Catching up with Depeche Mode

Earlier this week my husband took me to the Depeche Mode concert. The one I really wanted to go to was in 2006, but the baby was still a baby and I was still feeling pretty housebound, so when I heard about this tour, I decided this would make up for it. They even had a new album, which I have yet to download, but I figured I’d know most of their songs if they stuck to the bigger hits.


I knew maybe 25% of the set list. It didn’t matter though, unknown live music is always better than the song you know played on the same old speakers anyway. You get the visual of the person actually singing, dancing and playing the notes (or at least the illusion of it) and you can feel the thump of the beat from the stage to your seat.

Last year we went to the Cure concert. There is some overlap in the fans. I couldn’t help but notice that I spotted only one other black person in the massive crowd. Generally I don’t care and being the true minority doesn’t bother me much because I’m pretty used to it. There were more brown people in the Depeche Mode crowd.

They played from their list and left the stage. Then the crowd kept cheering for an encore. I really hate this part of concerts. I guess it’s a game, or a test to see how much the fans love the band, but it’s sort of silly, isn’t it? So they came back, played more songs and then disappeared again. More cheers. Came back, more songs, bowed and left, for real this time.

I wanted to hear Personal Jesus and they played a great live version of it in the second encore. I was not disappointed

I don’t know most of the songs that happened after "Violator" and before "Playing the Angel." That covers about 15 years of music.

I hope I’m in the same physical shape as David Gahan when I hit 47 or so. Half of the time it seemed like he was channeling Richard Simmons in the aerobics instruction.

Martin Gore has more guitars in his collection than Nigel from Spinal Tap, but unlike Nigel, he actually plays them.

The fans rose for the popular songs. The FANS stood for all of the songs. At last year’s Cure concert, I was a FAN, but for this one, I was a fan.

Martin Gore would look so much better if he lost the eyeliner. Apparently no one told him it’s a Glamour don’t to outline your entire eye, especially if they are close set to begin with. Ironic, considering the group’s name translates to “Fashion news.”


Pity the fool

For people that know me personally, it’s probably not a secret that I’m not the best swimmer. In fact calling me a swimmer at all means you’re using the broadest definition of the word. I had lessons when I was 4 or 5 (I vaguely remember being dropped off at the community pool for lessons but it still didn’t make me a swimmer). I got by mostly through staying in water where my feet could touch bottom and by doing a mean dog paddle.

Then came West Point. Everyone who arrived during that first summer had to be categorized by ability so we could be placed into the right class level once the academic year began. This initial test established me as a rock, a classification which shouldn’t require any further explanation from me.

Rock swimmers stuck together. We all had our issues with the water, and we all had requirements to achieve, first to pass the course, but also to graduate. I got through these, hoping that would be the last time I’d be required to swim as a cadet.

It was not the last time. I got snagged for the intramural swim team my junior year. This is the part where it sucked to be a woman at West Point—most of the co-ed teams required at least two female members. Even if you signed up for Wallyball, you could be pulled for swimming just so they had the right ratio to be eligible to compete. Even if you were a shitty swimmer, it meant you were getting into the water and competing. Even if it meant certain humiliation, you jumped in. The only thing worse than drowning was being labeled a quitter. If you drowned, well, at least you tried.

Something happens to me when I know I’m competing against others. I might do fine by myself, but when the adrenaline’s pumping and some kind of prize is at stake, my entire body reacts, and not in the good way. This is also why I stink at video games. If my mind is geared to compete and my fingers are not intuitively adjusted to the game controller, I’m crashing into a wall, or getting shot up by aliens, or getting run down by the other team. If I had gone to the pool on my own, it would have been okay, but knowing that I had to race seven other people with a slew of others watching from the tiled surroundings was the equivalent of dropping me into Lake Superior with ten pound weights fixed to my ankles. I would finish the race out of obligation, but I would be last every time by minutes, and I'd do so knowing that every eye of every person was on me, and in every eye of every person was this: the look of pity.

Do you know how it feels to be on the receiving end of this look?

It’s the worst feeling in the world.

You’d think I would never swim again after that experience, but I still do. In fact, I will even go into the ocean. We went last weekend and hit one of the beaches on the Delaware shore. If you stay in the water long enough, the waves will make you so tired that you’re guaranteed a decent night’s sleep. I made sure to go far enough into the water that I wouldn’t have to deal with the waves breaking. Sometimes I had to adjust, and rush towards the wave so I wouldn’t get caught under it. The first time I was out there, I was with my husband. The second time I went on a solo mission because I knew after that, we would likely be heading home and I wanted to enjoy one last dip in the water. I bobbed around in the waves, marveling at how peaceful it was, relishing the simple joy of a cloudless sky and the taste of salt on my tongue. I could do this all day, I thought as I watched the water roll in.

In the distance, I saw a huge wave swelling up as it approached the shore. As it came closer, I realize I was beyond its breaking point. I attempted swimming towards it, but as the water curled above my head, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.

Do you know that feeling?

It's the second worst feeling in the world.

I turned around and promptly felt myself slam into the sea floor. At some point my head was clearly below my feet. I hope I don't get a spinal injury, I thought as my chin connected with the sand. The water retreated, pulling sand and rocks into my bathing suit. I started to stand up, but knelt back down when I realized some of my body parts had shifted out of my top. My chin stung. I coughed and ran a hand over my sand saturated hair. Then I stumbled out onto the beach without an ounce of grace.

“You really need to go rinse your hair.” My husband said, his eyes widened.

“Hell no.” I thought, while saying “I’ll just wash it out in the shower.”

Have you ever been physically hurt and realized that you’ve gotten to old for that shit? It’s not like when you’re a little kid and you skin your knee, cry for a second and then pop back up and keep going. Your pride sort of goes with the territory too. You got your ass kicked, and it shows, not only in the scrapes and bruises, but in your eyes that bear the look of defeat.

I studied my scrapes in the mirror on the back side of the sun visor in the car, thinking, “I got my ass kicked by the Atlantic Ocean. My neck hurt. I ran my tongue through across my teeth and sifted out grains of sand. My shoulder felt pinched. I had scrapes on my chest that burned. I stared at the marks on my chin and wondered how I could twist them into jokes.

“I went for some natural dermabrasion over the weekend.”

“I had a shaving accident…”

Or there was the option of letting someone else notice the scabs and ask about them. Sometimes that’s best. If you’re lucky, no one will say anything.

I arrived at work and one of my coworkers asked about the weekend.

“Oh, we went to the beach, “ I said, “And I got knocked down by a wave.” Then, in case he missed it, I pointed at my chin. So much for the clever jokes.

“Oh no,” he replied, and there it was on his face: the look of pity.


Unsolved Mysteries

Something has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. It’s nothing of extreme importance, just an enigma that has been interrupting my thoughts during the slower moments of the day. What I'm wonder is this:

Just what in the hell is going on with Jermaine Jackson’s hair?

You know, Jermaine, possibly the second most famous male sibling of Michael, who put himself back into the spotlight. Every time he was in front of the cameras, instead of listening to what he had to say, I squinted at the screen, attempting to figure out what part of his hair was real (if any) and what was going on with the rest of it.

I have a few theories:

Shoe polish—this made for a great option for dyeing Barbie’s hair, it might work on real people too.

Latex paint: If you tape off your borders, it could work

Tattoo: Expensive and painful, but this saves hours of time getting ready in the mornings. People do this for eyebrows and permanent eyeliner so why not hair? Is Sy Sperling is purposely keeping this hair loss solution from us so he can stay in business?

Joe Gigolo wig: This seems to be feasible, though I imagine a head could get hot under that thing.

And what about the top—is it real hair? A toupee? A lid from a jar of Jif, painted black?

I am going to confess here: Dynamite was the second album I bought with my hard earned allowance (After Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual.”) I wasn’t a Madonna or Michael fan so I blatantly went for the alternative options. Now, looking at that album cover, it’s clear that Jermaine wasn’t so much an alternative as he was a knock off, shamelessly copping his brother’s style. So maybe the hair thing is an extension of that, the way we wondered about Michael’s face, we wonder about Jermaine’s hair.

Or not.


Revelations from Facebook

1) Some people will send you multiple friend requests despite multiple rejections. Conversely, your feelings might be a little hurt when you send a request and don't get any response. "But I know that guy!" you think, "and he knows me!" You also know it's not that deep, but it still hurts a tiny bit.

2) Certain people will use this strictly to brag about the latest vacation, workout, kickass home made meal, kids, school, etc. You will never hear about a loss at the blackjack tables, a food poisoning episode, a missed flight or a flat tire from these people. It’s all awesomeness squared, all the time. Their lives are golden.

3) You will also hear about parenting. Some of these stories will make for good birth control.

4) Friday is a big deal people! TGIF!

5) And stemming from #4, we can all agree that Mondays suck. And weekends go way too fast.

6) Apparently Facebook serves as some kind of free advertising platform for some people. There’s a reason Facebook puts the advertisements along the margin. People don’t go to Facebook to read a sales pitch.

7) Sometimes it’s a political soapbox and I have to ask: is this really effective? All I see is that people either comment in agreement or get pissed off. Can't we all just get along?

8) People have a lot of time for games, quizzes, throwing things, passing out drinks, giving out poker chips, and so on.

9) High school didn't end with graduation.

10) You wonder if wishing someone a happy birthday really counts because you had the reminder on your page of said person’s birthday. You also wonder if you should wish the people you consider more acquaintances than friends a happy birthday, or if that would be entirely too phony.

11) You feel a momentary sense of dread when you get a notification that someone tagged you in a photo.

12) “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” are popular for status updates.

13) You censor yourself. Someone might say, “Wow, this is a great photo. I wonder where that guy is now.” “Oh,” you think, “you mean the same guy you said looked like he had been hit in the face with a sack of nickels? That guy? Hm. No idea where he is.” Yeah, don’t post that.

14) 10-25% of the people on your list are logged on regularly. The rest know how to log out and live life offline.

15) Sometimes you want to comment on a post or a photo, but if it's one of your more popular friends, you skip it because you don't want receive the eleventy million notifications about other people that comment after you.

16) The pencil treatment is a useful tool. You can hide people’s posts without them suspecting a thing. “Unfriending” someone is also a-okay. Blocking is another handy dandy option if you find the person intolerable.

17) It’s not so easy to conduct the actions mentioned in #16 in real life.

The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye

I have never been into exercise. Lack of physical fitness was pretty much my Achilles heel through four years of West Point and on, into my time in the Army. I never did sports in high school, aside from the basic requirements in mandatory P.E. class. The emphasis in my house was always on studying and good grades, not so much on making the cut to play on a team.

I ate what I wanted without any concern about how those calories would manifest themselves as body fat. At West Point, I worked out, and continued not thinking about what I ate. It just didn’t occur to me. I didn’t have any “problem areas.” I wasn’t thin, and I don’t have the body to be naturally thin, but I was never fat either.

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself and thought, “wait a minute, that’s how I look to the rest of the world?” It’s a tough moment, isn’t it? It’s not at all like looking into the mirror. When you’ve gained weight, you tell yourself that your clothes just shrunk in the wash, or it’s a bloated day for you, and you can convince yourself that everything’s okay. Until you see the photo.

The camera doesn’t lie. I wish it did, and there are tricks you can do to position yourself to create the right illusion, but these are not the honest photos. The honest ones are the candids, taken in a split second, when you’re caught off guard and not quick enough to angle yourself into a flattering pose. They might even look okay in the small display of the digital camera, but when you plug in the camera to upload onto the computer, the big screen reveals the truth. My moment of truth came from a photo of me in the cockpit of an airbus, a photo op offered by a dreamy pilot. I’m smiling, but all I see is an arm. I know, big deal, right? To be fair, it is the closest thing to the camera in the shot, so it looks even larger, but on me, the arms and upper body in general are the last to gain. Once those go, you know you’ve lost the battle. So there I was. My arms and I. There are many variations of this, depending on where you carry your weight. The chin and I. Gut, butt, and me. And so you sit there, in horror at what you’ve become and what it took to get there.

“Oh, my.” You think. “Wow.” And finally, “I need to lose weight.”

The days of eating anything I want without consequence are long gone. I put my gym membership back to use. That’s right, every month I am paying for a gym membership and not using it. I’m one of those. Even worse, the gym is only half a mile from my house. They have a dress code and it’s family oriented. This isn’t a meat market Gold’s Gym where people hang around the equipment sucking in their abs and flirting. It’s a for real, for real gym. They have a pool. A full basketball court. Racquetball courts. Two separate areas with cardiovascular machines. Free weights and weight machines. A spinning room. A sauna, steam room, a hot tub and did I mention the sauna? They even have classes that you can attend through your membership. I’m paying for the upkeep of all this stuff and not using any of it. For shame!

So I went back to the gym. I bought a swim cap from Target and pulled out my speedo so it at least looked like I was serious. I got into the pool and did several laps of my specialties—the sidestroke, the breast stroke and a modified backstroke. Notice something here? All of these swimming methods can be done without submerging your head under the water. I don’t got rhythm, and therefore doing something like a freestyle stroke would likely end with me choking on water from breathing in when I should have been exhaling. The nice thing about this gym is that no one really cares. Most of the people are as skilled in the water as I am, and the “deep” end is only five feet of water anyway.

The other thing I did was buy, “30 day shred” on Amazon. I am not a Jillian fan. I spent almost a month just looking at the DVD in its wrapper. I have rolled my eyes at Jillian’s tough girl act many times while watching “The Biggest Loser.” I will overlook my annoyance if it means losing weight though. Last week I opened the DVD and started on the level 1 workout.

My husband asks how much I weigh. Numbers are a powerful tool to keep him on track, but I just get discouraged. “I just want to wear a bikini again,” I said, dodging the question. Then, later, I stepped onto the scale.

The scale is another thing that doesn’t lie. Aside from when I was carrying a whole separate human being, I have never weighed as much as what I saw on the scale’s display. Oh my.

I worked out a bunch of times last week. I know this is a little brag, but I am trying not to be righteous about this. Just two weeks ago I was an non-exercising fool. One week does not make you into a workout guru. One week does not give you the right to look down your nose at anyone else not doing as you’re doing. One week of solid workouts means there’s still plenty of room for you to fall off the exercise wagon. For now I’ll shut my mouth and keep at it. Yes, I'm doing it for health, but let's not kid ourselves, vanity is involved too. You don't want to run into someone who knew you way back when and have them come to the realization that you've become the person who has let herself go. You don't want people talking about you, shaking their heads and saying "What happened?"

Later this summer I will weigh myself, do my workouts and hopefully wear a bikini again. Hopefully the “Oh my’s” that result will be the positive kind.