28 February 2007

One Scratch Stand?

Beautiful day in Hotlanta. Daylight’s reach is extending and the mercury is rising. Front door ajar, sofa lounging as the evening falls. But, soft? What light through yonder window breaks? A shadow, slinking towards the glass door ajar, movement tripping the front porch motion light and drawing my eye from MacBook luminosity.

He’s short, dark, and handsome. A svelte black cat with a broad chest. Skittish as I opened the door, but two blown kisses and a low “mmm kiiiiiiirrrra?” found him stealing back. He was looking for love, and he picked the right door. His reward found: a scratch fest with heavy petting.

Cats that like – nay, DEMAND – furious love warms this feline fan in a furry glow. Our tryst successfully avoided detection by the abode’s resident cuddle muffins that wouldn’t appreciate his audacious assumption of Cheek’s person. Our brief first date didn’t afford pictorial capture, but something tells me he’ll be back.

I wasn’t expecting a new suitor on this, the last day of Cupid’s month. But if you keep your door open, serendipity can strike. That’s why I say, hey man, nice scratch. Nice scratch, man.

26 February 2007

Tearin' Down the CheekHood

Moving in chez Cheek early last October, the trees wore their leaves. Color slowly painted itself outside the bedroom window. Sauntered about nekkid with no worries, as the entire neighborhood behind was deserted. All homes undone into houses, sold and emptied, yielding for the newly incorporated town's first elementary school.

Curtains closed as privacy's protection fell with the leaves. They accumulated; dried, unheeded, blanketing driveways, rooftops, and patios. Lonely abandonment, but peaceful. This feeling was familiar.

The new year brought the first signs of change. Screens removed. Orange plastic fences erected. Hard hatted men milled about. Houses scavenged for recyclable material. Then the demolition chaos began. Each day's destruction commenced 7ish, putting the alarm clock out of bidness.

And then Tonka truck days arrived.

Georgia red clay unearthed. Exposed. Naked. Foundation bones piled high to be carted off. Soon the bright, green revirginized leaves will bud, stretch, and fill in, hiding the adjacent street but delivering ample sun to brighten the Southern exposure. Despite the returned privacy, curtains may yet be drawn. Not to hide occupant nekkidness, but the neighborhood's.

25 February 2007

My Swedish Passion, Finally Requited

It began as a teenager; a long-distance crush. You were all the rage when you arrived in Woodbridge at Potomac Mills a few short years after I’d moved away to Florida. Had to see for myself what the fuss was all about when I came to visit during college, and you blew me away. Your shape. Your size. Your color. You were a cheap date, but you weren’t easy. You kept your distance, played it coy. You promised you’d come closer, if I’d only have patience. I heaved a heavy teenage sigh of longing and left you behind. But I kept my eye on you.

Ok, you’re right. It was more than a crush. If this confessional love letter is to be absolutely honest, then yes. I stalked you. I looked for glimpses of you on MTV. I followed you to Seattle as an adult when I might have realized my temptation to pack you in my suitcase and bring you home with me. You’re such a tease. Your practical side dueled with the costly price I’d have to pay for relocation. I returned to Seattle over and over again, telling myself it wasn’t *just* to see you.

You taught me in Chicago that size. does. matter. You were so tall. So wide. But my passion was still unrequited. You were still too expensive to bring back with me. You whispered that anticipation was key in any successful relationship. How many years would I have to hold myself back? My wants? My needs?

I got serious. I got my passport. I haunted you in other countries, but you’d only give me trinkets to smuggle home. The frustration was palpable. I was overcome with emotion to visit your homeland, Sverige, last year. I waved a fond “hej” as I passed you on the highway, but I couldn’t bear to visit you where you where born, where you grew up, and where you’re celebrated without equal. I denied myself seeing you, and it just about killed me.

But you didn’t lie, my sweet, Swedish lingonberry. Your sultry promises whispered in my teenage ears came true last summer. You came to ME! Not believing you to be real, this time I kept MY distance. I’m sorry for all the phone hang-ups, and the late night hits to your web site. I knew that I would be only the latest in your long string of local admirers, so I bided my time. It felt like a dream to revel in your company, to spend endless hours with you that late summer day. So surreal. I couldn’t believe you were true. I couldn’t let myself go. I stole away from you, empty handed and undone. You said you understood, that after all these years, I had to be absolutely sure that I was ready to take our relationship to the next level.

Fall. The Holidays. Winter. Just thinking of you warmed me up inside. I needed a chaperone to see you again – I couldn’t trust myself not to fall at your feet. First introductions, quiet introspection, and we left. I was jealous to realize you’d managed to work your magic and seduce my chaperone, too. They embraced you as amorously as I had all these years, jubilantly awaiting their return visit to get fully into bed and bedroom with you.

Gauntlet accepted! I could not let you have another lover without first having me. Tho’ last week was Fat Tuesday and the beginning of traditional denial cycles, this weekend found me replete. Satiated. Found. For I went the distance. I met you, pace for pace. I lavished money on you. I brought you home. You’re staged in my office, but you’ll find yourself ensconced in my bedroom this weekend. I’ll have you to myself, every day, available to the touch. You’ll contain me. You are mine. Hear me roar.

Tack, my Swedish passion, for waiting for me. Tack.

19 February 2007

Bah bah bah bah, buh bah bah bah bah, I wanna be serrated

Sedation would be nice. Bronchitis is kicking Cheek's arse and stealing sleep in the night. Hack with force, tears eject, prop back up on pillows, drowse. Hack again, listen to the cat snore until realizing it's the wheezing left lung. Turn over. Repeat until sun rises. Expectorant cacophonous coughs combine with neighborhood demolition chaos as purloiners of daytime napping. To sleep, perchance to dream ...

Music is respite. Much regret in missing the Grammys and the trio wow of Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend, and John Mayer. Turning the volume up high drowns out the self cough sound track.

Aaaack! Thhhppt! Sick sucks. A certain Canuck claims he never gets sick. Upon sick's creep, he drinks 'til blotto and lets the hangover trump the creeping crud. Does that work for you? The Messiah's Handbook says: "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours." Go away, dark phlegmy clouds - on to the bright sunshiny day.

James, by Mark Tonra

18 February 2007

My Musical Valentine


Cheek is ever so glad to have Kimplicated as her concert peep. When no one else has interest, we support the other’s live music jones. Soul Coughing at The Masquerade. I’d never heard of ‘em, but Mike Doughty’s clever lyrics hypnotized as the crowd swayed involuntarily from mosher-driven, pogo-stick-like jumping. Standup bassist Sebastian Steinberg shared vodka stolen from the hotel minibar as we chatted him stage-side after the show, evoking a classic Kimplicated squeal as we moseyed home.

She scored tix for Barenaked Ladies at Lakewood (it will always be Lakewood, screw “HiFi Buys”), and their homage to Devo dressed with red planter hats and strap-on keyboards for “Some Fantastic” stands as one of the cheekiest performances yet witnessed.

My fine, fly-ass former Delta coochie buddy passed me up to Boston to see Doughty solo. I drug her to Smith’s Olde Bar to catch Jonatha Brooke after discovering her 2 weeks prior. Joint jones to D.C. for 2 shows: Neil Finn at the 9:30 Club, backed by Soul Coughing’s Sebastian, and Eddie From Ohio at Wolftrap with Jonatha opening solo.

Rufus Wainright at Center Stage. The Tabernacle for Ani DiFranco with Bitch & Animal, Elvis Costello, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Doughty at the 40 Watt Club. Michael Penn at The Five Spot. Chastain for the Indigo Girls and Brian Setzer Orchestra. The last Lilith Fair and Dave Matthews Band at Lakewood. DaVinci’s Notebook at The Red Light Café. Rufus at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Dave Wakeling, The Sundays, Eddie from Ohio, and Kingsized at Variety Playhouse. Tim Finn, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and The Old Ceremony at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Antsy that tix aren’t in hand for the next show, Cheek is trolling Pollstar.com for the next fix. The Sweet Potato Queen poses that a girl needs 5 peeps in her life: one to talk with, one to dance with, one to shop with, one to have great sex with, and one to fix things. Cheek adds to that list a 6th peep: someone to savor music with. Kimplicated, you’re my musical, muse-ability valentine. Smacks!

When Serendipity Strikes

No cajoling required for Kimplicated to be my +1 for Squirrel Nut Zippers at Smith’s last weekend. Snagged a crammed table stage left and struck up conversation with recent relocated Floridians at the intimately adjacent table. Sloshing on Strongbow, finished the pub grub as the opening act began.

Oh. My. Gawd. We were mistaken. We were not there to see SNZ. We were there to see Chapel Hill’s own The Old Ceremony.

Bowled over, struck happy, f*cking YEAH! And that’s by the end of the second song, when Cheek dashed to secure discs from the merch corner before they sold out. Have never been so impressed by an opening act. Lead guitarist as lead singer, keys, bass, drummer, fiddle, second keys/vibes/percussion, and cellist. Yes, cellist. Goose-pimply punch drunk, Kimplicated pegged their sound between Cake and Camper Von Beethoven. Compelling lyrics, riveting showMENship, catchy tunes.

Papers In Order is a new Cheek theme song:

Cried all I could afford
But now my crying time's ending
That's the message I'm sending out
I got my papers in order
Gonna find me a new love
Gonna find me a new love now.

No question that English literature Yale grad Django Haskins commanded the room on guitar and vocals, but Gabe Pelli on fiddle had the girls all a’flutter. Their discs don’t do their live energy justice – the slower tunes that drag a bit in the studio were smokily, lyrically, orchestrally riveting in person.

Chatted with Jimbo Mathus, leadman for SNZ, during the break and gave props for the pairing. Cigarette dangling, hat tipped, his Mississippi drawling self allowed as how Gabe and Mark (vibes) had been working with SNZ’s Katharine Whalen, and the roadtrip was a natural match. Sho’nuff, Gabe and Mark joined SNZ on stage for most of their set. Yes, Cheek sucks for not snapping an entire song’s performance, but it’s her virgin capture for YouTube. Post-cherry movie popping will suck less, promise.

As Django scrawled his inits on the CD, he described the band’s last performance in Atlanta at the Red Light Café to an ignoring crowd of 20. That sh*t is over. These boys are ready for prime time and have their papers in order.

Everybody’s got their own excuses
I know I’ve had mine too.
But I’m not gonna let a few bumps and bruises
Keep me from breakin’ thru.

Cheek’s found a new love, now, and they join the Listen!Roll. Run, don’t walk, and check out their MySpace page.

16 February 2007

Valentine's Day Continues ...

Thought the James strips accurately reflected my quiet Valentine's day mood, but these two from Stephan Pastis are pricelessly cheekier. Cupid support duties for Carmelita and her schmoopy approach, as they steal away to Frog Town. MommaMaura, hope you and your schmoopy got your schmaltz on without hugging any beer cans.

14 February 2007

Where is love?

James, by Mark Tonra.

Love is also where the heart is. My heart's with CarolinaMom today. And with my peeps, as I'm away on bidness travel.

Smacks to all y'all on this, my favorite holiday. It continues all month - that's why your valentine will STILL be on time when received. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

09 February 2007

If Not For Hope

James, by Mark Tonra.

R.L, I miss you.

It's been almost four years now that you're gone. Valentine's Day approaches. Its focus on all things love is bittersweet, as it's the day you left us.

You're often on my mind, but this week's latest NASA disaster has me wanting to SHOUT in disgust on your behalf. You'd probably throw the TV out into the back field. Maybe even shoot it to put its news out of your misery.

We sat together in quiet shock and mourning during the last disaster - Columbia's fall from the sky on February 1, 2003. The TV cameras kept panning upwards, showing the re-entry path and the debris. That sky’s white clouds reminded me of the recent trim you’d received from the hospice nurse, and the light, white snow of your hair falling on the floor in the living room. Living room. You were spending all of your time there, in the Queen Anne style recliner that didn't hurt your back and was easier to get out of than the bed.

You'd spent your career in the space business. You'd recently shown me your pictures when you were part of the Apollo safety team. Tall, blond, thin, handsome. You quietly described how on that late January day in 1967, your team hadn't even been on site during the doomed Apollo 1 plugs-out test at Complex 34, but were called minutes after the fire to come in without being told why.

The bleak of mid-winter daunts NASA. I'd visited you and Mom for the holidays in Santa Maria just weeks before Challenger disintegrated on January 28, 1986. As we sat waiting for word of any survivors from this latest Columbia tragedy, I shared what it was like to watch the SRBs fly away from the orbiter as I stood with others from my 5th period physics class. Launches had become so commonplace that few had bothered to dash outside when the sonic boom arrived. The orbiter’s transit was stuck in the sky, plumes of smoke diverging as we stared, struck dumb, unable to process what we were seeing. The entire school crammed into the library to learn what the hell was going on. Walking into 6th period British Lit, our teacher wrote "write what you feel" on the chalkboard, too overcome to speak. Her husband worked for NASA at KSC, and she had known two of the astronauts. After school I came home to discover my college acceptance letter, but shock and grief precluded any excitement.

Seventeen years later you and I sat, numb again, as we watched the repeated Columbia re-entry footage. Shots from the launch of the foam debris hitting the wing were shown, and criticism for safety and precautions began with comparisons to Challenger's O-ring failure. I shared with you how I felt the day the Shuttle program resumed after Challenger. Taking a break from college, I was working at KSC too for another contractor. My building was Complex 34 (you nodded knowingly) and located beneath Discovery’s flight path, so I joined my fellow "evacuated" colleagues at the cafeteria, waiting anxiously for return to flight.

The launch was delayed. We played cards. We watched the launch control process on the TV and listened to the radio. Then we all went outside as count down neared 0. Wild applause erupted as the orbiter cleared the tree line and crawled skyward. My chest reverberating as the sound wave hit, tears surprised me. Glancing earthward briefly, it was hard to find a dry face in the cafeteria parking lot. Eyes pinpointing the distant fire in the sky, we waited until the radio announced successful SRB separation, and we clapped again. We went back to work with renewed hope in the space program that we, our families, and our community had so long been a part of.

I'd hoped sharing this with you would bring some sort of comfort for the heartbreak of this newest loss. It didn't work. The day's event joined the cancer as another thief of your already ebbing will. One more disconnection from your heart, your passion, and your life's work. You were gone 13 days later.

I am so angry at the latest "space" disaster to wing its way west from Texas to Florida. My bile broils at her stupidity, her selfishness, and her crimes. She fuels those questioning the space program's continued purpose or usefulness. That she employed diapers to speed her arrival has me LIVID, knowing that your eventual need for them stole your dignity and pride. One more loss of control, of freedom, on the way out of life.

I'd give anything for you to still be with us. If you were, I think I’d join you in your tobacco chaw habit just to send a righteously evil spit in that loon's direction. I can see us all doing it, standing behind the house in Yanceyville, in the field next to the "shed", facing south and letting one rip. PJ would be happily trotting at your heels, content to be with his Mr. Bob.

I miss you, R.L.

P.S. Here's to warmer weather, hope, and launches spied aloft. Thanks for sharing, whitenoise.

07 February 2007

Princely Intentions

CheekWeekend closed by joining former colleague peeps south of Atlanta during the SuperBowl. Great spread, fantastic wine. Was rooting for the Bears as the Swede and my brother outlaw were at the game. Conversation paused only during commercials (disappointing, overall) and the half-time show.

Man, what a show. Or is that woman, what a show? Best half-time performance Cheek has in memory. You can't beat the purple man singing in the rain, eh? But the edgy imagery had our gathering suprised it got by the CBS censors after Janet's "malfunction".

Was surprised on Monday to read online that CBS breathed a collective sigh of relief that nothing untoward occurred. Huh? Come again? In case you missed it:

He has his horny self out, his horny devil can spin, his purple horny self out, shaking his tool all about ... he does the hokey-pokey with no malfunction to be seen; that's what it's all about!

Wish they'd broadcasted his pre-show performance that included Johnny B. Good. Or they could have run the censored version of the half-time show instead. I agree with Scott Adams that Prince got his hoodwink on the broadcast censor execs. Schwing!

Romance Novels

Valentine's Day is Cheek's personal holiday, celebrated throughout the month of February. When was the last time you read a romance novel? Might this one be your cup of tea?

Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis

06 February 2007

Cheek Weekend

10 things I learned in Blueridge, GA during CheekWeekend:

1. Cheek peeps are fierce, but they won't get their intrepid on to pass the bubbly around en route. Not just any bubbly, mind you, but Sofia Blancs de Blancs gifted by Kimplified for housewarming with The Swede in 2004. Never quaffed, seemed apropos for it to be shared ritualistically with eggroll mavens post-Swede. Alas, we waited until arrival.

2. Front wheel drive minivans also fail the intrepid test for purchase on daunting gravel grades. Schlepping cargo in the cold sucks, but Sofia bubbly, stinky cheese from Whole Foods, and tequila lime chicken wings grilled by Carmelita can scare the chill away. Eating BlueBird Red Velvet Bingles purchased at the Family Dollar store while loitering near the airport can put the scare right back in you.

3. She who blogs first, blogs first. Even if she steals your sh*t. TamponTwinkieBlogPostStealingAsh!.

4. Don’t discount a food and its moniker’s ability to inspire motifs that won’t quit. Stinky ash cheese can get your smashmouth on. CommandoAsh, MuseabilityAsh, CatalAsh, SmashAsh, and CorkAsh … we know who you are. The Southern AshQueens rule!

5. Tarot is cool. Readings by Carmelita rock.

6. ArcherFarm’s Brie and Pear in Phylo Pastry from SuperTarget, of things to eat before you die fame, gets double Z snap approval from gourmand Sheena. That’s an official things that don’t suck seal of approval, twice over.

7. Braving the chill for the hot tub can be ill advised if the water’s tepid. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc helps. Crank the temp and get in after CommandoAsh and SmashAsh cater dinner. Grilled pork, butternut squash & baby bella mushroom risotto, sautéed asparagus with hollandaise … yum. Water temp. at 102F does the trick, forcing a stand in the brisk 22F air to avoid overheating. Contrast of chill and warmth is a visceral badge of courage best worn pruny-finger proud.

8. Movement can change a woman’s whole outlook on life when party girls get old.

9. Five techno chicks in the mountains with wireless access … separating your real life from your virtual one takes discipline. And lots of wine.

10. The local Methodist bible study group finds women from San Diego and Toronto such novelties that interrupting their meeting at the local coffee shop isn’t a bother. Cheek kindred can get their major caffeine dose before roadtripping back to Atlanta. Just don’t try the muffins. They mean well, bless their dear hearts.

Trader Vic's and Tongo Hiti

January found Cheek getting her Kingsized on, and February began with the first Tongo Hiti experience at Trader Vic's in Atlanta. Repeat offenses planned. 2 down, Dames A’flame at the Vortex’s Laughing Skull Lounge to go.

Expecting the music to not suck, the food to be so-so, and $4.50 mai tais to be made strong. Wasn’t disappointed. I think I may have to start Mike Geier’s fan club, if he doesn’t already have one. The band started their ukulele-led, island-interpreted tunage on the mellow side, turning up the noise after 10 PM when some regulars appeared. Joe Jackson’s Breaking Us In Two was the evening’s best.

Blogmother Sheena aptly described the mai tai and dessert experience (chocolate coffee crème brulée, yum). RobinaRobinaRobina joined us in gleeful spying of the Polynesian nudie décor and tchotchkes. Vintage Trader Vic’s loot is quite valuable – who knew? Mugs with nakedness had to be done, as did touching the welcoming tiki carving in the lobby. Tongo Titty, anyone?

Great Day

Previous posts a’plenty shout out to the best d*mn folk band ever, Eddie From Ohio. The end of January found those Northern Virginia birds flying south to Atlanta’s Rialto Center for the ACM “One City, Many Voices” benefit. Highfalutin gig digs at the Rialto compared to their previous haunts at the Variety Playhouse and Eddie’s Attic. Assigned seats, great acoustics. Cheek’s EFO posse was 13 strong, including virgin attendees from Florida and Carmelita Diva’s brood (urchins hooked on EFO since gestation).

Pre-show band chat found them impressed with the opening act’s vocal chops, Atlanta’s own Morehouse College Glee Club. Cheek’s interest was piqued, as high school choir had her gospel geek on, led by the superlative Milton H. Borens. Posse elves helped with merch setup and swag selling, and we scurried in as the show started.

50+ strong, the Morehouse Men didn’t disappoint. A capella good time memories unearthed. Tickled pink when the men’s quartet pulled out Plenty Good Room. And the wow arrived as promised with "Betelehemu”, a drum-led folk song they usually reserve for holiday performances. Stunning.

EFO opened with Number Six Driver, thrilling us lapsed Virginians in the house. Julie blew us away with her heart-rocking “Great Day”, backed in gospel glory by Mike, Eddie and Robbie. The first two measures found the Morehouse Men with hands raised; by song's end they led the night’s first standing ovation. Julie’s palpable joy infected the rest of the night’s performance, later ‘fessing that it was one of her personal faves of all time. Standing O #2 after “Old Dominion” and Robbie’s basso close. Post-show, the Morehouse bass section gave Robbie additional props.

Only odd moment of the night was Michael’s peculiarly damning admonition on buying swag. He doesn’t sit to pee, I tell you whot. The quiet, unplugged closer of Mike’s “Walk Humbly Son” was a great cap on the evening, but he’s still a Hail Mary shy of redemption. The night harkened this listener back to “De Camptown Races” sung on a 1983 district chorus album, roll call listing Robbie, Julie, Knightly Jest alum Chad Bittick, the impeccable Vern Yip, and Cheek. Good times. Great Day.

01 February 2007

Tub Girls Don't Care

The furriner has arrived - one down, 3 to go. Cheek Weekend is waxing!

James, by Mark Tonra.