Thursday was L'Ailee's birthday. She's 35. Music seemed to be the theme of her gifts. I bought her what the New York Philharmonic called an "iTunes pass," which basically means she can download all of last season's performances plus some extras to her iPod. While I was at the website, I also got her a T-shirt, which she'll be wearing with pride on those days when she wants to assure her martial-arts students that she has a bit of culture. She loved that, and the raspberry icebox cake I made her as well.
We went out for sushi with her closest friends because she was craving it and I can't make it. (My rolls come out the size of fists. Big man fists.) It's sort of a tradition for several of us to go in together on big gifts for each other--why spend a few dollars on a forgettable, useless trifle, when you can band together and give your friend a bottle of perfume she loves but can never afford or an iPod to replace the one he broke? L'Ailee doesn't only like classical music. Her non-classical enthusiasms tend to be English and electronic, and M.I.A. is a favorite of hers. I enjoy her music, too, especially for working out or driving. She's really almost the only artist we agree on! M.I.A. rocked the Siren Festival at Coney Island a couple years ago. She was headlining the traveling Hard festival on Governors Island on Saturday night. Tickets were $60 apiece. So two tickets to the Hard NYC festival seemed like a great gift for the wife, right?
Well. First of all, yesterday was stifling hot, touching 100 degrees, and humid besides. But I'm a tenth-generation Florida Cracker, and we're tough bitches, and we know to stay hydrated and carry sunblock, and anyway, most of the festival was at night. We didn't want to waste our friends' money, either. So off we went to board the ferry to Governors Island with all the other crazy people late yesterday afternoon.
We enjoy riding the ferry, and always want to do it more often. We were frustrated by the security and bag checks at Governors Island. We had to buy water, lots of it, at an inflated price. A good deal of it went on our heads and down our backs--we frankly didn't care how we looked. We helped each other reapply sunscreen, so I think we look better than many other attendees did this morning. There was tequila and other alcohol available, and there were other substances getting sold and consumed around us, too. L'Ailee doesn't drink, and the more other people around me drink, the less I want to. We stuck to our water, except for a couple energy drinks apiece. We were happy to note that we were at the old end of the demographic spectrum, but definitely not the only thirtysomethings there. We both saw people we knew from work. Some people were smart enough to skip the first few acts and show up at 8 o'clock or later. Whoever else we saw, whatever else was going on (like a Katy Perry and Russell Brand sighting), we were all there for M.I.A. at 11:00.
M.I.A. was really the only artist on the bill that we'd heard of. We still enjoyed most of the other acts. We particularly liked Sleigh Bells. Die Antwoord is a white rapper from South Africa who mostly uses Afrikaans, which I found interesting. L'Ailee wondered if he was a joke, but as his performance went on, we could tell he was quite serious. Then the stage got set up for M.I.A. We waited, and waited some more. There were some sprinkles, maybe a little rumbling, but everyone stayed. And then....
You can listen to some of what we heard for yourself here, if you dare. That song in the video was supposed to be "Bucky Done Gun." M.I.A. clearly didn't share our approach to hydration. Hers involved lots of vodka and tequila. She threw bottles and plastic glasses out into the crowd. The sound quality was absolutely awful. The music sounded like robots killing other robots, just pure jangly electronic noise, and her voice was muffled. The other acts had no technical problems. Then the clouds burst open, and many people, including us, fled for the ferries. I joked that the Weather Gods didn't want to hear any more, either. L'Ailee pointed out that the thunderstorms were in the forecast. Some diehards stayed. Apparently she ended by singing "Born Free" a capella, in the rain, with lasers going, and the few who'd stayed thought it was epic. We're perfectly okay with missing that.
I want to say how grateful I am for the ferry captains and for the staff at Governors Island. The show could have ended in a very ugly way very quickly. The debacle at Germany's Love Parade, which killed 19 people, is a stark reminder of that. Some people were drunk or stoned off their asses, most of us felt ripped off, and all of us were tired and hot. L'Ailee's best friend always tells us we're welcome to call him and see if he's in the area if we need a cab ride home--we still have to pay him, of course, but it's so nice to have him available to us. So she called him while we were on the ferry, despite the sheets of rain around us. He wasn't this time. He'd had a far worse night than us, and a drunk customer had thrown up in his cab. We called another cabbie he recommended to us. L'Ailee told him about the concert while I tweeted nonsense just to stay awake. We got so punchy and giggly in the cab that the driver thought we were drunk, and he didn't like how wet and disheveled we were, either. We were immensely grateful to have A. vouch for us. We dimly remember life before cell phones, but this morning, we agreed that we don't miss it.
We were so exhausted, we couldn't sleep! We plugged in our cell phones, made sure the cats were okay, and hopped into the shower. We ended up having quick, giggly, exhausted sex in the bathtub. Didn't get to sleep until 4 am, didn't wake up again until after 10 am. Our friends had wanted to give L'Ailee an interesting experience for her birthday and remind her that she's not old yet. They certainly accomplished that. We've decided that we really don't want event tickets for our birthdays again. My gift this year was tickets to the Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils game on March 17, and of course the Penguins lost that game and the Devils fans were rude as hell to us. Hell, our precious darling friends can save their money and give us cards! Really!
Speaking of which, they came over this afternoon to watch the Brickyard 400 race. Of course, I was in no mood to cook, so we chipped in for pizza. (Anyone seeing a theme here?) We all have our allegiances to particular drivers, but we all really wanted Juan Pablo Montoya to win. Some of us like him because he's cute, or funny, or an immigrant in a fan base that's occasionally hostile to foreigners, or willing to give up a stellar career in Formula 1 to try something different. He won the Indianapolis 500 on that track, so he'd have accomplished an interesting feat by winning a NASCAR race there, too. He came ridiculously close last year, but screwed up by speeding in pit road. (Drivers are penalized for it because it's a safety risk to the crews.) So it was easy to root for him. He started on the pole, led the majority of the laps, absolutely dominated, and then, with only 29 laps to go....
It seemed to fit in with the theme of our weekend that Montoya's crew chief made a decision that looked sensible, but put him a bit further back in the pack. Several drivers only got 2 tires changed; Montoya got all 4. The Brickyard is a tire-eater of a track, so it seemed like the best thing to get 4 tires. The ones that got 2 did so to save time and get back onto the track faster. Well, it worked. Montoya ended up in a wreck with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., sending A., who loves Junior, into fits of rage. Montoya was wiping away tears. We all groaned, cried, or cussed over the unfairness of it. He'd done all the right things, just absolutely nothing wrong this time.
It looked like Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart now had a chance, though, and we'd definitely have taken that. But no. Jamie Fucking McMurray had to win it. He's a driver who everyone at my house felt neutral about--don't particularly hate or like him. This year has been hot for him--he began it by winning the Daytona 500, and he'd been in danger of not having a ride at all. So we could have felt good. But really, it felt awful, even though he's Montoya's teammate. For the moment, we do kinda hate him, just a little bit.
The weekend could have gone worse, so much worse. Yet we kind of feel like the air's been let out of our tires. Tomorrow we'll be happy to go into work, possibly by canoe, and have more interesting answers than usual to the question, "How was your weekend?"
It's probably as well that we couldn't enjoy a full set from M.I.A., as OneNewsNow, a "news" site from the American Family Association, contends that she's a radical Islamist. Yep, a scantily clad radical Islamist woman who makes her living performing electronic music...
This is seriously scary, and everyone should read it. Yahoo! compiled a list of 22 indicators showing that America's middle class is disappearing.
Since I've flown into Orlando a lot over the past few years, it also scared me to learn how bigoted the air marshal's office there was.
There have been some terrible responses to Andrew Breitbart's railroading of Shirley Sherrod from her job, which is terrible enough. Right-wing commentators are attacking her anew for calling Breitbart a racist. Meanwhile, a CNN commentator called for crackdowns on "bloggers".
Everyone's heard about the scary mosque being built by Ground Zero. Guess what? It would be the second in the neighborhood.
Many of us cherished the Beezus and Ramona books. The movie...well, consider it a gateway drug to the books for girls you know. A low-quality one.
Finally, I loved this: the Twitter Real-Time Mood Map