Tuesday, March 26, 2013

top ten Tuesday: ten songs from my DJ days.

I went to the University of Minnesota, Morris: a teeny liberal arts branch of the U of M. One of the major benefits of going to a tiny campus was that you could participate in any and every extracurricular activity you felt like. That’s why I had a radio show.

For three semesters, I had a show on 89.7, KUMM (I am not making that up; those are its actual call letters). 
This bumper sticker is real, too.
During that first semester (spring 2007, to be exact), I teamed up with Hipster Boyfriend, and the show was a hot mess. My friend and roommate Sara and I had our own radio show in fall 2007 and spring 2008, which mostly amounted to us goofing off for two hours each Sunday.

I played a great many songs during my tenure at KUMM, but there are ten of them that stand out. Without further ado, I present my top ten KUMM songs! (this sounds really dirty, but actually isn’t! trust me!)

Leslie Carter – “Like Wow”
I don’t know where Sara first heard this song, but it was a big thing in fall 2007… big enough that we named our radio show after it. Yes, for a solid school year, we had a radio show called “Like Wow.” I don’t think we were actually ever allowed to play the song (KUMM had a strict ban on Top 40 music), but it was our namesake just the same.

The Slip – “Even Rats”
To have a radio show on KUMM, you had to meet certain requirements. You had to play a certain number of pre-recorded ads, and you had to read ads off of little index cards every so often, as well. But what KUMM took the most seriously was its new music requirement. There was a stack of recently-acquired CDs, and we needed to play four new songs every hour. Most of the new music was terrible, but every once in a while, you’d find something decent. “Even Rats” was one of the first songs we found in the new music pile that we didn’t mind, and we played it once per radio show until it aged out of the new music section.

Scissor Sisters – “Kiss You Off”
If you want the long version of this story, feel free to go here: http://callagator.blogspot.com/2012/01/some-radio-stories.html. Here’s the short-ish version: Hipster Boyfriend and I couldn’t agree on a damn thing during our time as cohosts. My family (bless their long-suffering hearts) always listened to our radio show, so I wanted to play something they’d recognize. Specifically? “Faith” by George Michael. Hipster Boyfriend argued that it was too popular. I countered that KUMM rules allowed us to play music that hadn’t been in the Top 40 for the past ten years, and “Faith” was certainly not in the Top 40 in 1997 or beyond. Hipster Boyfriend also declared that it was inappropriate (for a radio station named KUMM? I don’t think so). I asked him why, and he proceeded to go through the song, practically lyric by lyric. I then asked, as innocently as I could, if it was so inappropriate, then why could he describe it in such great detail while on the air? Hipster Boyfriend then pulled the seniority card: this was his fourth semester as a DJ, and only my first, and he informed me that what he said was law. With as much venom as I could muster, I spat, “You’re a JERK!” and immediately played “Kiss You Off” by Scissor Sisters. I got a call from my parents later that evening, telling me how much they had enjoyed the show that night. And to this day, “Kiss You Off” is one of my mom’s favorite songs.

Zibra Zibra – “Lions on the Astroturf”
“Lions on the Astroturf” falls squarely into the same category as “Even Rats.” It was in the new music pile, Sara and I didn’t mind it, so we played it until was too old to count as one of our mandatory four new songs. Plus, the album cover was really colorful and cheery, so there’s that.

Halloween, Alaska – “Call it Clear”
(YouTube failed me! Here's a link to the song: http://vimeo.com/33082839)
KUMM did their best to promote Minnesota bands, and Halloween, Alaska was one of them. Sara’s and my roommate Matt was a fan, so he recommended we play “Call it Clear.” So we did. What do you know, it grew on us. Plus, it was a double-whammy: Minnesota band AND new music. Score for us!

The Fratellis – “The Gutterati”
Sara and I came across the Fratellis in the new music section. This album was an extremely rare find: new music that we not only didn’t mind, but actually enjoyed! There were quite a few quality songs from which to choose, but “The Gutterati” was a favorite. The only problem? At the end of every three or four song set, we had to pause and list all the songs that we’d played… and we never really knew how to pronounce this title. We never got any complaints, though!

The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony”
Sara’s and my radio show was at kind of an inconvenient time: it was from 4 – 6 on Sunday nights, and we had a newspaper staff meeting immediately following. This meant no time for supper… unless we MADE time. Food wasn’t allowed right in the studio, but we could have food in the little waiting area outside the studio. From time to time, Sara and I would order Pizza Hut and have it delivered to the student center. When it arrived, we’d play a set of long songs so that we’d have time to eat our pizza. “Bittersweet Symphony” was one of said long songs, and nobody was the wiser!

Elliott Smith – “Waltz #2”
In addition to all the new music, KUMM had a pretty respectable collection of old stuff, too. In addition to our four new songs per hour, we could select music from the massive CD collection, the slightly-less-massive LP collection, or our own iPods. We just couldn’t play anything a.) that had been in the top 40 in the last ten years, b.) that had curse words in it (but you could play them if you had a show after 10 o’clock!), and c.) by the same artist twice in one radio show. So we sampled quite a few of the previously-unknown artists picked from the CD wall. Sara had heard of Elliott Smith, and she chose “Waltz #2” one day. I loved it, and still love it. If only I knew how to waltz.

The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
The Flaming Lips is one of those bands that I was always vaguely aware of, but I couldn’t name one of their songs if you paid me. That is, until the KUMM radio show. KUMM owned ever last one of the Flaming Lips’ albums, and Sara was a fan. I’m pretty sure a radio show never went by without a selection by the Flaming Lips, and “Yoshimi vs the Pink Robots” was one of the first.

The White Stripes – “You Don’t Know What Love Is”
Just like the Fratellis, the White Stripes came out with an album that was full of new song GOLD. Until we started playing the new album (Icky Thump) on a regular basis, I had no idea that I liked the White Stripes. So thanks, KUMM! Looks like I learned something after all!

So there you have it: my top ten songs from my days as a KUMM DJ (again, sounds dirty. actually isn’t). If you’re ever near Morris, MN (really REALLY near, as KUMM has a fairly pitiful broadcasting area), turn your radio to 89.7 FM. You might hear some awkward DJs and some truly terrible indie music, but you also might hear a song that you never knew you loved.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

the dog chronicles: Shadow.

My parents no longer have children living at home, and they love it. There’s no more whining about what’s for dinner, and there’s sixty percent less laundry. The place is clean and quiet… but not TOO clean and quiet, thanks to a dorky black lab named Shadow.
My sister brought a little black lab puppy home during summer 2007. I had a lot going on that summer: I was working at the county courthouse (Monday through Friday, 8 to 5: my first real job), I was in between my sophomore and junior years (and figuring out what my majors should be), and I was trying to figure out how to dump Hipster Boyfriend so I could date James instead. So yeah, busy summer.

I have no idea where Darrah got this little puppy, but one day, he was there. She named him Shadow (even though my dad suggested Skidmark, which my brother and I thought was a brilliant name), and voila, there was a new dog in the family.

Our first dog, Spot, was in the old-and-crotchety phase of his life. By 2007, he was fourteen years old. Spot was going blind and had no interest in this playful new puppy. Shadow knew it, too, and he pestered Spot endlessly. Shadow would run circles around Spot, nosing him in the ribs. Spot – who couldn’t see what was going on – would try to nip Shadow, but the poor old dog could never catch his tormentor.

In summer 2009, Darrah left for basic training, which meant that my parents inherited the dog. Spot had died in early 2008, so it was just Shadow and my then sixteen-year-old brother Mitch left.
They get along just fine.
My parents are dog people, plain and simple. When Shadow’s reigns were turned over to them, they had no problem taking over. Mom began to teach him tricks: he can shake, high-five, roll over, beg, stand up, balance a dog treat on his nose, and play dead when you point your finger like a gun and say “bang!” The one trick Mom has never been able to teach him is “speak.” Shadow doesn’t bark: he whines. When you get out of your car, he’ll greet you with something in his mouth (a flattened football, a leaf, whatever) and a high-pitched whine. He is a WEIRD DOG.
And kind of dumb... he followed James
around this tire for about five minutes.
I think that maybe says something
about James, now that I think about it.
Shadow, though a large dog – 70ish pounds – is the wussiest creature you’ll ever meet.
It took us the LONGEST time to convince
him that he'd have fun jumping off the dock.
He’s terrified of fireworks (he actually ran away one time we were setting off fireworks in the yard), and if he hears coyotes howling, he’ll hide behind you. Shadow is afraid of jumping into the back of the pickup – when Mom and I took him to the lake one evening, we had to actually lift him into the pickup bed. Dad once thought he convinced Shadow to try and jump into the pickup bed, but Shadow took a half-hearted leap and fell far short of his goal. He landed on his tail, and the poor dog sprained it! For the happiest dog in the world (he wags his tail so hard that it’s been known to leave bruise on unsuspecting legs), having a sprained tail was about the saddest thing ever.

Shadow loves to keep Dad company when he’s working outside, and he loves to go on walks with Mom. 
And play Frisbee with anyone and everyone.
Shadow, like any dog, will explore the ditches, but every few minutes, he’ll trot right back to Mom to make sure she’s still there. When he’s satisfied that she’s not leaving without him, he’ll bolt ahead and go back to the ditches. That is, unless they’re passing a pasture with cows in it. Surprise – Shadow’s afraid of cows. When they walk past the cows, Shadow is always securely behind Mom. I repeat: wuss.

Because of his wussiness, Mom and Dad take extra-special care of Shadow. They put him to bed every night (Shadow doesn’t go to sleep unless he’s chased his tennis ball a few times – oh, and I guess you have to tell him “last time” when it’s the last time so he’ll be mentally prepared for it – and given a scoop of food), and they arrange playdates with their friends’ white lab, Ike.

Shadow LOVES having his picture taken (and I love taking pictures, so it works out well for both of us). When he sees a camera pointed at him, he’ll actually pose. He’ll only do this if it’s just the photographer and the dog: if there are other people around, Shadow gets too excited by all the potential belly-rubbers.
My uncle Mike will always stop to
pet Shadow. They are great friends.
Every Easter for the past three years, we’ve taken Easter Dog pictures. 
Don’t ask me how we got started – but, like most of the bizarre photographs, it was probably my idea. We put something Easter-related on or near Shadow and try to get him to take a picture. Shadow has the goofiest smile, so when we do get a picture (after many MANY attempts), they are hilarious.
The picture-taking is pretty great, too, if you don’t mind a dog nose in the face every now and again.

Shadow is an outdoor dog: he runs around outside during the day (unless it’s too cold, of course), and he sleeps in either the little red shed (summer) or the heated garage (winter). In the winter, my parents kick him out of the garage a few times per day. Shadow immediately makes his way over to the deck and proceeds to stare into the kitchen. If somebody meets his gaze, he smiles and wags his tail, hoping for either a.) a playmate, or b.) someone to let him back into the warm garage. When he thinks no one’s going to see him outside, he sits at the edge of the porch with his head drooped, and he looks just like Snoopy when Snoopy was pretending to be a vulture.

So Shadow has been around for almost six years now, and I don’t know what my parents would do without him (my siblings and I are pretty sure he outranks us on the “favorite child” scale). He’s the happiest, dorkiest dog I know, and if you stop by my parents’ house, you can bet he’ll be there to greet you with a wagging tail and a big smile – but watch out for his mouth: he slobbers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

let's talk about Pizza Hut.

I’m certainly not the first person to say it, but I love pizza. If you recall from an “adventures in Brookings” story a while ago, Pizza King is my all-time favorite pizza place. A close second would be a little tiny pizza parlor my mom and I stumbled upon while I was living in New Orleans. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it or even where it was (it wasn’t in the French Quarter, but that’s about all I know), but it was amazing: cheesy, spicy, delicious.

But there is one pizza place I grew up with, and it will always hold a special place in my pizza-loving heart… and that is Pizza Hut.
My mouth is watering already.
My Pizza Hut days began with the Book-It program: for so many hours of reading, you got a sticker. 
And you put the stickers on a super-sweet pin.
After so many stickers, you got a free Personal Pan Pizza. I blame my Fat Calla years (ages 8 – 11) on the sheer number of Personal Pan Pizzas I earned. I loved to read, and I would’ve spent all day, every day reading if I could. Ergo, I earned many Book-It stars (I even earned a medal) which equaled many free pizzas.

I had already developed a taste for pizza when, on my eighth birthday, my parents took my friend Allison and me to Pizza Hut. Allison and I ordered a plain cheese pizza (Home Alone, anyone?), and when it arrived, it had Lion King (I was obsessed, remember?) figurines planted smack-dab in the middle. 

Google is the best.
I was stunned: how did Pizza Hut know that I loved The Lion King? It took me way too long to figure out that Mom had given them the figurines ahead of time and asked that they be placed on the pizza, so for years, I was convinced that Pizza Hut was magic.

Like most elementary school kids, I loved meals that came with toys. When given the option, I would almost always choose Burger King or McDonalds (depending on who had the better kids’ meal toy at the time). Pizza Hut briefly got in on the action: they had these rubber puppets that you could buy for a couple of bucks. Through some begging and good (well, moderately good) behavior, I procured two (possibly) Beauty and the Beast puppets (Belle, the Beast, and maybe Chip the teacup, but I could be imagining that) and one glow-in-the-dark Casper the Friendly Ghost puppet (Casper himself, of course).

Again with Google being the
best. I didn't even remember that
I had the shark puppet until
I did a search for Pizza Hut
puppets. This shark is badass.
As I grew older, I spent less time thinking about the toys and more time thinking about the pizza. One of my favorite things was the Tuesday night buffet. I’m not sure if they still do it, but when I was a kid, Pizza Hut would have their buffet on Tuesday nights – the buffet, of course, was usually limited to lunch. If somebody had some kind of appointment in Brookings (dentist, whatever) and it landed on a Tuesday, Mom would haul us kids to Pizza Hut, where we would join Grandpa Harvey and Grandma Lorraine for the buffet. This buffet – and my obvious lack of self-control – is also to blame for the aforementioned Fat Calla Years. I gorged myself on slices of pepperoni and sausage pizza, and I always saved room for the cinnamon sticks. It probably didn’t help that my siblings and I competed as to who could eat the most pizza.

The buffet wasn’t always my Pizza Hut meal of choice. When I would go over to Allison’s house, part of our evening would usually be spent in Brookings. Allison’s dad would haul us to a restaurant of our choosing, and it tended to be Pizza Hut. There, we would order whatever specialty pizza featured the most cheese. We ordered Stuffed Crust when it first came out, and we tried that crazy pizza that came in layers with cheese melted in between each layer (remember that? I think it was called the Triple Decker). 
I was totally right - it WAS the Triple Decker. Gross.
We once ordered a regular cheese pizza without the sauce, and it was amazing.

I went to college in Morris, Minnesota: a town of 5000-ish people and not too many places to eat. I played in a great many concerts during my time at UMM, and at least one of my faithful parents attended all but one of them (and that was because of a blizzard). They are either awesome parents, or they really didn’t have much going on. Anyway, symphonic winds concerts were usually on Sunday afternoons, so we needed to find a place to have our evening meal. Not much is left open in Morris on Sundays besides the fast food restaurants (and Taco John’s was known to run on a “we’re open when we feel like it” schedule), so Pizza Hut became our place of choice. I would gather up stray college friends, and we’d take up a solid part of Pizza Hut. Best of all? As the starving college student, I always got the leftovers.

In the last half of my college career, Pizza Hut implemented the best thing ever: internet ordering. When I was a junior, I worked as the Arts and Entertainment editor of the university paper. The paper was published on Thursdays, so Wednesday nights were spent laying out the pages, putting final touches on stories, and hoping that you could get out of there before 2 in the morning. Wednesday nights were ideal for internet pizza: you could just click through the website (the basement in which we worked had little to no cell phone reception), and presto! You’d have a pizza in half an hour.

Internet pizza came in very handy at my college house, as well. On especially homework-heavy nights, my roommates Nate, Sara, and I would trade off buying internet pizza. We even ordered internet pizza when our cars were buried under six feet of snow during a blizzard, and guess what? Pizza Hut made it to our front door. (We tipped well that day.)

After college, I had a break from Pizza Hut. I didn’t have it at all in Denver (forgot it existed) or New Orleans (couldn’t afford it), but when I moved to downtown Minneapolis, there was a Pizza Hut on my way home from work. Back to internet pizza for me! I could order a pizza at 3 in the afternoon and request that it be ready at 545 (right when I’d be passing by). I didn’t do this too often, as Minneapolis had many other pizza options to explore.
Like Pizza Luce!
But when I was feeling particularly lazy and/or thinking of pizza, it was great to know that Pizza Hut was waiting for me.

I lived alone during my Minneapolis internet pizza heyday, so I always brought leftovers for lunch the next day. My appreciation for Pizza Hut was so well known in my office that my coworkers had a Pizza Hut party for me on my last day with the company. Best send-off EVER.

Here in Sioux Falls, I have yet to find a pizza place to compete with Pizza Hut. Suggestions are more than welcome, but until then, I’ll stick with my internet pizza!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

let's talk about my tattoos.

In my life so far, I’ve tried not to be too much of a cliché. I’m a blonde, but I’m not dumb (well, not ALL the time). I have super-thick glasses, but nobody beat me up for my lunch money. I’m a farmer’s daughter from rural South Dakota, but I’m no hayseed. However, a few months after I turned 18, I did the most cliché thing I’ve ever done.

I got a tattoo.

Do I regret it? No. Do I wish I hadn’t done the typical wow-I’m-18-I’m-an-ADULT-I’d-better-do-something-adult-like-get-a-tattoo? Yes. Do I wish I had spent more time thinking about what would be permanently stamped on my skin rather that what I ended up with? Yes.

But I never would’ve done it if it wasn’t for the coupon.

You read that correctly: A COUPON.

I should probably start at the beginning. It was my freshman year of college, and our first real break was approaching. By “real break,” I mean a Thursday and Friday off towards the end of October (aka, midterm). I had already experienced a fair amount of freshman drama: d-bag boys, crappy classes (I’m looking at you, statistics), and being super poor for the very first time. After approximately two months out of my parents’ house and into my college career, I felt like an ADULT.

That’s probably why I said “hell yes!” when a very dear friend of mine called and asked me if I would like to get a tattoo with her over my fall break. That’s what adults do, right? I had been a legal adult for almost six months, and the only thing-you-do-after-you-turn-18 I had done was buy a lottery ticket. I hadn’t voted, gone to a Minnesota casino, or bought cigarettes (fun fact: I STILL haven’t done those last two things). But you know what I could do now that I couldn’t do six months before? Get a tattoo.

My friend went to a different college, and she had been issued a coupon book for businesses around the area. One of the coupons was for tattoos: buy one, get one FREE. Remember me mentioning that I was poor? This coupon is what allowed me to get a tattoo, as there would’ve been no way I could’ve scraped up the cash without it. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good deal. My friend and I agreed to split the difference, and voila! We had a plan for cheap tattoos.

I don’t remember how much time there was in between my friend calling me with her proposal and our actual tattoo appointment, but I don’t think it was a lot. I was in the midst of finishing up some midterm projects and papers, so I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to really sit down and research an image that I wanted permanently inked on my body. As it was, I surfed through a few Google Images and selected some music notes on a swirly staff.
This is the actual image I brought to the
tattoo shop. Feel free to judge me.
One fine day in October, my friend and I headed to our appointment at the tattoo parlor. Our appointment was with a bald, surly guy with a giant green lizard tattooed on his arm. I don’t remember much about our appointment save for the fact that he was incredibly rude to us. Here we were: two 18-year-olds who were really excited and REALLY nervous to get our first tattoos, and he seemed irritated the whole time. It wasn’t like we were giggling and screaming; we were just excited. Maybe he was really regretting issuing those coupons to the college, as I’m sure he had dealt with many nervous first-tattoo-getters in the past few days. Anyway, that was his own fault. We were paying customers, ready with our money. No need to be testy.

I volunteered to get my tattoo done first, and Lizard Man set about his business. My tattoo was a simple outline in black ink, so it took almost no time to complete. I had it placed in the lower left side of my back (no tramp stamps for this gal), so there was plenty of fat to absorb the pain. It felt as though someone was drawing on me with a ball-point pen, but pushing REALLY hard. My friend’s tattoo was in color, so hers took a little longer and was a little more painful, but we both made it out alive.

I thought my tattoo was totally badass (clearly, I had very little experience with bad-assery). It took a little time for the swelling and redness to subside, but once it did, I was in for an unfortunate surprise: the treble clef had no tail. WTF. I don’t know how this escaped my attention at the tattoo parlor – I’m going to blame it on a brain addled by adrenaline, smeary black ink on a fresh tattoo, and a desire to get out of the path of the angry guy with the tattoo needle. Plus, I can’t even see this tattoo without the aid of a mirror and/or some serious neck-craning. So I have a tailless treble clef. Son of a BITCH. But honestly, what did I really expect from a place that offers two-for-one coupons?

While I’m complaining about this tattoo, I have to do some whining about my shortsightedness. Since I’ve lived with this tattoo for more than seven years, I have come to resent my 18-year-old self a little bit for not thinking the design through. Sure, the music idea is just fine, but come on: a random jpeg off a website? If I wanted to go that route, I could’ve at least dug a little deeper and found a much cooler design instead of the juvenile one that I ultimately chose. My biggest bone to pick with my younger self is this: the music notes placed on the staff are totally random. THEY DON’T EVEN FORM A SONG. What kind of dumbass gets a musical tattoo where the music notes don’t form a song?

All this didn’t stop me from going back for ANOTHER tattoo the following fall break: yes, my friend had another coupon. By this time, I was dating Hipster Boyfriend (the art major, remember?), and I informed him that I’d be getting another tattoo come fall break. “Cool!” he said. “Do you want me to design something for you?” I had been dating Hipster Boyfriend for no more than four months, and I balked at the idea. I had to let him down easy, saying that while I really appreciated his offer, I had some ideas in mind (not true). I didn’t know much about tattoos, but I had the cardinal rule down pat: never get a tattoo in any way related to your significant other, as there’s no telling how long they will be significant.

I eventually chose to get an Andy Warhol daisy as my second tattoo.
I had always loved Andy Warhol (I still do!), and I was already loving the art history classes I was taking (not knowing that it would eventually turn into my degree). So that was my choice, and I was much happier with it than I was with the musical staff.

Our appointments were with the same Lizard Man as last time, and he was just as cantankerous as last time, too. My friend opted to get her tattoo done first, and this time, the tables were turned: her tattoo was to be black, and mine was to be color. Her tattoo was over in a flash, and it was my turn in no time. This tattoo was to be on my left side, right below my ribs. Turns out? Getting a tattoo there REALLY hurts. I wasn’t far into the tattoo when I broke out in a cold sweat, and not too long after that, I was pretty sure I was going to die… or at least pass out. I think I slipped into some sort of delirium: my friend later told me that I told Lizard Man not to bother coloring the daisy; the outline would do just fine. Lizard Man overruled me and did the coloring anyway, which was certainly better in the end.

The finished product was… ok. I realize that my Andy Warhol probably wasn’t the easiest thing to translate into a tattoo, but a good tattoo artist can do amazing things. Sadly, my Warhol daisy was done by the kind of tattoo artist who issues buy-one-get-one-free coupons. 
While searching for a photo of
the original daisy, this image popped
up in Google. Yes: an Andy Warhol
tramp stamp, and it's just as poorly
done as mine. How about that!
The daisy is pretty smeary and looks a bit as if Lizard Man DID quit halfway through, but I’m not about to go get that one fixed. One time with holy-crap-I’m-going-to-pass-out-and-fall-on-my-face-on-a-grimy-tattoo-parlor-floor level pain is enough for me, thanks.

Between my smudgy daisy and my mutant treble clef, I learned a very important lesson in tattooing: you get what you pay for. I’m not sorry I have my tattoos, but if I could do them over again, I would in a heartbeat. Luckily for me, they’re not THAT terrible (they wouldn’t place in Mitch’s and my Ugly Tattoo Game, so that’s important), and they’re well hidden – only visible during bikini season.
See above.
So now you know about my tattoos. If you learned anything from this story, I hope it is “you get what you pay for.” If you’re going to get a tattoo, DO NOT GO FOR THE DEAL. I did, and now here I am with two iffy tattoos. On the bright side, it’s a good story: do you know anyone else who got tattoos with a coupon? Didn’t think so.