Saturday, August 30, 2008

Always a fan, always a friend

More than a dozen years ago, when I was in college in Denton, Texas, I got invited to the dank, smelly little music club right off campus. My roommate's friend Laura had been raving about this singer from Austin named Patrice Pike, who was in town with her band, Little Sister. I desperately wanted Laura to think I was cool, so I was more than happy to go along (I had a little crush on her, although I still didn't really know it at that point — I was pretty dense). I didn't really know much about the band, other than Laura loved them and the dean of the journalism school was a big fan. I'll never forget Dr. Wells telling me, "You've got to go see that chick in Little Sister. She's like fuckin' Janis Joplin, man." Yeah, our j-school was a little different.

I confess that I don't recall many details about the show. I remember that I loved the music. I remember that I had a great time. I remember Laura whispering in my ear, "Isn't she so sexy?" But even though a fair amount of it is fuzzy, that night started something. Since then, Patrice and her music have been constant threads running through my entire adult life, in ways I never would have expected. Corny, sure. But true. So while I stood on the dock last Friday night at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kansas, watching Patrice charm and enchant a crowd of my friends (and a few strangers), I thought for a moment about my 20-year-old self. If someone had told me that over the next decade, I would see Patrice in dozens of shows — including one in my own driveway — would I have rolled my eyes? If somone had said that this amazing singer, sweating and writhing on the stage in front of me, would one day consider me a friend, would I have believed it?

If the name Patrice Pike sounds even remotely familiar to any of you (well, any of you who don't know me), it could be a few things. Two summers ago, she was on "Rock Star: Supernova," that reality show where Tommy Lee was looking for a lead singer. Patrice did well; she was the third-to-last female to be eliminated. I wanted her to last longer, but truth be told, I didn't really want her to win. That band of Tommy Lee's hasn't done jack squat. I just wanted her to pick up some more fans. That's happened, although not to the degree I would have hoped. If she had been able to play this song, "Kiss Me Baby," on national TV, I'm guessing she would have picked up a few more. Not exactly a Tommy Lee kind of song. I wish there was full video, but you'll get the point. Panty-dropper.

But if you didn't catch her "Rock Star," Patrice has also been on the Lilith Fair, she's played at the Michigan Womyn's Festival and countless other similar chick shindigs (this is a neat moment from one of those), her band Sister 7 (Little Sister had to change its name) had some radio and VH1 play with a song called "Know What You Mean." In Austin, she's beloved; she's in the Texas Music Hall of Fame. But if you haven't heard of her, that's okay too. It's the whole reason I'm writing this. If it makes even one person check out her music for the first time, then I'm happy. It's not just that I think her music is worth sharing with anyone and everyone (although it is), it's also because outside of Texas, I'm not sure how well-known she is in the lesbian/bi community, despite being an out-and-proud bisexual who actively supports and promotes gay causes. I consider the song in the snippet below (it's not the full song) a great "fuck you, I'm queer" song.

I got to know Patrice, oddly enough, when I moved away from Texas. Down there, at a Sister 7 show the club would be packed wall-to-wall. In Kansas City, it was a little different. Good crowds, but nothing like that. So it's hard to miss when the same people are coming to the shows over and over again (sometimes on consecutive nights in different towns). My friends and I became faces that she was used to seeing when she came to town, and she would always make a point to say hello to us. But I didn't really get to know her until one weekend nearly seven years ago, when Patrice and her band at the time got booted out of a Sunday-night gig in Lawrence at the very last minute. (The owner of the club and its manager had unknowingly each booked a band for that night; Patrice's band lost out.) My roommate Sarah and I were commiserating with Patrice after the Kansas City show that Friday, and being a bit drunk and mouthy, we were like, "Fuck it, just play the show at our house." Patrice didn't miss a beat. "How many people do you think you could get?" Sarah and me: "Uhhhhhhhhhhh ... what? Seriously?"

So, 48 hours later, Patrice Pike and the Black Box Rebellion were playing a fully plugged in, all-out, two-hour show in our driveway for a few dozen of our closest friends. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life, something I'll never forget. And I know Patrice won't either. She's said several times that the experience meant a lot to her, and knowing that means a great deal to me. I generally try not to get too personal in this blog, mostly because I think it's kind of boring. I tried several times to write about Patrice without getting personal, but it just didn't work. And I don't want to give the impression that we are close friends; that's not the case. Because I've been listening to her music for so long — and because it was such a huge part of my life when I was figuring out my sexuality, moving to a new town and making new friends — it would be intensely personal to me whether I knew her or not. But because I do know that she is every bit as kind-hearted and genuine as she is talented, it makes me want to share her music with others all the more.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading about her, and I hope you check her out: and OK, enough shameless promotion. I'll leave you with a photo from the Driveway Show, plus a snippet of one of my favorite Patrice songs ever.

Barefoot, blind and barely awake

I have these neighbors who can't seem to figure out their car alarm. They're always setting it off accidentally, especially early in the morning. I am used to this. Which is why I shouldn't have been suprised or disturbed in any way when it went off the other morning — weeeee-ooooo, weeee-ooooo, weeeee-oooooo. The problem was, I was deep, deep into a dream in which I had a really fun little scooter. And when the car alarm sounded, I thought, someone is stealing my motherfucking scooter, noooooo! So I leap out of bed and barrel out the door without fully waking up. Of course, as soon as I get out there I realize that a) it's the neighbor's car, b) I do not own a scooter, and no one has scooter alarms anyway, and c) my front door has just locked behind me. I am in my pajamas and not wearing my glasses. This is where I should mention that I am blind as a bat. Without them, I am like Velma, feeling around some creepy cave going, "Oh no! My glasses! Where are my glasses? Jinkies!"

I panic for a brief moment, then I remember the little hide-a-key turtle I keep on the deck in the backyard. No problem, right? So I go back around to the deck, and I'm looking and looking, and guess what? No turtle. How is this possible? I'm thinking. Where the hell does an inanimate hide-a-key turtle go? I think that it must be there, I just can't see it because I'm so blind. So I crawl around on the deck for a while, looking everywhere. Still no turtle. Then I come up with the brilliant idea of kicking in one of my basement windows. They're shutter-style, and the locks are weak. So I give the window a few good kicks before deciding I would rather not risk having a huge shard of glass lodge in my bare foot. On to another idea. My dining room window looks like it's unlocked, so I pry off the screen. Of course, it's locked, and I'm an idiot.

I walk around the front yard for a little while, cursing and generally looking like a crazy person. Have I mentioned that I have no clue what time it is? It's about sunrise, but because I never get up early I have no idea when that is. So I knock quietly on a neighbor's door for help, but I bail because I'm paranoid that it's insanely early. (Turns out it was 6:30ish, so, good call.) I decide to assess the situation with the basement door. While I'm under the deck checking that out, I see something. The turtle! Apparently it fell off the deck. It broke apart in the fall, so of course, no key. I drop to my hands and knees and blindly paw around for a while, digging for it among the dirt and rocks and groundcover plants. That goes about as well as you might expect.

I give up. You win, forces of the universe. I happen to see a gardening tool I had left out the night before. One swift swing and one broken door pane later, I'm back in the house, filthy and with a squinty headache. Moral of the story: Don't keep important stuff in a plastic turtle.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympics: Deep and shallow thoughts

Can someone please point me toward the person who invented high-definition television? I want to kiss him or her on the mouth. Oh my god, am I ever addicted to the Olympics in HD. You can see every grain of sand on Misty May and Kerri Walsh's sweaty, well-defined abs, and it is tremendous.

But for once, I'm not just all about the hot women. (Though many, many of them are hot. I've seen hot Ukrainian fencers, Aussie swimmers, Kiwi soccer players, Spanish basketball players, Dutch field hockey players, you name it. Need more examples? The incomparable Dorothy Snarker provides a few.)

So in watching these Olympics, glorying in all these amazing female athletes, it strikes me that much of what makes them so attractive – their abilities, their strength, their power – is precisely what is killing women's gymnastics for me. Those women and girls are extremely powerful; they're all muscle. They perform astonishing feats of athleticism and agility. But they have to do it wearing sparkly makeup and hair ribbons, while prancing around and performing these goofy dance moves in between their tumbling skills, and it makes me insane. Obviously, the floor exercise is the worst offender. What's the deal with the music? The men don't have music in their floor exercise. It's got to go. I know that it's called "artistic" gymnastics, and you're never going to be rid of some of this stuff. But a lot of it just feels so archaic and unnecessary next to other women's sports, and even next to men's gymnastics. There's this pervading sense of forced femininity that just bugs me. The men have to do some of the annoying little toe-pointy, arm-flappy moves too, but not nearly as many. For them, it's mostly about the power. I just don't see why it can't be that way for the women too. Why not add the high bar? From the looks of some of their uneven-bar routines, the women have advanced strength- and skill-wise to a point where they could compete in that discipline. Pommel horse and rings, not so much, but high bar seems attainable. Right? Am I crazy?

Don't get me wrong; I still enjoy watching the gymnastics. I was absolutely thrilled for Nastia Liukin (Side note: best name ever, right? Nasty!), and I don't want to belittle their skills in any way. Because they're badass; they're just hampered by the system they compete in. But this isn't 1984 anymore. The phrase "female athlete" doesn't make people think of Mary Lou Retton, it makes us think of Venus Williams. Mia Hamm. Dara Torres. Diana Taurasi. Annika Sorenstam. And yes, Misty May and Kerri Walsh. OK, those two wear bikinis, which I know has some impact on the decision to put all of their matches on NBC, prime time. (I know I'm crossing my fingers for another celebration like '04.) But I like to think that it also has something to do with the fact that they beat the crap out of the volleyball and have laid waste to nearly every opponent in their path for four years solid.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Boom! Hold that thought

So, Imagine Me & You was on Logo the other night, and even though I had a thousand other things to do and had already seen it a thousand times, I watched it anyway. Why? Because I am physically unable to resist this film. If I don't watch it at least once every six weeks or so, I start to feel weird and unsettled. Food doesn't taste as good; my fabric softener seems to lose its effectiveness, that sort of thing. Exaggerations aside, the movie just makes me smile. Yes, it is an utterly predictable bit of trifle with an ending so corny it tests one's gag reflexes to the limit. But darn it all, it's a cute, fun, funny and well-acted bit of trifle, and the romantic leads are gorgeous and have fabulous chemistry. Plus, there's something to be said for high production values (something sadly lacking in many lesbian films, due to their indie nature). So I make no apologies for loving this movie. None!

I'll spare you the rundown of the movie and get straight to the appreciation of Rachel (Piper Perabo) and Luce (Lena Headey). From the instant they meet, they can't seem to stop flirting with each other, and it is very cute. As I said before, their chemistry was really solid. Oh, and there is a decent amount of kissing, which is pretty awesome. I don't know how others felt about this, but the fact that there was no sex scene didn't bother me a bit. I thought it was quite nice that they fell for each other without that.

Anyway, despite the aforementioned cheesiness and predictability, I do give the movie credit for throwing a couple of nice curveballs. For one, in your heart you're rooting for the guy a little bit. Usually in these scenarios, the guy is a total boor and we can't understand at all why any woman would be with him, but in the case of Hector, you get it. He's kind and charming, and completely deserving of someone who loves him. The other nice departure is that Rachel never really fights her attraction to Luce; she fights her desire to act on it. We're spared any hand-wringing over (gasp!) being attracted to a woman. We also don't have to tread a similar tired path as Rachel worries about what everyone will think, how she'll tell her family, etc. She's not concerned about any of that; all she cares about it not hurting Hector. Also, no one goes insane. Which reminds me: By playing the lovely and not-crazy Rachel, Piper Perabo redeemed herself in my eyes for that crapfest Lost and Delirious. And she and Lena Headey both get extra points for playing gay more than once in their careers. Bravo!