Category Archives: Entertainment

Embracing Americana Music

Per Wikipedia and paraphrased by me:

Americana (also known as American roots music) is a genre of music that represents the spirit of the United States. It is a contemporary mashup of folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and gospel. It features a distinctive roots-oriented sound that exists apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it draws. It is often performed acoustically but at times includes a full electric band.

Americana music is my current jam, people. I’m at the point in my life where my musical tastes are more eclectic. In high school, I was all about Classic Rock and Top 100 Pop Hits. I listened to Kasey Kasem’s show on the regular. In my mid-twenties, when I was a mom to two toddlers, I went through a “New Country” phase (think Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill). I was an avid viewer of CMT.

What has always stuck with me, however, was an appreciation for classic country and bluegrass artists, like Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Reba McIntyre, Dolly Parton,  Allison Krauss, and Garth Brooks. I’ve enjoyed their music since forever. These artists and more have no doubt ushered in the Americana genre.

What I love about the Americana genre of music is the storytelling aspect, much like the iconic country songs of yesterday. I love the bluesy, swampy melodies. I love the harmonies often found in these songs. And I love that these songs are uniquely American.

So it seems fitting to me as a creative writer, card carrying AARP member, and music lover in the current “upside down” political and social culture that is our United States to highlight the talents of today’s Americana musical artists that I enjoy and appreciate.

Here’s a sampling of songs that fall under the Americana umbrella that I find especially special:

Side note: Hubs and I saw Logan play live at the last John Hiatt concert we attended (I’ve written about John Hiatt in previous posts, but this post is the most comprehensive one). Logan opened for Hiatt, and after he did his set, the audience was invited for a “meet and greet” with him. I took this opportunity to tell him I thought he was an amazing performer and that I looked forward to watching him win his Grammys. Yes, I am a dork. But I’m also right on this one. “Mark my words” as my Mom used to say. If you chose to skip clicking on the link I provided above, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Just sayin’.

True confession: as I was putting this post together, I got myself thoroughly lost in Americana. I wanted to add songs from Drive-by-Truckers, Todd Snider, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams…

But instead I’m going to have a little faith that you, my music loving readers (Americana or otherwise), will treat yourself by checking out some of these artists and songs. Tell me what you think of them. Maybe turn me on to some new artists yourselves.

Here’s something special from the King (to me) of Americana music for your listening enjoyment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How this WIP is Rolling Right Now

Right now, life is very good for me and mine. I love my life here with Hubs and Radar in Colorado. I love my job. I’m excited about the opportunities it presents to me.

I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I want to these past couple of weeks, however (though I did manage to finally re-vamp my About page).  I’ve been busy “doing” instead of writing; taking care of business rather than simply “being”. This is on account of me being left to my own devices with Hubs having to be out of town for work more often and my compulsion to stay on top of all the social planning that comes with the looming Thanksmissween holidays.

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Speaking of which, Halloween is coming up next. Just 15 more days. I’ve been consumed with figuring out costumes for the two of us and Radar. And planning a Halloween potluck costume contest extravaganza for work. I’ve got a freaking awesome costume figured out for myself, btw. If it turns out the way I envision, I will surely post a pic or two in an upcoming blog post. 

Radar is the best boy ever. We have totally bonded with him. He is so very smart. Two Sundays ago, this dog that started as a raving lunatic in beginner obedience training at PetSmart graduated from “Intermediate” obedience training, as a matter of fact. We plan to move on to “Advanced” obedience training in 2020. I’ve been tempted to write more posts about him, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the best path for me right now. So instead, I’ll share  recent pics of him to get it out of my system:

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20190922_162302 Top Pic, aka Before: Radar donning his brand new Minnesota Vikings bandana  Bottom Pic, aka After: Donning his partially chewed up Minnesota Vikings bandana

While Hubs was off doing his work stuff in another state, I did take a little “me” time and watched an amazing movie on Netflix: “Bathtubs Over Broadway”. I seriously could write a whole post about each and every detail I adored about this movie, but instead I’ll just give you a quick summary:

It’s a documentary by Steve Young, a former writer for “The Late Show with David Letterman”. He happens upon industrial show tune albums, created between the late 50’s and 80’s for big company’s sales conventions, which were used for bits on the show. He uncovers this totally unknown-to-the-general public genre of music and essentially becomes obsessed with it. He becomes a rabid collector of these albums, making friends with other collectors along the way. He meets and has lovely interviews with some of the composers, writers, producers, and performers of these industrial show tune albums.

Here’s a a prime example of these wonderfully odd show tunes.

Steve’s story inspired me on several levels. Here he is, pushing 50 and about to enter a new phase of his life, as this was at the end of the run of “The Late Show with David Letterman”. He pursues this very specific, odd genre of musical entertainment out of a sense of sheer wonder and curiosity, like a dog with a Kong toy. In the end, he proudly displays his “freak flag” with this pursuit and shares the all the wonderfulness of it with the world through this documentary.

 

I think I ought to add this song to my “Soul Song” playlist ASAP!

So tell me, friends, how are you rocking and rolling right now?

Bingeworthy TV

I was planning on putting on my “reviewer of t.v. fare” hat on and wax on about how I love the Amazon Prime series “Catastrophe” and how you should all watch it.

But then I caught the Netflix series “Dead to Me” and decided you need to watch that one too.

First things first.

About Catastrophe: this show is, to me, the perfect blend of romance and humor. The writing is simply brilliant. And the very last episode was perfection. So unlike every other show that has a sucky last ever episode. Every single person who worked on this show in any capacity will benefit from this being on their resume.

Weirdly, the last episode included a joke about ceramic bananas (in reference to one of the main characters mom, played by the late great Carrie Fisher). While I believe one could posit that this is a great name for the next great rock band, in the vein perhaps of Greta Van Fleet, I related to it on a personal level.

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This ceramic banana bowl was bequethed to me by my grandmother-in-law before she passed. It now sits as a “catch all” atop my dining room table.

 

Short description of this show: it’s a highly relatable, humorous tale of a marriage between middle agers Sharon, from Scotland, and Rob, from the good old USA. It’s set in England. The two meet, get between the sheets in record time, and before you know it, they are married and Sharon is pregnant. They muddle through life together, have another kid, and presumably live happily ever after (that is why the last ever episode ROCKED.)

Here’s a clip that I think gives you a taste of how this show rolls.

 

Other factors at play throughout the series include both Sharon and Rob’s struggles in their careers (she an elementary school teacher, he an ad man), their periodically dysfunctional family members and friends, and Rob’s struggle with alcoholism. The two of them banter just like real life married people. I so heart this show.

Now onto “Dead to Me”. This show is about sisterhood. The two main characters, played by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, are tied together by fate. One accidentally kills the other’s husband with her car (it was dark out and they didn’t see him in time), and they wind up in group grief therapy together. The two actresses play off each other so well. Their character’s personalities are quite different, which makes for interesting dialogue. There are twists and turns and plenty of drama, but plenty of laughs as well. I found it incredibly easy, not to mention enjoyable, to watch episode after episode in the span of a couple of weeks. This first season had a “holy shit” sort of ending which makes me so curious where the writers will take the story next. I can only assume there will be a Season 2.

I have recently begun watching “Little Big Lies”, which may be my next bingeworthy series. I was interested in watching it largely due to the actresses in the series: Nicole Kidman. Reese Witherspoon. Laura Dern. Shailene Woodley. Zoe Kravitz.

Now, I have only watched the first 5 episodes of Season 1 thus far, so for anyone who has seen the entire series: No spoilers, please. I love surprises!

My take on this show (aka why I find it bingeworthy): it is set in beautiful California. The camera work showing scenes of the ocean is spectacular. The characters live in beautiful homes and have fabulous wardrobes.

I think the opening credits provide an excellent example of the aesthetics in this show. And this song is gorgeous, right?

Beyond the aesthetics is the complexity of the five primary female characters. They are all dynamic, multi-layered, strong women. They are moms first; they fiercely love their children. They have love/hate relationships with each other and in some cases with their spouses. The superb acting and storytelling are highly compelling. I just know there are deep, dark secrets going on under the surface and I am looking forward to their unveiling.

So tell me, my fellow bingers, what shows are bingeworthy to you? Please share comments on the shows I mentioned if you have also found them bingeworthy.

Wannabe intern

In the way back of my life, I was a college student working on a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. As part of obtaining my degree, I was required to complete an internship.

This of course is not uncommon. I’m sure many of you readers have had your own experiences with internships.

I’d always been an eager student. Full of curiosity. Ready to soak up any knowledge there for the taking to better myself. I chose to intern at the local Children’s Home.

Working with intellectually disabled children was not necessarily my end goal, career-wise. As I recall, my decision to take that internship was guided more by the limited amount of choices before me. The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that managing these children’s erratic, peculiar, and sometimes explosive behaviors was not something I had an instinct or talent for.

And that was and is perfectly okay with me. The point is, I learned from that experience the track I didn’t want to pursue in my future career in social work.

Here’s the thing, though: while approximately 30 plus years have passed since this internship, I’m still as hungry as ever to learn something new. Expand my horizons. Both career-wise and for my own personal satisfaction.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the Esteemed Wizard of General Adult Education has presented me with an opportunity to be an intern again, at the age of 52. With no restrictions or guidelines. Just whatever kind of internship I can dream up. She is a wizard after all, so she can make that happen for me, right?

I believe that 99.9% of internships are unpaid, so I would have zero expectation of any financial compensation. But since this is my own customized internship opportunity, I would require that I 1) have the ability to set my own hours and 2) if the internship location was not in the north Denver metro area (where I currently live, if you didn’t know this already), that I would have free housing and a modest daily stipend for culinary sustenance.

Here’s one possibility:

Interning at Saturday Night Live. I am a life-long, hard-core fan of this show. From Gilda Radner’s “Rosana Rosana-dana” to Chris Farley’s “motivational” speaker sketch (I live in a van down by the river!) to Debbie Downer, all the incarnations of “Weekend Update” and most of everything in between, this show has amused me for over 40 years.

I imagine I’d be hanging out in the writer’s room while the writers spitball ideas for scenes, dialogue, or sketches. I’d have pen and notebook at the ready to jot down the best ideas and expand upon them. I’d have opportunities to interview the writers, asking them questions about their journeys to becoming the writers they are. I’d get to hang out with celebrities and learn a bit about what makes them tick.

I wouldn’t be just a taker in this scenario either. I’d provide sketch ideas, like this one:

Heidi Gardner, playing Brie Bacardi opposite Mikey Day’s Nico, is interviewed by the newbie entertainment reporter with a ridiculous name, played of course by Kenan Thompson. At Coachella. He asks her how she got her name. She explains that “years ago” (2017) at a “low key ” late evening soiree with her besties sitting by a fire on the beach, she drank this:

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For reference, here’s one of the sketches featuring these two doofuses:

Once Brie realizes that Nico has been behind her photobombing the live interview, she loses her shit (because this interview was supposed to be all about her) and a ridiculous fight ensues, which ends when he hands her a new puppy he has named “Breezer”.

What do you think-do I have a shot?

More importantly, however: if you, imaginative and curious readers, could be an intern right now, where would it be and why? I would love to hear what you come up with!

New Use for my Old Jar

My “Kindness Jar”, which I wrote about here, ended up being a bust in 2018. Don’t ask me why. It’s not because I stopped noticing the kindness of others around me, or because I did nothing kind for anyone at all this past year. I guess I just lost interest in documenting all the kindnesses. It started to feel like I was just repeating what I had done the previous year with my “Happiness Jar” (same jar).

So in mid 2018, I just stopped doing it. And truthfully, I hadn’t given my old jar much thought since then.

However, on New Year’s Eve, as Hubs and I were sprawled out on the couch binge-watching Netflix (OMG-you must watch Black Mirror), feeling a little buzzed on craft beer, we began talking about what could be lying ahead for us in 2019. Hubs declared that the word for 2019, the word that would be mantra for the year as we plunge into our 29th year of marriage would be this: Adventure.

Now, that got me excited. So excited that I was prompted to come up with a new use for my old jar. In 2019, it’s going to be referred to as the “Adventure Jar”.

This is not to say that we are going to write down an adventure we had each and every day. That would be ridiculous.  And likely disappointing.

Instead, we are going to individually jot down, when the moment strikes, one small (or big) “adventure” to pursue in 2019. As I told Hubs, the “adventure” need not be anything huge. Or costly. Or terribly time-consuming. It could be anything from “let’s go for a hike somewhere we haven’t been before”, “let’s try that new restaurant”,”let’s write a blog post together”, or “let’s visit the Sand Dunes in Moab”. Simple, doable, new-to-us experiences.

The only real requirement of this plan, as I told Hubs, is that whatever the chosen “adventure” is, it has to be something that we have not yet done as a couple. Something new.

Then, on perhaps a weekly or at least monthly basis, we will pluck one of our little notes out of the jar, then proceed towards the chosen adventure.

We started living out our “adventure” mantra this past weekend, in fact. As we did nothing of any real interest during the Christmas holidays, and on account of Hubs being furloughed (because of a stupid wall no one really wants besides that big dummy in the White House) and him being stuck at home every day essentially since 12/22, we decided to go on an overnight adventure.

In the spirit of being adventurous, I approved Hubs’ suggestion that he could do all the packing.  That way, he could simply pick me up from work promptly at 2 p.m. on Friday (have I mentioned how much I love my part time hours??) and we could be merrily on our way.

This was indeed an exercise in trust.

Now, this blog is called “Pollyanna’s Path” and I do endeavor to exhibit as well as inspire a positive outlook, so all I’m going to say about the whole packing thing is on a scale of 1-100, Hubs got a solid 80. I’m not entirely certain that in the future I would be quite as willing to trust his ability to remember every essential thing (essential according to me that is) I need to go from looking like a troll doll when I wake up to looking like a reasonably decent member of polite society. But we’ll see.

Okay, so we drove 1 hour away to Idaho Springs, Colorado. The primary point of us going to this specific locale was to enjoy some time soaking here. We did that on Saturday. It was soooo relaxing. And serene. And comforting. And romantic (despite the 50 + people of all ages, genders and nationalities frolicking in the warm, soothing water all around us).

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On Friday night, we stayed at this sweet little B&B. It was cozy, the bed was comfortable and breakfast on Saturday morning was quite a treat. An unexpected added bonus was the chit-chat we had with the other two married couples over this breakfast of quiche, hashbrowns, ham, and toast with homemade jam. They were all close in age to Hubs and I. They all had grown children. They were also seemingly hungry for adventure, just like us. We chatted about places in Colorado the couple from California could see before they had to fly home on Sunday. We chatted about having grown ass adult “kids” and how things are different for today’s millennials than back when we were in our 20’s. We talked about the legalization of weed (general consensus: alcohol is far more dangerous in our society than weed ever could be).

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On the wall in our room at the B&B-love it!

During our convo with these other couples, I was told that I look like Jamie Lee Curtis. Hubs was told he bears a striking resemblance to this guy: Image result for pictures of jesse plemons

The ironic thing is, Hubs and I recently caught the movie “Vice” (I give it mixed reviews) and started getting into “Black Mirror” (mentioned above) and this particular actor, Jesse Plemmons, was in both of them (and of course in the movie “Game Night”-pictured above-which we really enjoyed). Upon seeing the first episode of “Black Mirror” I told Hubs that this guy looks like he could be his younger brother. His less-good-looking-than him younger brother, of course.

We also enjoyed a nice, “neat”, glass of whiskey at a local bar in Idaho Springs. And we couldn’t leave the place without scarfing down some awesome “Colorado style” pizza at the original Beaujou’s. They have a bottle of honey on each table to dip your crust into to enjoy as a little dessert.

This little getaway was very refreshing and re-energizing for both of us. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Hubs as this year goes on.

 

What’s in your “jar” for 2019? Or maybe you have a special word, as Hubs and I now do, to guide you through this new year? Please share in the comments!

 

 

What’s your go to “Feel Good” movie?

I have always been a huge fan of watching movies. Whether it be in an actual theater with a bucket of artery clogging popcorn and a fresh pack of Twizzlers or lolling about on my comfy couch eating the infinitely healthier microwave popcorn and my favorite chocolate truffles, I find movie watching to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. 

I like a variety of genres: comedies, dramas, thrillers, bio-pics, westerns, and musicals. And I’m pretty open minded about what I will watch. Especially if it is included with my Amazon Prime or on Netflix, where I have the lovely option of simply turning a movie off if it totally sucks. This doesn’t happen very often, however. 

Because I’m such a movie nut, I can’t in good conscience just pick one movie and tell you all why I think it’s great and why you should absolutely positively watch it as soon as you possibly can. 

Depending on how this goes, I might make this a regular feature. I like that idea: a regular feature. I think I’ll put a pin in that one. 

I’ve just got so much to say about how I feel about so many movies

Think I’ll start with the type of movie I love the very most, “my favorite favorite”, as Barney, that goofy purple dinosaur used to say through the t.v. screen to my kiddos when they were small. 

This would be the “Feel Good” movie. Those movies that make me laugh and/or make me tear up (I’m not a big crier when it comes to movies, but now that I think of it, perhaps I ought to pen a post about those rare films that did actually make me cry-and not because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t help myself). Those movies that amaze and inspire me. Those movies that I actually can enjoy again and again and again. 

Movies like:

“Love, Actually”. If I absolutely had to pick one film that is my favorite this would be the one. It’s a movie full of good cheer and humor.  It tells several different love stories, with the characters in each story biologically related to and/or entwined in each other’s lives. Each of the main characters are lovable, albeit imperfect.  The soundtrack is great too.  It also takes place during the Christmas season, which to me adds much to the charm of this movie. And it’s set in England so there’s plenty of those lovely British accents to enjoy. And it has a very happy ending, one that assures you that everyone is going to be alright after the credits are over. 

“Mama Mia”. Oh, the music in this one. It amazes me that the songs of “Abba” could be used to tell the story of a soon-to-be-wed young woman, living in a resort in Greece with her mom, who is searching for her biological father. Her mom, Donna, had summer flings with three different young men 20 years prior, and became pregnant. Her daughter, Sophie, invites all three of these now older men to her wedding. Each of these men, fortunately, embrace the possibility that they could be her father. It is simply a joyful, fun, uplifting movie that I can’t resist. 

“As Good as it Gets” also ranks as one of my all time favorite “feel good” movies. It is an unlikely love story between a curmudgeon afflicted with a severe case of OCD, played by the one and only Jack Nicholson, and a young waitress, who is a single mom of a very ill son, played by Helen Hunt. The (IMHO) greatly underrated actor Greg Kinnear has a starring role as Simon,  as Melvin’s (Jack Nicholson) gay neighbor who becomes a victim of an assault and needs someone to care for his little dog (Verdell) while he recovers. Jack Nicholson’s character slowly bonds with the dog and over time his heart opens to the possibility of real love with Carol, Helen Hunt’s character. This movie is as much about the characters (maybe even a bit more) than the actual story. The scenes with Carol and Simon are especially heart-warming, as they form a special bond between them.  The scenes with Melvin and Verdell are quite precious as well. 

My hope is that you all are able to carve out some time for yourself during this busy, stressful, mentally taxing time of the year (aka the Christmas/Holiday season) to kick back and re-watch your favorite “feel good” movies. Or if you haven’t caught any of the three mentioned above, you’ll take my recommendations and rent, buy, or find one of them via your favorite streaming service. 

I’m not really that much of a couch potato

I recently wrote this piece  on my blog. I stand by my conviction that quantity vs. quality should apply to those of us who fancy ourselves writers. I also continue to stand by my conviction that quality ought to trump quantity when it comes to consuming television while lounging on a couch like a damned potato. Though, it should be noted that potatoes don’t actually lounge. It seems more fitting to refer to this state of being as sloth potato, right?!

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Bet you didn’t know you needed a pic of sloths in a hammock today!

While I have indeed been “slothing” it up this fall, enjoying some quality t.v. on my couch with and without the Hubs, I was entirely incorrect about the amount of time I wanted, or thought I actually had, for watching said quality t.v. My bad.

I actually said, in public (aka this blog) no less, that I had 14 hours per week to spend watching quality television. Geez Louise, I am such a silly goose sometimes.

It turns out that I have other, more valuable and indeed necessary, activities to accomplish in the evenings, which precludes me from having 14 hours to simply watch t.v. on my couch like a cute little sloth. Like chatting up my spawn. Like making food. Like checking my Twitter feed. Like reading blog posts and creating my own.

But I most certainly have found time to enjoy a handful of shows to enjoy in the evenings. The shows that, to me, are of the highest quality. The shows that enlighten and educate me, like “This is Life with Lisa Ling”, who recently featured the devastation that can be caused when people become addicted to technology.  How this addiction can change one’s personality and cause them to isolate and lose interest in the pursuits that once fueled them. I give big props to Lisa Ling for bringing to light issues that many of us had not been aware of.

Another t.v. show of high quality which I’ve been consistently watching with Hubs is “9-1-1”.  Actor Peter Krause, from one of my favorite-of-all-time-but-now-unfortunately-canceled shows, “Parenthood”, is one of the main characters. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is a fictional show about the Los Angeles Fire Department and their acts of heroism in the field, and the trials and tribulations of their personal lives. Some of the characters are police officers and some are 911 operators, and they are all connected to each other, whether it be through blood, friendship, or romance. It is exciting to watch and the acting is very good. I highly recommend it.

Then there’s “The Good Place”. Hubs and I have watched this since the very first episode and it never disappoints. In case you haven’t seen it yet, it is a one of a kind gem of a show. If I had to summarize it, I’d say it is a thought-provoking comedy featuring characters that all could be considered hot messes, who each die, go to “The Good Place”, learn that the “good place” is actually the opposite, try as a group in vain to get to the actual “good place”, then get to come back to earth, fully alive, where they have opportunities to make different life choices to redeem themselves so that when they die “for real” they will go to the for real “good place”. And this is all at the mercy of Michael, an “angel” played by Ted Danson. This show is a trip. It’s most definitely a show that you need to start from the very first episode, as Hubs and I did. Or it will make zero sense. Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it, you should. It is epic.

Other high quality shows that I am making time for this fall include “This is Us”, another one that, if you haven’t watched it yet, must be watched starting from the first episode to make any sense. The relatability factor of the characters is incredible. It drew me in much like “Parenthood” did.

“Shameless” is the other high quality and for many, highly inappropriate show I make time for. Hubs and I started watching it, ironically, while sitting in a hotel room on a New Years getaway to Chicago (where the show is filmed), a few years ago. This was the last time I recall in my adult life I experienced the special hell that is being hungover. Binge-watching “Shameless” got me through that New Year’s Day. The acting on this show is incredible. The story lines are unpredictable. The show is pure dark comedy with heart.

I have continued to watch “Grey’s Anatomy” as well. I’ve watched this show since it started and I continue to watch it primarily because of the character Meredith. She’s such a good egg. She’s the character that we all want to be friends with. Unlike “9-1-1”, Grey’s Anatomy, to me, is much more about the characters as opposed to the medical emergencies they find themselves in the middle of.

I’ve essentially given up on watching “Dancing with the Stars”. Too much of a time commitment for me, as the first episode of the week is 2 hours long and the second episode of the week feels like it’s 2 hours long but I think it’s really just an hour. 

What with watching the news every night (God help us), in addition to Real Time with Bill Maher (thanks to 3 free months of HBO), and our weekly dose of Samantha Bee, these few shows above are the only ones I have time for.

What t.v. shows are you making time for these days, fellow couch sloths?