!" and Rachel said, "I missed you so much!"

We just quickly ran through everything, and it was pretty painless (for Bob and me, that is... we got there at 530 while everyone else had been there since 315). Gayle is making a Wayne's World hat for me, and it will rock. 

Current music: "Across the Universe" by the Beatles

Sunday, November 13, 2016

top ten Clash songs.

In these few days following the election, I (like so many) have lots of feelings. ALL THE FEELINGS. And, whenever one is overwhelmed with powerful feelings of anger and sadness, music always makes things better.

In this case: shouty left-wing British punk. Specifically? THE CLASH.

I have loved the Clash since I was a wee teenager in rural South Dakota. While other angry early 2000s teenagers were listening to Green Day, I wound up in the 1970s, listening to the Clash – with a bit of the Ramones sprinkled in for taste. (I have my good friend Allison to thank for this: she lent me her copy of London Calling when we were fourteen, and it changed my life.)

Fast forward to today, and I would rank the Clash as one of my top five favorite bands of all time. I recently purchased London Calling on vinyl, and it is (no contest) the most-played LP in my collection. So today, I’d like to share (in no particular order, save for the London Calling grouping) my ten favorite Clash songs… because we could all use a little more British punk in our lives.

(DISCLAIMER: YouTube wouldn't let me embed normal versions of any of these songs, so please: just click on the bold song title to follow the links to YouTube. They will be the real deal, and you won't be sorry.)

After singing the praises of London Calling, I must tell you that half of my favorite Clash songs come from London Calling. So here’s what we’re going to do: the first five songs on my list are all London Calling songs, so we'll talk about all those right away. Then we'll move on to the rest of the catalog. "Train in Vain" originally appeared as a hidden track at the very end of London Calling - or, not precisely hidden, as it was a last-minute add after the album sleeve had been printed. I LOVE "Train in Vain" - it's sort of a love song, and I can't resist its bouncy tune, the harmonica, and the iconic voice of Mick Jones.

"Spanish Bombs" was one of my very early Clash favorites, and I still love it so dearly. One of the myriad reasons I love the Clash is that, besides being the amazing punk rockers they are, a lot of their songs are quite educational. "Spanish Bombs" references the Spanish Civil War and late 1970s tourism to Spain. You can also learn a bit of pidgin Spanish if you want to: Joe Strummer sings "Yo te quiera infinitoyo te quiera, oh mi coraz√≥n." And good luck getting that out of your head after you listen to it.

Another history lesson in song: "Rudie Can't Fail" is about the "rude boys" in 1960s Jamaica who challenged the status quo of the elders. True story: for years and years, I thought the song was about some guy named Rudy who... well, couldn't fail. Thank you, Wikipedia, for setting me straight.

 "Lost in the Supermarket" was written in 1979, but its message holds true today. It's about consumerism and the commercialization of the world - about alienation in the suburbs and the disillusionment of young people. Sound familiar?

"The Card Cheat" is the fifth and final song off London Calling on this list.  "The Card Cheat" wasn't all that high on my list until several years ago when it played on the Current while I was living in Minneapolis. I couldn't believe I'd been neglecting this song for all those years. Of the many things I love about the Clash, their instrumentation gets me every time - and this song is a prime example.

This is a cover, and while I do love the 1960s original version, this song was MEANT for the Clash. My absolute favorite part is where they sing the lyric "robbing people with a six gun," and in the background, you can hear six drum hits in an almost waltz-beat. SO GOOD. “I Fought the Law” is best listened to at top volume while speeding. (I mean, speeding? I never do that.)

Like all of my very favorite artists, I have a distinct memory of the first song of theirs that I heard and loved. With the Clash, it was "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" I feel like if you know one Clash song, it's this one. I love the spitting emotion in Mick Jones's voice - we've all felt this way at one time or another, be it about a relationship or a job or what have you. And we all need just the right song to get us through.

 One of the things I love most about writing these song posts is that I learn a whole lot about said songs - thanks mostly to Wikipedia, so it all has to be true. I never gave much thought to what "Hitsville UK" was about: I only knew that I loved the melody and the instrumentation. Turns out "Hitsville UK" is about the fledgling indie music scene in 1970s/1980s Britain, contrasting the commercialization of the major labels and artists selling out to them. See? More history education, thanks to the Clash.

 I am an absolute sucker for a waltz, and I'm a super sucker for a waltz in rock music (see also: "Waltz #2" by Elliott Smith). "Rebel Waltz," like "Hitsville UK" and "Police on My Back," is from the album Sandinista!, which is just about as wonderful as London Calling. Sandinista! is full of different music styles, including this waltz. The guitar intro is possibly my favorite introduction of all time.

 “Police on My Back” is also a cover – it was originally released in the late 1960s by some band I’ve never heard of (the Equals – their only hit was “Baby Come Back”). Like “I Fought the Law,” “Police on My Back” seems meant for the Clash. And also like “I Fought the Law,” “Police on My Back” sounds the best at high speeds. Throughout the song, the guitar part sounds like sirens. How appropriate/awesome.


Ok, so “Redemption Song” isn’t TECHNICALLY a Clash song: it was written by Bob Marley and covered by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros in 2002. The version I love most is a duet between Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash: iconic voices, to be sure. And the lyrics? "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds." True and powerful then, true and powerful now.


There you have it: my ten favorite songs by the Clash, plus one extra. (You should know that there are at least five other Clash songs that I love dearly - but not as dearly as these ten - so feel free to ask me about them!) I really do appreciate you taking the time to read through all this, and I can talk about the Clash until I'm blue in the face, but nothing at all compares to listening to them. So if you haven't yet, please go and listen to the Clash. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

five songs I'm listening to now, volume II.

A few months back, I shared a list of five songs to which I couldn't stop listening. (Sorry: attempting not to end sentences in prepositions results in pretentious sentences.)

I typically don't listen to a lot of music in the car: MPR is my go-to auto entertainment. However, when I wrote my last list of five song, I had taken an MPR break because it was the member drive. (Shudder.) This time, I'm taking a break because I am SO FREAKING TIRED of election coverage. Yes, it's so very very important, but couldn't we talk about something else for just a little bit? Please?

So I'm on a talk radio hiatus, and I've been more or less playing this five songs on repeat. If you need a break from nonstop political jabber, I recommend you give these a listen.

Dance Rascal Dance
Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters
Fact: this is a song by a fake band. It was part of the soundtrack to a movie called Hello, My Name is Doris - a totally adorable film about Sally Field falling in love with Schmidt from New Girl. It is SO CUTE and you have to watch it right now. However, be prepared to be obsessed with this song for months afterward. Or maybe that's just me.

Lovers Eyes
Mumford and Sons
James and I went to a Mumford and Sons concert in April, and I've been listening to them more or less nonstop ever since. Seeing a band live definitely gives you a whole new appreciation for their music - before we saw Mumford and Sons, I had (shamefully) only listened to about a third of their music. I have since expanded my Mumford and Sons horizons, and "Lovers Eyes" is my current favorite. It's from their second album (Babel), which is pretty easily my favorite of the three. Their first album was amazing, but they really seemed to come into their own on the second album before kind of selling out on the third. "Lovers Eyes" is kind of the epitome of what made people love Mumford and Sons: powerful lyrics, great and emotive harmonies, and totally badass banjo playing.

Twenty One Pilots
The Bjorklund-Jarvie household has a serious thing for Twenty One Pilots - we listen to them ALL THE TIME, have both albums on vinyl, and are going to their concert in February. (SO EXCITED.) They have so many great songs, but "Ride" is my absolute favorite. It's off their Blurryface album, and I listen to it at least twice a day. Remember how I've said that Twenty One Pilots have an uncanny ability to put into song exactly how you are thinking/feeling? "Ride" does that with the line "I've been thinking too much/help me." As a chronic overthinker, that struck a chord (HA MUSIC PUN) with me. Not to mention the reggae beat and the rap section (which I love oh so dearly). 

Ashes to Ashes
David Bowie
"Ashes to Ashes" is a song that I had more or less forgotten about until James and I went to see the South Dakota Symphony play a Prince/David Bowie concert at the end of October. "Ashes to Ashes" was one of the songs they performed, and I suddenly loved it. It's eerie (especially if you watch the music video), and since I had almost no memory of it, it was like getting to hear a brand new David Bowie song. I cannot stop listening to it - I listened to it four times in a row on the way to work yesterday, and I've listened to it three times since I've been home for work today. I think I have a problem.

Better Than Ezra
Speaking of songs whose existence I had forgotten, "Good" crossed my radar after years and years of absence - I don't know where or why I heard it, but it's been wedged in the 90s music part of my brain ever since. It's so catchy, and the guitar is so delightfully 90s that it gives me all sorts of nostalgic fuzzies. And I'm only a little bit ashamed with James catches me listening to it in the car.


There are the five songs! Stay tuned (HA! I'm on a roll with music puns!) for more, especially since Christmas music is just around the corner...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

how zombies saved Halloween.

As I approached the Halloween of my seventh grade year, my parents delivered the devastating news that I was henceforth too old to go trick-or-treating.

I was crushed.

Halloween has been my favorite holiday ever since I was old enough to know what it meant to have a favorite holiday.
I would take Halloween over my birthday and Christmas, hands down. I loved (and still love) nothing more than to put on a costume (elaborate or otherwise) each year and have one night to be someone/thing else. I couldn't imagine EVER being too old for that.

When I was informed that I had aged out of trick-or-treating, I began plotting a work-around. My parents suggested that I stay home and hand out candy, but I was having none of that.

Besides, we only got the smallest handful of trick-or-treaters... there was no need whatsoever to have a person there to do the handing. My fellow rural South Dakotans simply left a giant bowl of candy on the steps with a sign saying "help yourself." As I have professed before, trick-or-treating in the country is the BEST.

Since handing out candy was out, I did what any Halloween-deprived conniving twelve-year-old would do:

I called up my town-dwelling friend Allison, and we went trick-or-treating on foot in Arlington.

I may have been too old to have my mom haul me around in a minivan to go trick-or-treating in the country, but there was no way I was giving up Halloween just yet.

Honestly, I went trick-or-treating much longer than I should have. There is definitely a "too old" threshold, and I passed it... and ignored it. In my defense, in my last few years of high school trick-or-treating, my friends and I only went to our teachers' houses - which sounds weird, but I really think they got a kick out of us.
Especially the time we dressed up in our band uniforms and went to our band director's house.
The last time I went trick-or-treating was during my freshman year in college. WAY too old, I know. But in my defense, the only real Halloween alternative to trick-or-treating was underage drinking. It was barely two months into my college experience, and I was still an eighteen-year-old uncorrupted goody-two-shoes, so I went trick-or-treating.

For some, high school is when Halloween morphs from cute costumes and candy into slutty costumes and booze. Others wait until college for this particular transformation.

It still hasn’t happened for me.

Halloween to me has never been a time to go out and get drunk, and it never will be. (I’m 29, for crying out loud: if it was going to happen, it would’ve happened.) Halloween means dressing up in something awesome (NEVER SLUTTY), eating candy (even if it’s candy you yourself purchased), and doing fun Halloween stuff.

As a childless adult, this is much more challenging than one would think. I am fortunate enough to work in a place that allows me to dress up, and candy is easy to come by… but Halloween stuff? It’s all aimed either at children or drunk twentysomethings. Don't get me wrong: I am totally a-ok with a drink or two. But I have long aged out of drinking for the sake of drinking, and that's what Halloween skews towards.

Sure, there are a couple of adulty non-drunk things one can do… the midnight showing of Rocky Horror comes to mind, and there is a haunted Sioux Falls tour that I’ve NEVER been able to get tickets to… but on the whole, pickings are slim.

Until the zombies.

Zombies have been having a moment for quite some time now, and I am SO GRATEFUL. Zombies have saved Halloween for people like me.

My first ever zombie event occurred just at the beginning of the zombie revolution. It was 2006 and my sophomore year in college. The U of M Morris announced it would be hosting a zombie prom, and HELL YES I was going. My friend Sara and I went to the Salvation Army for our outfits and Pamida for our makeup, and we looked ridiculous. It was a great time - the food service building had been transformed into part graveyard/part dance floor, and "Thriller" was on a never-ending loop. What a great and ridiculous entry point to my zombie life.
And you know what? I think UMM has had Zombie Prom every year since.

As an adult (and since I graduate from UMM - gulp - more than seven years ago), I'm pretty sure I'm no longer invited to Zombie Prom. (Though a quick Google search informs me that Chicago has a huge Zombie Prom. Next year??) However, there are two major zombie events I do attend each Halloween: the Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis, and the Zombie Walk in Sioux Falls.

Let’s start with the pub crawl.
First of all, it is indeed a pub crawl, and I KNOW I was just griping that Halloween events cater to drunk adults. Indeed, this is true of the Zombie Pub Crawl: it is primarily a means for people to drink. However, it is not just that: there is a zombie costume contest, and there are food trucks. There are concerts, and someone is always doing the “Thriller” dance. I personally LOVE that there are thousands of people in one spot, and each and every one of them is dressed like a zombie.

But the real star of the show is the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk.

I have lived in the Sioux Falls area for five years now, and I’ve participated in the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk for three years. (Soon to be four, as the walk is coming up on the 29th.) I didn’t know about it during my first year (as I had just moved here at the beginning of October and was likely too poor to buy zombie makeup), but I’ve been a faithful zombie ever since.

The Zombie Walk is a full-on zombie parade, and the costumes are some of the most intricate I’ve ever seen in my life. You can pay a few bucks to have a professional do your makeup for you, and you can get hosed down with fake blood at the “blood station” (you should see the sidewalk when they’re through). I have seen dogs dressed as zombies, and I have seen tiny babies dressed as zombies. I have seen astoundingly delightful theme zombies - zombie Marty McFly being my favorite to date. At the parade itself, there are zombie floats and everything. The entire zombie horde goes shambling down the street, and people line the sidewalks to watch. It's downright magical in an eat-your-brains kind of way.

This year's Zombie Walk promises to be the biggest and best so far. I've heard that there's going to be a regular Halloween parade before the zombies - something less gruesome for the squeamish among us. Then, all zombies are invited to the Icon in Sioux Falls - something I'm pretty thrilled about, as there has not been an organized zombie event after the parade. In previous years, the zombies would just disperse - and anyone in zombie makeup heading to a downtown restaurant after the parade would get some weird looks (Mitch, James, and I were all but shamed out of Bros one year).
We looked like this.

I love the Zombie Walk because it is one of those rare events that bills itself "for all ages" and actually is. If you go to the Zombie Walk, you'll find all ages: remember the babies dressed as zombies? And the point - unlike a lot of adult-ish Halloween events - is NOT to get drunk. It's to dress up like a zombie and be a part of a zombie community and march in a parade while doing your best to look like you want to eat brains. It is exactly my kind of thing.

So I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the zombies of America for saving Halloween. Thank you for creating something to do for Halloween that doesn't require small children or copious amounts of alcohol. I love you, zombies, and I can't wait to eat brains with you at the Zombie Walk.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

on this day in 2003: excerpts from a journal, October edition.

22 October 2003

College Days! (fanfare follows)

(editor's note: I was referring to a college fair in Brookings that the junior class attended each year.)

It actually wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it would be. Upon arriving at College Days, Gilbertson (the guidance counselor) gave us a few instructions and sent us on our merry way. I filled out a bunch of little cards for more information (even an Army one). College mail, here I come!

Allison and I are both fascinated with the armed forces, so we (along with Jessie) visited those booths. The Army ROTC guy was really nice, and he gave us big fat books with a ton of information. They rule. Apparently, if you go to school under an ROTC program, you graduate an officer and get lots of scholarship money. ROTC does not sound like a bad deal, although the whole idea of basic training scares the hell out of me.

Speaking of scary, when we were walking past the Navy table, Jessie said to us, "I don't do boats." The Navy guy yelled, "Only 54% of the Navy is on boats at any given time!" He barked information at us, and he asked Jessie what she was considering. When she said nursing, he yelled, "There are 270,000 nurses in the Navy, and 23 on each of our 10 aircraft carriers. Where the hell do you think the others are?" What a jerk! Doesn't the Navy want any more sailors?

After that weirdness, we went to visit of University of Minnesota, Morris. Their admissions guy asked us where we had been, and we told him about the Navy. He said, "Don't worry, we won't yell at you."

The other armed forces tables were nice, though. The Air Force guy was very smiley, and the Army guy liked Allison's coat. The Army was giving away some kick-ass swag. I got an awesome pin and a notebook, but I missed the luggage tags.

Current music: I heard "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi on the bus on the way to Brookings...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

a lifetime of Halloweens: revised for 2016!

(editor's note: I wrote this just before Halloween 2015. in the meantime, I have discovered an additional childhood Halloween costume AND have dressed as a zombie. so while much of the material is the same, there's a little bit that's different - and even so, I personally think it's totally worth revisiting almost 30 years of costumes.)

So it's almost Halloween, and I am excited: per usual. I have had my costume picked out since last Halloween, and I've been gazing at it longingly ever since. 

My costume is not just any costume. It kicks ass, and I can't wait to show it to you. However, there is a definite downside to having such an awesome costume: after this Halloween, I can NEVER WEAR IT AGAIN.


Because I have a policy.

I cannot be the same thing for Halloween twice.

"But wait!" you say. "What about the zombies, huh? YOU ARE LYING!"

But no! I dress up as a zombie for specific zombie-themed events: not for Halloween itself. Doesn't count. It's the zombie clause in my self-imposed Halloween contract. 

(I could also argue that since I have worn different zombie-fied clothes each time, I am never the same zombie. But let's not go there.)

I must have decided on my no-repeats Halloween rule at a pretty young age: I have pictures going back to 1988, and you won't find any duplicates. You will, however, find some darn cute pictures of me as a very excited child. 

I wish I had pictures of every Halloween, but I don't. I don't know what I was for Halloween 1987 - but I was a mere six months old and I am pretty sure that my parents dressed me up in the little skeleton costume you'll see on my sister in 1991 and my brother in 1993. 1992 is also missing, as are 1999 - 2002. While I am unsure about 1992, 1999 - 2001 was a dark time in my life... as I was deemed too old for trick-or-treating. I decided to forgo costumes those years, but I eventually realized that just because you're too old to trick-or-treat does NOT mean you're too old to dress up for Halloween. You're NEVER too old to dress up for Halloween, dammit. The only other year missing is 2009, but that was the year that I was in New Orleans. I was so excited to spend Halloween in New Orleans, but alas, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I didn't know anyone well enough to go out Halloweening with them, and even if I did, I didn't have enough money for a costume or drinks at the bar. I spent that Halloween curled up on my air mattress, watching Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and sad-eating Halloween candy from my landlady.

On the bright side? Pretty much every Halloween going forward is guaranteed to be better than that one.

So here we go: a pictorial history of Calla's Halloweens!

I came across this picture in May when I was digging through a box of ancient photos in search of something embarrassing to post for Mother's Day. (You mean you DON'T share ridiculous photos of your mother from the 1980s on Mother's Day? Shame on you.) I was overjoyed, as 1988 had been one of my mysterious gap years. You have no idea how happy finding this twenty-eight-year old picture made me.

Mickey Mouse
Is this or is this not the cutest damn Mickey Mouse you've ever seen? I was about two-and-a-half, and Halloween was already my favorite holiday. Trick-or-treating in the country always meant that you'd come away with an enormous haul. We just had to hop in the minivan and drive from house to house. As not many trick-or-treaters make it out into the sticks where we lived, any house you went to would reward you with handfuls of candy. Or multiple full-sized candy bars. Or twelve-packs of pop. Country trick-or-treating is the best.

My pumpkin makeup is a little bit hilarious. I'm not sure which parent was responsible for this, but I would like to know why exactly I have a red mouth instead of a black one. The jack o' lantern face on my sweatshirt has a black mouth - why not me?

You may have noticed that all of my costumes involve long sleeves. Indeed, I live in the Midwest, so many of my Halloween costumes were planned around sweatshirts and winter coats. That's why I look so bulky: under my black sweatshirt was probably another sweatshirt. I believe 1991 was a particularly snowy Halloween, but there's no way that I wasn't going out trick-or-treating.

This princess dress came from a huge bin of my mom's old clothes that had been deemed "for dress-up." I played dress-up ALL the damn time, and it was a delight for me to be able to wear this out in public. To top it off, Mom made me glitter shoes: old dress shoes coated in glue and dipped in multi-colored glitter. They were the BEST.

I don't know where this costume came from, but I do remember that it was supposed to be a bunny suit. It more or less a white onesie and had big ears sticking straight up. One of Mom's coworkers sewed spots on it, and presto! I was a dalmatian. However, even though I was clearly wearing a dog collar, I was mistaken for a cow for all of Halloween day.

1995 must've been a particularly warm Halloween, hence the bare legs. Though I was only eight in 1995, I feel as though my sarcasm was really starting to develop: being a cheerleader for Halloween was the scariest thing I could think of.

Another cold Halloween, as our costumes were comprised mainly of different-colored sweatshirts. My cat ears are a little droopy, but I felt (at the time) like the stuffed mouse really brought the costume together. Please, though, direct your attention to my brother Mitch, who (at age three) is way too delighted to be Satan.

Cruella de Vil
Ah, the year I was Cruella de Vil. Mom (for reasons still unknown) had this old rabbit-fur coat in the back of her closet, and I commandeered it for Halloween that year. My cousin Ethan was a part of the theatre department at SDSU, so he was able to procure (and spray-paint) the wig for me. Another cold-weather costume, but this one was a win. 

gypsy/just-rolled-out-of-bed girl
The first year of the double Halloween costume. I dug through the old dress-up box and was a gypsy for the school Halloween parade. (This was around the time Disney released The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I totally wished I could be Esmeralda.) I came home in my gypsy outfit, all ready to trick-or-treat, and I was informed that it was too cold to wear it. I would have to find something else. I half-heartedly threw together my "person in pajamas" costume, which is 100% lame. Had I realized that it would be my last year as a trick-or-treater, I'd like to think that I would've come up with something better. We'll never know.

Medieval vampire?
Ok, so I'm not 100% sure what I billed my costume as this year. I do know that it involved this dress that I bought at Goodwill, a vampire cape from KMart, and skeleton earrings. Medieval vampire, perhaps?

Count von Disco Bono
Another off-year in my Halloween history. This is the cape that I bought with Allison the year before - sadly, no photographic evidence exists of our 2002 vampire costumes. The cape itself is pretty awesome - it came from Kmart in Brookings before it closed, and I still have the cape to this day. I also have the skeleton earrings in this picture, which you can see if you look very closely. Anyway, I wanted to dress up for Halloween but was fresh out of ideas, so this is what I got. I called myself Count von Disco Bono: vampire cape + Bono sunglasses + pink plaid bellbottoms. A terrible costume, but a costume nonetheless.

reject Charlie's Angel/generic sock hopper/beat up band kid
Halloween of my senior year of high school was AWESOME. That was the year our high school football team made it to the state playoffs (and won). Halloween was right around said big game, so all of Halloween (which was on a Sunday, so we celebrated early at school) was one big pep rally day. There were games and snacks and absolutely no productivity whatsoever. My outfit was a red one-piece bell-bottomed monstrosity that I got at Goodwill, plus some go-go boots and a shiny scarf. I was a reject Charlie's Angel. I had to work at the Dairy Mart  that evening, and there was no way that I was doing so in a polyester jumpsuit. I changed into a dress and saddle shoes and was a generic sock-hopper. On Halloween itself, Bob and I dressed up as beat-up band kids and Meagan dressed up as our band director... and we went trick-or-treating at his house. I recall that he and his wife thought we were hilarious. Or hilariously lame. Either way.

band kid
(Editor's note: this qualifies as a different costume than the previous year because a.) I was a beat up band kid in 2004 and just a regular one in 2005, and b.) the beat up band kid costume was not my main costume: an honor I'd give to my reject Charlie's Angel jumpsuit.) 
Much to my great pleasure, I found all sorts of people at college who loved to dress up at Halloween. I stole adopted my old band uniform - after all, the school had just gotten new ones and was systematically burning/donating/destroying the old uniforms, so I figured that I might as well give mine the loving home it deserved. Anyway, it was the perfect Midwestern costume - made of wool = super warm. And how about that hat? If only I'd had the red plume that goes with it. 

zombie I/sailor-ish/opposite
Yes, friends: this was the year of the triple costume. My friend Sara and I attended UMM's first Zombie Prom: though we look like undead pandas, believe me when I say that we were zombies. Halloween was on a Tuesday that year, so we also needed costumes for the preceding weekend: hence my sailor outfit. It's difficult to see in this picture, but my top is an actual wool sailing uniform that I picked up at an antique store. Points for authenticity. Finally, Sara and I had costumes for Halloween itself: we went as opposites. It's the only time that I've ever dressed as a concept for Halloween, and it was a very liberal arts college thing to do. I totally loved it and still think we were a little bit brilliant.

My favorite costume to date: the year of the Croc. Ever since I first saw those rubbery horrors, I have cursed their existence. Sara had a pair of pink Crocs that she so graciously let me borrow for this costume. This was the year that Halloween was on a Wednesday, and Wednesday nights were the nights that both Sara (the news editor) and I (the arts and entertainment editor) worked late at the college paper. We put in extra hours on Monday and Tuesday of that week in order to be out the door by 10pm Wednesday - instead of our usual 2am Thursday. Halloween is THAT important.

Thanks to the leap year, Halloween landed on a Friday in 2008. Theoretically, that was great: but we poor band kids had a concert on HALLOWEEN NIGHT. And not even a fun Halloween concert... a regular concert that no one attended BECAUSE IT WAS HALLOWEEN. After the concert, we all booked it back to our houses to get into our Halloween costumes and catch up to the rest of our non-band friends. My costume is an authentic Norwegian folk costume, given to me by my authentic Norwegian grandma. And made of wool. The best Minnesotan Halloween costumes are wool-based.

Lobster Telephone
I was living in Minneapolis in 2010, which is an all-around excellent place to spend Halloween. I had finished my tenure as an intern at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but during my time there, I learned about all sorts of cool events that they sponsor. Example: they do this thing called Third Thursdays where, the third Thursday of each month, they keep the museum open late and have some kind of big event. On this particular Third Thursday, the MIA asked attendees to come dressed as their favorite MIA work of art. I chose Dali's Lobster Telephone because why on earth WOULDN'T you choose Lobster Telephone?

Rocky Horror fail/old-timey teacher
By 2011, I had moved to Sioux Falls and had been there for approximately one month. I wore the costume on the left to a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, hoping that it would be as amazing as the midnight showing I had seen in Minneapolis the year before. (Note: it wasn't.) My Rocky Horror outfit was not as risque as a real Rocky Horror outfit should be, but what can I say? It was cold, and I was a chicken. The costume on the left is the one I wore to work at the Department of Labor and Regulation. I was dead-broke, so I had to pretty much phone this one in. I carried a ruler and was an old-timey teacher - the dress belonged to my grandma in the 60s, who was real-life old-timey teacher. Again, points for authenticity.

By Halloween 2012, I was gainfully employed at the library and was delighted to find out that nearly everyone at the library dressed up for Halloween. The library costumes were all part of a theme, and the theme that year was superheroes. That worked out perfectly for me, as my brother Mitch had given me this spectacular pair of pajamas for Christmas the year before. And may I say that James's Pee-Wee Herman costume is simply amazing? 

zombie II/Duck Dynasty/Mary Poppins

2013 was the first year that we participated in the Zombie Walk... and I didn't really even get to be in it. The parade started at 5 o'clock, but I worked until 5... I thought I could quick run over, find James and our friend Nate, and quick get my makeup done and hop in the parade. Alas, by the time I left the library and made it to the zombie area (approx. two minutes), the parade was over. So I found James and Nate at a restaurant, and they did my makeup while we were waiting for a table. For Halloween itself, the library's theme costume was Duck Dynasty, but my REAL costume was Mary Poppins - and this was the first (and so far, only) year James and I have had couples' costumes. 

zombie III/Buster Bluth
Finally, we arrive at 2014. Mitch made it for the Zombie Walk, and I feel as though our makeup was much better than the year before. For Halloween, I convinced the library to go with a "TV characters" theme just because I had been dying to go as Buster Bluth. I repurposed the Duck Dynasty jacket from the year before and bought camo pants, a hook, an army hat, wire glasses, and a loose seal - complete with a yellow bow tie. It was the most I'd ever spent on a Halloween costume, and the hardest I'd ever worked on one. And you know what? Almost NO ONE got it. At the bar that evening, one guy yelled out "Motherboy," which was a spot-on Buster Bluth reference and totally made my night.

zombie IV/Maleficent/Marla Hooch

2015 was a particularly strong year for me, and I'm really quite proud of my costumes. Of course, there was the zombie element: I went to both the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl and the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk, so zombie squared. (I'm only including the one picture, though, since my zombie costume was the same.) For work, I dressed as Maleficent. Our work theme was heroes and villains, and I was only one of two villains. I got a lot of great compliments on my costume that day, and no less than three people asked to take a picture of/with me. But what really struck me as hilarious was that for every one person who commented on my costume, there were at least three more who pretended like absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary. On Halloween itself, I dressed as a Rockford Peach - specifically, Marla Hooch. "And then there's Marla Hooch... what a hitter!"

zombie V/?
Did you honestly think I was going to debut my Halloween costume before Halloween?! You should know me better by now. Since Halloween is still nearly two weeks away, all you get (for now) is a zombie picture. Here I am at the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl, in my child-size skeleton onesie. We had initially planned to go as Zombie Clue (which would've been AWESOME), but two members of our group couldn't come. Instead of looking like idiots when we dressed as just part of Zombie Clue, we went with the classic random zombie horde. I found my costume the day of at Goodwill. Typical zombie behavior.


And there's my lifetime of Halloweens! Rest assured I will continue adding to this list as the years go on, because DAMMIT you're never too old for Halloween.