(Another) Open letter to Bon Jovi

Dear Jon, Ritchie, David and Tico:

I’m curious: Have any of you seen the movie Almost Famous? I only ask because there’s a line in the film that reminded me of you today. Perhaps you know it: As I recall, the Lester Bangs character says to the naïve William Miller, “…They will ruin rock n’ roll and strangle everything we love about it.”

Even out of context the line has resonance. But don’t worry, I’m not about to accuse you of ruining rock n’ roll – though I’m sure there are those who would, particularly after listening to your new album.

It’s just that quote was the only thing I could think of when I read the announcement of your Livin on a Prayer contest today.

Now, you know, of course, that I consider myself to be a fan of the band. I said as much to you back when you were on the These Days tour, and you graciously allowed a small-time writer to interview you. (Side note to Tico: you’re a dick.)

Your music has been such a significant component of my life that I’ve incorporated stories about it into my book tour. (Speaking of which, would it kill you to buy a copy of my book? I mention you in it, and for all the cash I’ve dropped over the past 22 years on your music and shows, I don’t think throwing a girl fifteen bucks in support is too much to ask.)

My guy even purchased the “Livin on a Prayer” gold record single as a Christmas present for me; that’s how much I love that song.

Obviously, I’m not alone in my appreciation of it. Which I suppose is why you’ve made it the cornerstone of this little contest you have running. I guess if I were still 12 years-old I’d think it was a cute idea, encouraging fans to record themselves performing “Livin on a Prayer” for the chance to be shown on a jumbotron during the hometown show you play.

Really guys, I’m not 12 anymore. I don’t need to see my face looking back at me while you play a song; hearing my inner thoughts come through your lyrics was what drew me to the band in the first place.

But that’s not what bothers me in all this; it’s the fact that your machine is churning out such poor music now that you have to blatantly whore out material written in 1986 to get people interested in the new tour.

Sure, your corporate entity could argue that this contest is a chance for your fans to connect with you, but I don’t buy it. If you really wanted this to be an opportunity to connect with your fans, you wouldn’t be showing the winning video clips on the jumbotron while you play; you’d invite the winning fans to join you on stage.

And that might have actually been enough to get me interested in your contest, were I interested in your music now.

Your pretty hairdo and white teeth (seriously Jon, layoff the whitener – your freaking teeth glow in the dark ) combined with rigid overproduction and lazy hooks does not add up to an album worth listening to.

I remain your fan, Bon Jovi, but do not expect me to sing along unconditionally. I demand more from the music I love. I’m hoping you will, too.

Hoping to see you on the rebound,

First 2010 Book Tour Date Announced!

Hey all –

Come find out why Chicago’s Daily Herald calls my book tour “rowdier than the typical literary event”!

I’ll be sharing stories, reading, and signing copies of my hit memoir Morning Neurosis at the Barnes & Noble in… Las Vegas!!!!

Date: Sunday, April 11, 2010
Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Barnes & Noble 3860 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV

Don’t miss this hot stop on the Morning Neurosis rock n’ roll book tour! I’ll be announcing more tour dates soon.


You look happy to meet me

Funny thing I’ve come to discover recently: love of music does not necessarily equal aptitude for it. This really shouldn’t be a revelation for me considering the number of hair bands I’ve been forced to work with in my career, but when the musical instrument is actually in my own hands, the reality sets in.

Something has possessed my guy to attempt to teach me “I Love Rock n’ Roll” on bass. I’m tempted to attribute it to a severe case of cabin fever, because frankly, my guy is normally quite sensible. But it is winter, we’ve been snowed in for many long weekends, and Netflix can only deliver movies so fast.

I think, too, that my success as my guy’s bass tech has made us more inclined to toss common sense out the window. It’s been more than a year since I’ve had the role of stringing and tuning and adjusting, and it’s gone rather well, at least in that I’ve lost my fear of actually picking up his prized bass guitars and managed to commit “Every Asshole Does Good” to memory.

And I do love music. My guy knows this, and really does mean well in his efforts – he’s always ready to help me accomplish anything – but I’m afraid my musical talent resides somewhere short of Milli Vanilli.

History should really have been the first thing I considered before I took my guy’s suggestion seriously. All I could envision was how cute I’d look with his bass strapped on, and how much I’d enjoy the applause I’d receive when I made my debut at the weekly “Jam With the Band” night at a local bar.

Had I any sense at all, the image that should have danced through my head would have been my very first musical performance at age 8. My had parents shelled out a small fortune to foster my burgeoning love of music by hiring a piano instructor, and for one year I dutifully visited with her for an hour every week.

She instilled me with a few basics – scales, rudimentary Christmas carols, the ability to locate middle C – but never seemed particularly equipped to handle a rambunctious kid who was more interested in instant gratification than practice.

Leave it to me, too, to go to her wanting to learn songs that weren’t exactly designed for the piano. Where she came at me with “The Entertainer” and “Ode to Joy”, I responded with “Ghostbusters” and “Like A Virgin”. Our compromise was the showtune “Edelweiss” from Sound of Music. It really was more about what she wanted to teach me of course, especially since the song was meant for me to perform at her student showcase.

It was actually something of a grand event, all her students, their families and her employers gathered in an auditorium for several hours of amateur instrument maceration. Even in the best of circumstances – with a talented instructor and kids who care – these things never go entirely well. There’s always some child who winds up peeing on the piano bench, or another puking in the wings, but you participate anyway in some grand scheme of personal growth or the promise of ice cream afterwards.

We were scheduled to perform that day by level, and my time slot was 3:07 p.m., somewhere between the special ed students and Kat, a girl from my grade school who knew the entire catalog of Franz Liszt but was generally unliked because she kept an arsenal of empty milk cartons in her desk and rewore her gym socks.

We all formed a line in the backstage area of the auditorium, the volunteers likely figuring we were too stupid to look at a clock to know when we were due to perform. Standing in line immediately behind me was a boy I’d seen one or two times before, usually leaving the practice studio as I came in. He looked just like Arnold from Different Strokes, and it was a time when my telling him so wouldn’t earn me a shanking.

“Yeah, everyone tells me that,” he said. “But I really want to be a Jedi.”

Fair enough; I was more inclined to want to be Madonna, but he seemed nice enough. We chatted generally about action figures and cartoons until it was my time to take the stage. He smiled at me as I was about to walk out, then whispered, “You’re gonna mess up! You’re gonna mess up!”

I might not have been much of a Star Wars fan, but even I knew that kind of behavior was most definitely NOT using the Force. And as I sat down at the bench and opened my sheet music, the deranged little Ewok stood in the wings and watched.

The introduction to “Edelweiss” went well enough, and I actually managed to bang through the first verse and chorus, but when I hit the bridge, I also hit a wall. I lost my place and stopped dead.

There was no specific action that really threw me off my game, just knowing that Arnold was in the wings likely thinking “I told you so!” and that my poor family was out in the audience and probably looking for a refund was more than enough to mess with my head.

Several long moments passed as I fumbled with my sheet music. It was all for show, really, I’d never actually figured out how to read it. My instructor’s sorry attempts to teach me site reading had never amounted to much; I mostly wrote all the notes in or memorized my finger placement, as I had with “Edelweiss.”

Arnold was grinning at me in the wings, and I knew I had two options: kick the bench back and punch the jerk, or get it together and finish the stupid song I never really liked to begin with.

My teachers throughout grade school were perpetually right: I was definitely “mature for my age”, and elected to not win with my fists. Of course, in order to do that I had to mentally play “Edelweiss” in its entirety in my head before I could pick up where I left off, which gave the audience another minute and a half to stare at my profile and wonder if I’d missed the short bus that day.

I ultimately finished the song without crying, puking or peeing and left the stage to a smattering of sympathetic applause. Arnold followed right on my heels and launched into the opening theme from Star Wars. The little fucker nailed it.

My parents were generous with their praise after the recital, and repeated just how proud they were of me for getting up there in the first place. When I told them about Arnold, my dad, who could always be counted on for his complete lack of propriety, said:

“Never trust a kid who looks like Gary Coleman.”

Words of wisdom, dad, thanks.

So now I’ve taken up a new instrument and new recital to conquer, and after all the practicing and patience from my guy, my fingers are crossed that whenever I finally work up the nerve to play with our friends’ band in public, I won’t cross paths with another Star Wars fan.

I am the brain, some say insane

Time Magazine has released a 25 Best Blogs of 2009 list.

I, of course, am not on it. It’s my own fault really; I’ve steadfastly refused to play nice in the proverbial sandbox since my start as a blogger years ago. And that’s fine, especially considering that I appear to lack every single aspect from the blogosphere’s top elements for relevance.

Case in point: in 2009, I:

1) Did not get pregnant, give birth, or become a parent. It seems as though every chick who has gotten knocked up fancies herself a writer these days. Belching out children is amusing enough I suppose, and yay them for that whole launching a new life thing and all, I’m just not convinced all these blathering “momversations” make for anything other than weathered cautionary tales. A chick like me can only read so many botched episiotomy stories, excruciating toilet training soliloquies, and “vaccinations equal retardation” arguments before she logs off permanently and schedules an emergency appointment to double her birth control.

2) Could not name a single prime time network TV show. Oh, I’m not so pretentious as to claim I didn’t watch any television – I caught episodes of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm whenever I could, I just (wrongly) assumed that they mean nothing. Silly me. If Time believes that recounting the plotlines of television shows (written by someone other than the blogger) makes for a stellar blog, who am I to fight it? Perhaps in the new year I will begin documenting every single episode of Man Vs. Food until I see the one I crave, where what’s-his-name finally succumbs to the ultimate competitor: his heart.

3) Failed to appropriately comment on the economy, politics, and celebrities. Name dropping, be it celebrity, cultural event or news story, seems to be the biggest blog seller on the Internet. It’s always been my policy to opine only when I have an actual story to tell, and since the online world seems to think in 180 characters or less, I fear it may be time I rethink my writing. Instead of relating the story about how I was nearly run over when an overly self important musician darted into his awaiting limo and sped away, rather than saying hello to the only two people waiting in the backstage alley for him, I should instead just write, “Davy Jones is a gay, douche nozzle, ass monster.”

4) Refused to link to other blogs, articles and web sites. According to Time, to be a “best” blog, one need not have original content. All one needs to do is create a dumping ground of links to other sites. I can have shiny object mentality, too – and swear to soon create my own “Links Not Language” blog.

5) Avoided interaction in comment forums. The real content of a blog isn’t so much in its posts, but in the comments people leave about them. That’s where a blogger can really flex her writing muscles: nothing says “future Pulitzer winner” like a two-paragraph tirade that includes gems such as, “U R a donkey sucking hoze beast thats’ goin to hell. I don’t start shit on boards but ur too stupid to know it.” Sadly, my fondness for punctuation, grammar and not verbing letters or numerals would brand me a “noob” the second I poked my nose into any comment forum – I’m best leaving that to the professionals.

I suppose I’m coming off as a bitter writer throwing sour grapes, and I’ll admit it: I am. Half the blogs on Time’s list weren’t even blogs by the traditional “web journal” definition, but repositories of random links and jabber-inducing headlines by people who are too cheap to dish out the six bucks a month for a real website.

Therefore, my allegiance is officially being thrown in with all the real writers of the world, who also happen to maintain blogs – we may not post often, we may never be able to tell you all the nominees for Grammys or Oscars or Heismans, and we will only flame you for misusing an apostrophe, but you can always count on every word being crafted carefully and with complete dedication to our story, whatever it may be.

And just to ensure Time and all their “best blogs” get my point, I’ll just sum it up in 180 characters or less: suck it, ass monsters.

PS – New blog coming soon detailing my guy’s attempts to teach me a song on bass and my eventual debut on stage. This may not end well for anyone.

Bad to the bone

I am a lousy driver.

The State of Illinois would disagree, oddly enough, seeing as how they’ve just awarded me “Safe Driver” status and the ability to renew my license over the internet. And I’d even be pleased at the prospect – the DMV is darker and more vile than a truck stop restroom – if I didn’t suspect the alternate meaning of “safe driver” is “chickshit lameass.”

It annoys me to no end to be lumped so neatly in the stereotype “bad female driver” – but there never was a stereotype so neatly correct. Far as I can tell, there are two categories of female driver, and both are equally awful: the overly cautious, white knuckle variety like myself and the oblivious, bitch-on-the-road type would who sooner plow her SUV over the grassy knoll dividing a highway than admit she can’t text, apply lipstick and change CDs simultaneously while driving – and then get angry at you for swerving to miss her vehicle.

Not that I’m much better: I’m the kind of driver who will travel 15 miles out of my way just to avoid making a left turn at a busy intersection without an arrow. I may also be inclined to spend 20 minutes on the tollway driving under the speed limit behind a truck spewing the foulest combination of raw sewage and turkey feathers before I’ll work up the nerve to pass them.

I blame my parents, really. Both were useless when it came to teaching me how to drive. My mother is a white knuckle driver herself and spent most of her time in the car with me clutching the arm rest and shrieking than offering better driving suggestions. Her inclination was to leave the instruction up to my father and high school, and suffice it to say, neither proved effective.

My father – once a race car driver of the drag strip variety – would on the surface seem a good choice, but his method of instruction was to first attempt to teach me how a car works. My eyes glazed over as he linked his fingers together in explanation of gears shifting; as a 16 year old, all I wanted was put the top down on the Wrangler and cruise to the movies with my friends. That fantasy ended real quick when I backed the Jeep into a ditch at the end of our street. Guess I should have paid more attention to that whole “gear” lesson.

I was ultimately turned over to private driving instruction when I managed to fail the on-the-road portion of driver’s ed in school. I spent four weeks of summer vacation being picked up in one of those “student driver” cars and reminded to check my blind spot and mirrors only to fail my first two attempts at getting my full license.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of being a passenger in my car is likely having an epiphany right about now; puzzle pieces rarely fit so well together. But all my panicky movements and mistrust of other drivers now is nothing compared to the full-on meltdown I had while in the car with my state-appointed driver’s examination officer that second time around.

He was every bit the state employee: he wore an ink-stained shirt, exhaled cigarette smoke and beef jerky, and carried the weight of self importance and broken dreams. He knew it was my second attempt at getting a license, and it was his duty, he informed me, to point out that I only had three chances to pass before I’d be sent back to retake a year of driver’s ed.

I knew this of course; the vision of starting my junior year and being forced to take driver’s ed with the sophomore class had haunted me all summer long. The terror of such indignity welled inside my brain as I followed State Employee’s directions out of the DMV and into traffic.

Did I know, he asked, that it was his personal opinion that 16 year-olds were far too young to be issued a license? And did I also know that in addition to the rules of the road, it was his personal opinion every driver should memorize their local street grid?

I didn’t know that, but thanks for wiping out every shred of confidence I might have had, jackass.

State Employee then told me to turn west on Highland. A simple request, except that I thought I was already driving on Highland, and wouldn’t have been able to tell him which way west was if the Wicked Witch of the West appeared and lit me a blazing trail.

“Um, where is Highland?” I tentatively asked.

“How do you not know where Highland is?” he bellowed. “It’s the next major intersection past this light! I swear, you kids think you know everything, but when faced with simple tasks, you prove time and time again you don’t know ANYTHING.”

I figured it would be a bad time to tell him that I also didn’t know what direction west was.

Traffic was fairly heavy that afternoon; the DMV was located in a business district where the speed limit was 45 MPH, but the average was 55. Cars were whizzing past me like meteors, and I realized I had less than half a mile to make a decision. The hamster wheel in my brain started spinning overtime as I desperately tried to reason what direction I was currently going.

We had just passed the local mausoleum, and I seemed to recall hearing that the movie theatre was south of there. Because I thought the theatre was just up ahead, it seemed logical to deduce that I was driving south, and would therefore need to turn left on Highland. Of course, I also once baffled my grade school math teacher by deducing that because there are sixty minutes in one hour, there must be sixty pennies in one dollar.

Wrong on both accounts, it turned out.

The three-lane roadway buzzed with traffic as I turned on my blinker. I checked my mirror, checked my blind spot, and cautiously started to move into the left lane when State Employee slapped his hand on the dashboard and roared, “What are you doing! You’re supposed to go west. West, you fool! Go west!”

I was so startled by his anger that I just immediately swerved back into the middle lane, and then into the right turn lane without so much as a thought to the other cars on the road.

Papers flew into the air as State Employee screeched something about watching where I was going. I felt the car bounce over the curb and only caught partial exclamations from around me:

“Get off the road you fucking idiot!”

“God damn teenage driver!”

“What’s wrong with you?!?!”

“Fluffy? Oh my god, Fluffy! Are you okay???”

I managed to right the car without causing any real damage, though as far as State Employee was concerned, I’d just singlehandedly justified every conviction he had about banning all teenagers from the road.

And who knows, maybe he was right, but it didn’t stop me from bawling wildly and begging him to give me another chance.

“If I had my way, you’d NEVER get a license!” he screamed as we pulled back into the DMV lot.

My father was waiting for me there, fingers crossed and looking hopefully at State Employee for good news that never came. Instead, State Employee burst from the car in a huff and sprinted toward his office, yelling over his shoulder about how I nearly killed him and that I was the worst driver he’d ever encountered.

The reality of the situation crushed me, and I threw the car keys to the pavement in frustration. My poor father, who was still attempting to figure out what had caused a state employee to threaten us with legal action, did his best to console me.

“Don’t worry – that guy is a jerk. You’ll get your license. I promise you’ll get your license.”

And ultimately I did, even without the horror of retaking driver’s ed, but the entire experience sits with me to this day.

My guy, I know, would just as soon take a bus than get into a car with me. He’s already been privy to my nearly taking down an ATM one night when I couldn’t manage to talk and take out money at the same time. This is why I would also make a rotten drummer.

Still, in my nearly 20 years of driving, I’ve only received one ticket, and that, according to the State, makes me a safe driver.

I’d better renew my license online quick before they wise up.


Burning down the house

“It’s the sadism that makes it funny.”

I had to laugh when I heard Anthony Bourdain say that. He’s one of the few “foodies” that I can stomach, so to speak, and it’s really more for his attitude than anything else. Rakish, smart, and always real, Bourdain manages to bring a challenging wit to culinary adventure without losing any sense of wonder or appreciation.

He’s about as close to a hero in my world as anyone will ever get, and he fits right in alongside my other sources of inspiration. Bourdain, Bukowski, Sedaris… a curious lot to be sure; one that I appreciate most for their strength of words.

Bukowski did have something of an advantage by being a bit of a drunk, of course. And now being dead and all, he really doesn’t have to stand behind his words when a well intentioned family member says something like, “I enjoyed your book, but really didn’t need to know about your masturbation habits.”

That comment is still jabbed somewhere in between my nerves and albeit small sense of propriety, and I suddenly question just how brilliant an idea it was to publish my book. I’ve already blacked out half the pages in the copy my dad bought, and my mother on request read her copy without her glasses. I don’t know if that made the content any more worse or better – she’s had that involuntary shudder since I was 16.

Every author cracks wise about the fear that no one will buy their book, or that no one will turn up at their signings. But my fear is: what if they do?

My book sales are rising, which means people are actually reading what I wrote. Certain chapters darken my excitement at the prospect and I wonder just how much ‘splaining I’m going to have to do when the inevitable questions and assumptions crop up.

I certainly can’t black out select passages for the world at large, and in the end I really don’t want to anyway. Part of the fun in being an author is sharing stories that make people react. And let’s face it, the harshest reactions are usually from people who relate all-too-well. And for all my words and adventures, I’m not that much different than anyone else. I just talk about it.

Case in point: I set fire to my kitchen last night. It wasn’t intentional by any means, which I feel the need to point out only because I suspect some may feel I have a penchant for destructive behavior.

And I admit, this isn’t my first kitchen fire. I tend to not count the other one though, seeing as how it was a result of my accidentally sliding a Rachel Ray cookbook into the flames of a gas burner. The book was a gift, one that left me more than a little annoyed, and as I watched the flames lick at the smug bitch’s face, I couldn’t help but think, “You’re not quacking ‘Yum-o’ now, are you?”

It’s no secret that I thoroughly hate Rachel Ray, and that stems partly from the fact that I likely have more technical culinary training than she does. Of course, my training is in pastry, which may explain why I miscalculated the ratio of breading, meat, heat and oil in the dish I attempted to make last night.

Why is it that fires always seem to crop up when you’re not looking? I turned my back on my pot for one minute to deal with the pasta, and the next thing I know there’s a billow of smoke, a whoosh, and I’m scrambling around like I Love Lucy.

I knew enough to not dump a kettle of water over my pot, but that was about as far as my brain went before breaking out in a deranged rendition of the “Stop, Drop and Roll” fire safety song I learned when I was a Brownie.

That’s probably not what they intended back in fist grade when they taught us that song; then again, they probably didn’t figure any of us would grow up to be so distracted by a pot of boiling water that they start a grease fire one burner over.

In the end my instincts kicked in and I managed to slam the lid on the pot before my kitchen turned into a towering inferno. And on the upside, my prized Le Creuset braiser survived without so much as a scorch. My ego, not so much.

It didn’t help that my guy came home from band rehearsal to a bowl of buttered noodles and a vague, charred sort of smell to the house. As far as I’m concerned, if he didn’t see it, it didn’t happen… but I’m guessing my explanation of fighting off alien invaders and using the pork tenderloin to deflect their laser beams didn’t carry much validity.

Sigh. My respect goes out to Bourdain, but it’s not entirely the sadism that makes something funny. It’s the stupidity behind it. And if that’s the case, I’m guessing I’ve got a best seller on my hands.

There’s always more…

Hey all –

Just updated www.morningneurosis.com! Head over the the News section to check out my interview with Lauren Milligan of Live the Dream radio, and be sure to check the Tour page to view a video of my reading at the Barnes & Noble kickoff signing and see the extended photo gallery of the event.

Next stop on the book tour is Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, IL for a Local Author Day on November 21, from 1-3 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Barnes & Noble signing a SUCCESS!

The first stop on the Morning Neurosis book tour was a success! In fact, it was the most successful book signing Barnes & Noble Schaumburg has ever held!

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us that night! I’m overwhelmed by all the support and encouragement.

A new blog is in the works. Until then, here are a few pics from the signing and after party. And be sure to check www.morningneurosis.com for tour news and dates!

Click on thumbnail for larger image.






Essayist, author, podcaster, and general misanthrope. Official blog of lightly fictionalized musings and general word vomit. Visit www.juliettemiranda.com for additional info.