innocence + experience and then some

I’d been looking forward to the Arizona trip almost six months. The plan: visit my elderly mother a few days, reconnect with high school friends I haven’t seen in many years, and see two long-awaited U2 shows.

The day before the I departed, my mom fell and broke her hip. We spoke on the phone while she awaited surgery – things were serious, but seemed okay.

While I waited to board my flight the next morning, she died.

The rest of the summer has been a whirlwind – a blur of of unanswerable questions, stress, grief, and finally: choosing joy.

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Three months gone

Time is crawling and flying all at the same time. Big D deployed on Valentine’s Day and if all goes as planned – here’s a first! – he’ll be home soon! Much earlier than expected!

I’m trilled (of course!) and I’m so thankful for great friends that helped me pass the time.

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The Concert for Valor

Staged to boost awareness of veterans’ support groups, raise funds for veterans charities and salute the troops, HBO’s Concert for Valor drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day. HBO, Starbucks, and Chase were the main sponsors, and thanks to a fellow music loving friend, who works at Starbucks HQ, we were lucky to have two “Honored Guest” tickets – landing us in front of the massive crowd.

We arrived at about 2:30, set up camp on our blanket, and started playing cards to pass the time when rehearsals began. A woman walked out, the crowd buzzed and I said, “Should we know who that is?” when I realized the woman was Meryl Streep! Holy cow! We knew we were in for a great night. Meryl Streep

The Black Keys ran trough their entire set! The Black Keys

After a few celebs came out to read their lines and get used to the set up, we figured out how things wold work: A band would perform, a celeb would introduce a video about a military member, the member would be recognized, and the celeb would introduce the next act. Things were slow during the afternoon, but zipped right along at night since while everyone was watching each video, the lazy susan style stage was spinning around to reveal the next act’s set. The technical aspects of the evening were fascinating. And speaking of technical and fascinating: hows about the scaffolding on the Capitol dome? US Capitol Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem and later joined Jessie J for Titanium. Jennifer Hudson & Jessie J

Thanks to the sneak peek in the afternoon, we knew when we saw Meryl that it was time for Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl

My mind was officially blown when The Boss himself joined Dave and The Zac Brown Band for Fortunate Son.

The Boss, Dave Growl, Zac Brown

Big D and I are big John Oliver fans. True Fact: His wife is an Iraq War veteran who was an Army Medic with 1st Cav. And as the saying goes, “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t sh*t !” (which was fun to yell along with him and the crowd!)

John Oliver Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood does not phone it in.

Jack Black had the crowd chant to introduce Metallica. Metallica. Metallica. Metallica! I was surprised they were such the crowd favorite – they were impossible to photograph since arms were flying everywhere.

Jack Black Metallica

From the NY Daily News regarding Springsteen: “…Nuance came from Springsteen’s solo set. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, he didn’t flinch from alluding to the more controversial or gritty elements of war. He offered a stripped and slow version of “Promised Land,” the better to savor lyrics which address America’s possibilities, not necessarily its realities. He went further with a desolate and wounded take on “Born In The U.S.A.,” which critiques the military presence in Viet Nam in the ’60s. Likewise, his somber take on “Dancing In The Dark” emphasized the sadness behind its passion.” Bruce Springsteen

Bryan Cranston used a Heisenberg threat to encourage folks to support the troops saying “There’s still a lot of room in Belize for people…” and mentioned both of his parents who served before he introduced Rihanna.

Bryan Cranston Rihanna

Eminem joined RiRi for Monster and then opened his solo set by shouting “Happy Motherf—ing Veterans Day!” Just as our forefathers intended. Eminem

There are tons more photos over on Flickr including folks I’ve omitted here like Bob Woodruff and Jamie Foxx. Thanks again to my pal AK who helped us with tickets! Finally, here’s a little video recap I put together a few days after the show: 

Foo Fighters RVA

A few months ago, some (awesome) Foo Fighters fans in Richmond, Virginia organized a crowd funded effort aimed at bringing the Foo back to RVA – a city they haven’t played since 1998. Foo Fighters RVA Fans bought $50 tickets for a show that didn’t yet exist. But oh, did we hope… A day or so before the deadline, local businesses Sugar Shack Donuts and Brown’s Volkswagen donated the amounts required to meet the fundraising goal, and then, we all waited…

And soon enough, those that bought into the scheme lost their collective shizz when this appeared in our Twitter feeds:

It worked! Four dudes with a plan, 1,000+ fans, and some local businesses did it! If you pay for it, they will come!

And now, for a blog post that is not like my usual. But I’ve been sitting on this for a week and am about to head out on another adventure. So, please enjoy this bullet list style recap that I jotted on my iPad a day or two after one of the most fantastic concerts I’ve attended (and that’s really saying something.) My BFF Carey joined me (via train from Raleigh, NC!) for a whirlwind, and man. It rocked.

– We paid at box office, my name was highlighted on the donor list, we were shuffled inside the theater lobby to get wristbands (adorned with Pearl Jam looking space creatures) and we were off to lunch at an adorable place called Pasture followed by a tour of the Jefferson Hotel.

Foo!!

Thomas.

– Chillaxed and had a tiny bday celebration w/ Bellini’s and 9:30 Club cupcakes back at the hotel. In a reverse birthday move: Carey gave me a gift! And I love my new bracelet.

Pre @foofighters show / @careyjym birthday celebration! Mmmmm. 9:30 Club Cupcakes (imported from @buzzbakery)

– Carey rocked 9:30 T-shirt like nobody’s business.

– We walked to venue again, checked out the line, got a cool poster, and moved on to Marriott bar.

– I hid the poster in a Marriott lobby bathroom so it wasn’t wrecked during the show.

– Back to club. We didn’t even check the floor and went right to balcony. Found seats in 3rd row, next to the VIP area. My Twitter pal Brian (who tipped me off to the whole show) was in the same row, opposite end.

– Avers opened. They had four (5?) guitarists, and their female musician was great – I was a bit jealous. [note to self: look into Avers!]

– The crowdsourcing guys made an appearance! And the crowd went wild. (Thanks, Dudes!)

Foo Fighters RVA

– I chatted with the guy in front of us who was sporting a VW dealer / Foo winners shirt. He won his tickets by answering trivia: What Guinness Record does Dave Grohl hold?

– The show shirts are decent quality, only $20, and come w/ free download code for new CD. I high fived Brian on my way back to my seat after buying Ts and a hoodie

– And finally: show time! It seemed like the crowd cheered a very long time at the open, which was All My Life.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Dave said, “we’ve played a lot of shows over a lot of years, but never one like this…”

– Later, he thanked the crowd for paying for a show before it was actually booked “Because seriously, thank you!” and he mentioned that it’s expensive for him to pay “the pool boy back at the mansion.”

– Dave gave a brief, sweet explanation that the Virginia mentioned in Arlandria isn’t a reference to his home, but rather, his mom, who he pointed to and introduced.

One of These Days always makes me think of my sister Kara, who I miss so much, every day.

– Overdue bathroom break during Weenie Beenie (I KNOW!) When I heard Monkey Wrench starting I sprinted back, and our whole section was sitting down. WTF!?

– And I realized I was standing at start of the ONE LAST THING BEFORE I QUIT breakdown part, and thought “screw the people behind me!” Because who comes to a show like this and sits down!? I shouted to the (self-proclaimed hard core, yet seated) guy in front of us “Don’t let these f’ers make you sit down!” and he promptly left before the encore. I worried he misheard me and I somehow offended him, but his wife was totally uninterested, so I gave myself a pass.

– Dave asked for house lights two or three times to see crowd singing along.

– And told a story about tiny Richmond venues and seeing Gwar.

– Pat Smear was smiling for just about the entire show.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Taylor followed Dave on stage for what was to be a solo Times Like These. Dave had him stay, so Taylor laid down on his stool with his feet up on the snares and (I hope) took it all in. Dave explained their friendship and explained that after 20 years, if three vans come to an airport to pick them all up, they still just cram into one. And my heart melted a bit.

– The Skin and Bones accordion sections seemed longer than usual to me. I love Rami. Also during S&B, Dave nodded towards his mom while he sang the line “Tell my mom I’m doin’ fine” then shrugged and giggled.

– At end of Hey, Johnny Park, Dave was alone on guitar and asked for house lights off. I was surprised that we were all suddenly in the very dark while Dave jammed a few minutes in an awesome Pearl Jam / Dave Matthews-esque style. I kelt clutching my chest, trying to feel / memorize everything.

-Two and a half hours FLEW by. I felt like there should be a second encore and then realized I was being greedy.

– Just like that, it was over. And I was floating.

– We retrieved the poster from Marriott bathroom. Perfect!

retreived!

– And the next morning, we went to Sugar Shack, as I felt like I should somehow say thank you. And when we did? They gave us super cool posters! And stickers!

thanks,  Sugar Shack

– Less than 24 short hours later, I dropped Carey off at the train station and drove back to Alexandria. And it all felt like a (super fantastic, hard rocking!) dream.

A few other photos are over on my Flickr page.

One Crazy Summer

Good grief, what a summer! We had a lot planned, and fit most of it in with a few twists.

My elderly mom, who lives in Arizona, was hospitalized and eventually transitioned into an Assisted Living Facility. So far, I’ve made two unexpected (both very stressful) week-long trips to the surface of the sun.

She's shrinking, and I'm exhausted. But here's a snap before we said farewell this morning.

One more.

Big Ds cousin and his wife visited for a long weekend:
Cousins.

Big Ds brother dropped in for a fast overnight visit:
And away they go...

There was BIG excitement here when Germany won the World Cup.

Here we go!!

Big D’s sister and our niece visited for a long weekend – we had a blast hitting some tourist sites I hadn’t yet explored, including Madame Tussaud’s:
We tried to warn Abe...

Jen, my BFF from Germany, made two visits. During the first, we ran a fun 5K, and toured around (so if you’re keeping track, I visited the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday for a month!)

We're ready to run!

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Somehow, I squished in a trip to Raleigh, NC to see a Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw concert with our other BFFs (and even managed to stay an extra day.)
pre-show selfie

And we got to meet Matt after the show:
Carey, Matt, Jym & me

I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Matt in Frankfurt a few years ago, and he was just as kind and hilarious when Carey, Jym and I met up with him this time around.

Last weekend our whole Germany gang and our constant travel companion Angie were reunited for the first time in years. Thanks to the Army, our time together was far too brief, but it was great to be together!
the whole gang

Big D is talking, not frowning. But this is the only non-blurry photo snapped at Bryan HQ.

Jen, me, Tricia & Angie

And to cap it all off: Jen, Tricia, and I trekked to Baltimore where more fun (and many beers) were had. Yes, this was my third concert in a week.

Gavin DeGraw

Tricia, Matt & me
Tricia finally got to meet Matt, too!

And now, our house is so quiet that its eerie. I’m looking forward to our first weekend in ages (nine weeks?) without a single plan.  As always, tons more pictures than you’ll probably care to see from everything I mentioned are over on my Flickr page.

I need a nap.

Whirlwind!

This week’s calendar is a blank slate – something I haven’t seen in quite a while. The last two weeks have been full of really exciting adventures!

After three long years, Big Ds project is complete and his 1965 Shelby Cobra replica was delivered from his extraordinary cousin’s garage in Oklahoma to our doorstep.
unloading

That same night, I rocked out at a secret Foo Fighters show at the legendary 9:30 Club.
9:30 Club

I spent a fantastic weekend at “home” in Jacksonville Beach, FL where I visited great friends, ate at some favorite spots, attended three days of the PGA Players Championship, and hit the beach.
me, Shelley & Cheryl at North Beach Fish Camp

Did we win!?

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just before massive sunburn

If you’re an NPR listener (and/or big nerd) you’ll know what a treat it was to attend Carl Kassell’s final recording of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me at the Warner Theater.

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

Carl & Peter

Friday, we attended the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks. Established in 1801, it’s the oldest continuously operating Corps post.

Oldest Post of the Corps - founded 1801.

Silent Drill Team

And yesterday, I ran the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA. This is by far the most challenging course of the 12 Half Marathons I’ve done. Everyone hears about Hospital Hill (and dreads it) but there are a LOT of other hills too. A lot.

But I survived, and celebrated at home last night.

glad that's done

celebration

And now back to that work calendar…

Tons more photos from these and other fun adventures are over on Flickr.

Fall wrap-up

Here’s a quick look at recent adventures I’ve been meaning to post about. Thought I’d wrap all of this up so I can get to what I really want to write about: My day at the White House earlier this week.

Besides the marathon, October was full of fun stuff!

I attended the Mount Vernon Wine Festival with Jenny, Tricia, and Tricia’s mom, whom we affectionally call Lulu.

Potomac view from Mt Vernon lawn

Angie invited me to join her at a conference in Las Vegas. I’ve never been there before and enjoyed touring around each day while she worked and then rubbing elbows with notable attorneys (and Joe Theisman!) during the cocktail parties each night.

Bellagio fountain

me, Joe Theismann, and Angie
Hi Gary! (Check out those SuperBowl rings!)

Angie's winnings
Angie had great luck – she won even more after this!

Next up: a trip to New York City and Baltimore with Tricia I dubbed my “Victory Lap” since it was the week of the marathon. What a whirlwind: we attended a taping of Late Night with David Letterman on Halloween. Harrison Ford was one of the guests; he told a joke so inappropriate they had to start over! Afterwards we had dinner with Tricia’s mom and aunt and then we saw the Broadway Show Pippin. It was excellent!

Late Show

skating at Rockefeller Center

9/11 Memorial

Central Park

And the real reason for the trip: a few Matt Nathanson shows! Here’s our Matt-related Instagram Halloween Costume:
Instagram!

He and his band dressed up and performed a few songs as the group Poison:
"Poison"

And when we posted a selfie…
On the train headed home after an awesome adventure. We like that you again liked us liking you, Matt. Rock on!

We toured around DC when our good friend Gary visited. I’m so glad his time here coincided with Veterans Day.

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Arlington Cemetery Amiptheater
The Arlington Cemetery Amphitheater

Earlier today.

November also brought my birthday, and with it: a visit from Rachel and a Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers concert!

Somehow, after last night's birthday shenanigans, we still managed to sip some tequila. #cantinatour13
We attended a Mexican Moonshine tasting (Roger’s tequila) even though we were feeling the effects of some birthday celebrating from the night before.

#cantinatour13

Later in the month, Big D and I took a trip to Oklahoma to visit family and to see the progress on his Shelby Cobra – its a work in progress that’s almost complete.

D and Mark hard at work

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Love this sign.

And before I knew it: Thanksgiving snuck up on us. We celebrated with Big Ds family in Kokomo, Indiana, where we kicked off the holiday morning with a 5K.

David & Kerry finishing

Thanksgiving 5K finishers

If the 20° temperature didn’t keep us from running, it sure wasn’t going to keep us out of the hot tub!
always making me laugh

As usual, there was plenty of card playing, napping, and laughing.
End of a long day.

Kerry, me, Peggy & Richelle

Thanksgiving '13

And that brings us to Christmas! I can’t believe its only a week away. Some sights so far:

Starting to stick!
Our view of last week’s snow (a letdown after what was predicted!)

Surprised myself by finishing the wrapping and packaging. Just need a few things to arrive in the mail - even when I needed to be ready this early in Germany I never was.

Old Town Alexandria hosts a Scottish Walk – its a Very Big Deal (which I did not really know.)

Scottish Walk

Scottish Walk

Stay tuned for a Christmas related post from the most famous house in the country! But for now: holiday wishes from our house to yours!

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My kind of town, Chicago is

My recent long weekend in Chicago was really two adventures: One that was all about eating, drinking, touring, and shopping. And one that was all about rocking.

Angie and I fell in love with the Ruby Red Lemon Drop Martinis at the Grill on the Alley and had (at least) one each day:
Ruby Red Lemon Drop Martinis? Yes, please!

The sunset view at the Signature Lounge was fantastic:
Signature Lounge sunset view

We spent Friday on Bobby’s Bikes, Bites & Brews tour:

Ready...

Gino's East
We had a slice at Gino’s East.

key lime cupcake
Here’s my Key Lime Cupcake at Swirlz, the oldest cupcake only bakery in the city.

Murphy's Red Hot
We shared a Chicago style dog at Murphy’s Red Hot.
Angie: Can you cut it in half?
Murphy: Do you want me to eat it for you, too?

Gene & Georgetti steak house
Locals recommended Gene & Georgetti, and it did not disappoint.

linguini w/ clams
Yes, I ordered pasta at a steakhouse.

excellent Gene & Georgetti desserts
Shared desserts are the sign of a great evening.

As for the the rocking part of the weekend:
Pearl Jam - Wrigley

me & Frankie before the show

my view w/ no zoom

Pearl Jam - Wrigley

evacuation
A storm moving through the Chicago area interrupted the set after only a few songs and delayed the show nearly three hours. What started at 8pm didn’t end until 2am. The whole thing was… well, read this to get a tiny idea of the huge magic.

Pearl Jam - Wrigley

My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of razzmatazz

The picture of The people during The weekend in The Chicago.

Paris? Oui, s’il vous plaît!

Before we even knew if we were really moving to Europe, I got up in the middle of the night (Florida time) to IM with my pal Ally (who lives in LA) so we could buy tickets to see U2 in Paris the moment they went on sale. That shizz isn’t easy, even when it’s not in French! But it all worked out and in September 2010 I set out on my first trip to the City of Lights.

When I first arrived I stowed my bags at the hotel, grabbed my map and headed to the Champs-Élysées. My first stop? The Virgin Megastore. But that was a happy accident. I strolled to along the Champs, had lunch, and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. And it was there that I had my first ever glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. And I burst into tears. Because, really!?

Suffice it to say, I am really appreciative of the experiences I’m lucky enough to have here in Europe.

atop the Arc

I took a Fat Tire Bike Tour that afternoon, which was fantastic. If you’re ever in Paris, Berlin, London (or Barcelona, which I haven’t visited yet) take one of these tours!! Each has just the right amount of history, architecture, lightheartedness, and beer or wine.

Jardin des Tuileries

Did you know that the tower freaking SPARKLES at the top of every hour? I did not. Imagine my surprise and glee when I was laying in bed, smiling about the day I’d just enjoyed and excited for what was still to come when lo, out of the French Doors (or are they just ‘doors’ if you’re in France?) I saw sparkling and twinkling. I couldn’t believe it!


a video by elysia1 on Flickr.

Basically, the whole trip was magical.

Double rainbow over La Seine

And that’s without evening mentioning crazy things like seeing Roman Polanski pick someone up in his Smart Car. Or you know, the actual reason we were there: U2.

Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner

reunited and it feels so good

360° - Paris

We walked miles and miles over the course of the next two days and saw more things than I could even begin to try to detail here. After we parted ways, my traditional Post Concert Letdown (which I had at Gare de l’Est) was monumental. So big in fact, that I got in my car and drove to Brussels a week later to see U2 with Ally one more time. But that’s a story for another day.

I was THRILLED when Jen & Gary planned New Years in Paris last year. Because of course this meant Big D and I could invite ourselves along – and Angie flew from the States to join, too!! I was able to do things I hadn’t the first time around including touring the Louvre and enjoying a fun night at the Moulin Rouge (where we saw Karl Rove and Harry Whittington, more commonly known as The Guy Dick Cheney Shot in the Face.)

Karl Rove at the Moulin Rouge
You’ll just have to trust us. It really was Karl Rove.

Moulin Rouge

We took the Fat Tire Bike Tour:
me at the Pyramide du Louvre

Eiffel Tower

We turned into the Griswolds:
Griswold family vacation

And we quietly rang in the new year:
hmmm...
Bonne année!

And in March of this year? When I just had to see Snow Patrol on their last European tour date and made a the spur of the moment decision to jump on another train with Tricia? Yep. Paris was the destination. A few years ago, I’d never dream that I’d go to Paris, yet here I was, enjoying a third visit. I still can’t believe it all.

Untitled

I’ll make at least one more trip there – I haven’t toured the Musée d’Orsay yet, I’d like to see the catacombs… and I’ve never met an escargot (or a glass of champagne) that I didn’t love.

Tons of photos from adventures in Paris on on Flickr.