Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Over the last couple of months, I've been rediscovering my love for the Old 97s. Our slightly tortured history begins with my freshman year of college. A beautiful young ingenue, gracing the dorms of Truman, I am introduced to the Old 97s via the internet, by my friend Allison. This is my first experience with my very own computer and its very own high-speed connection, so I'm downloading like crazy. I ask Allison for some recommendations. Among others, she recommends two songs: "California Stars" by Billy Bragg and Wilco, and "Question" by the Old 97s.

These are two gorgeous songs. "California Stars" is still on every playlist I have in that computer, and it leads me to Wilco. The path to Wilco is strewn with happiness, great discs stolen from the radio station, and amazing live shows. What bliss. I think I'm finally ready to start uncovering Billy Bragg, but that's another story altogether.

Back to freshman year. "Question" is played over, and over, and over. I love it so much that I buy the album it comes from, "Satellite Rides" by the Old 97s. I listen to "Satellite Rides," and I enjoy it. However, it slowly falls out of my favor. (I'm sure I replaced it with the likes of Howie Day, or John Mayer, or some other acoustic marvel I found on the internet and in frat parties. ) I end up giving the disc to my wise friend Bridget, who takes it as a gift on the condition that I may someday want it back.

Then, last January, I decide to renew my interest. I don't remember exactly why, but I ask Bridget to give me a copy of my original, and she so kindly obliges. She gives to me in turn an album called "The Instigator," by none other than Rhett Miller (frontman of the Old 97s). Just one short year ago, I wore that CD out. I again neglected "Satellite Rides" in favor of the here and now.

I still have that Old 97s album. I've been listening to it a lot of late. It's been resonating. I think I finally found my way into something I've known for over five years that I would really like. What a great thing if this were a piece of fiction, and the album experience stood as a mirror for my self-discovery, a way into a life I've known for years that I would really like. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year I'll really get hooked.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Look down

In my office, we occasionally get walk-in solicitors, trying to sell office supplies or machinery. These solicitors usually have on suits that don't fit, and a clueless look about them. Today, I looked up from my desk to find that a fellow Truman grad had wandered into the Foundation's humble reception area. "Hi, I'm..." he introduced himself and I cut him off.

"I know who you are. I went to Truman with you. I'm Stefanie Walters' friend."
"Oh, right! How are you? How long have you been at this job?"
"Nearly a year now."
"Do you like it?"
"It's pretty boring. How bout you?"
"Well, boring, but at least I get to move around."

I looked at my fellow Bulldog and tried not to smile condescendingly. I laughingly informed him that the Epson photo printer on my desk serves as copier for our humble office, and we both wished the other well. What a funny run-in - busted in our not so elegant post-graduate jobs.

Side note: I am starting to become dependent on John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. What a comforting duo of boyfriends to fall asleep with. If you aren't watching these gentlemen as part of your daily routine, I'd recommend it. They make TV worthwhile. I love them, dearly. Every night, at 10pm, I hum along to (the Yo La Tengo cover of) "Here Comes My Baby" and wait with a smile on my face.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Stanford and Son's Comedy Club

Last night, my dear friend Molly took me on a romantic date to Stanford and Son's Comedy Club. She picked me up at 7pm and off we headed to good old Overland Park.

I had no idea what to expect from the comedy club, never having been before. In my head, I pictured a lovely intimate theater, with a plush bar. Molly warned me that her friends would be nerdy, but I still imagined scads of cute boys, all dying to talk to me.

We arrived promptly at 7:30, a half an hour before showtime. Molly's work friend Candace had asked that we arrive early in order to get her large group of guests (20) together. The entrance leads into the bar area. Not plush. As Molly put it, it looked like a somewhat cleaner (read: not rat-thriving filthy) version of the Peanut. And for future reference, go to the Peanut because they won't charge you 4.75 for a bottle of beer.

We walked in and Candace's group was gathered at a round table by the entrance. Molly made a valiant attempt to introduce me, but as she didn't know but two of the people, we headed straight for the bar. A quick survey of my surroundings and fellow attendees made me abandon my no-drinking policy for the evening and order a beer. The bartender (hooterific) offered up the night's special on rock lobster shots, but Molly and I took a pass.

I felt a little calmer with beer in hand as Molly and I walked back toward Candace's table. Almost there, we were waylaid by a particularly dapper young man. At first I was confused: is he part of our group? He began talking to Molly about work, so that answered my question. I surveyed this gentleman. He had the eighth-grade style horseshoe part going on with his hair. (Pat J circa 1996, anyone?) He began the standard 20 questions of bar small talk with questions about employment. Long story short, MB (short for Molly's Boyfriend) works for a financial company on commission and lives with his parents. In fact, he plans to live with his parents for 2-3 more years. Hopefully it's so he can afford more sweet striped button-ups.

Other highlights of our pre-show convo: Where do you live? What's your favorite band? How long do you brush your teeth at night? MB also introduced us to his friend John, whom I immediately started observing because he had to blink his eyes in a jerky way each time he said hello to Molly and I. In addition to the eye blinking, he had some funny twitching going on in his hands, and extremely excitable eyebrows. Any time either of these two fellows or Molly made a joke, I laughed. Not because the joke was funny, but because of the amazing situation we found ourselves in.

I took advantage of our spot on the back wall to scope out the rest of the crowd. Were we in Overland Park, or were we in Kirksville? Who's to say? Next to me were two very wannabe emo'd out boys, not possibly of drinking age, with the obligatory straightened hair girls. There was a man playing pool in a shirt that said "Fucking Slayer" or something along those lines. I saw a man the age of my father in the company of an Asian girl who looked like she was about my age. From her haircut and clothing, I gaged that she wasn't a native: mail order bride?

Finally, the awkward conversation ended and we filed into the "theater." Apparently, this place usually draws a pretty good crowd, but I felt bad for the comedians because the place felt empty. Not empty enough for them to put some space between the chairs they herded us to, but empty enough for the ceiling fan blowing furiously above me to freeze me out.

Molly and I checked out a guy on the back wall who looked like Billy Crudup from Almost Famous (in a bad way). We decided that he must be "the talent," from the sheer existence of his mustache. He was, in fact, the second comedian. The comedians, all male, emerged from a "backstage" which looked shabby and coke-ridden. The first two comedians were local guys. Molly and I agreed that the first fellow, who was ill and kept talking about tripping on "Tussin," sucked pretty bad. The second guy, Billy Crudup, was kind of funny but Molly took issue with his timing.

The third and fourth were the out of towners. The third guy, a skinny Catholic who grew up in Baltimore, was unanimously the best comedian of the night. He was funny without being too crude, but he wasn't tame either. Well played, Baltimore guy. The final comic, the headliner, was god awful. His name is Sean and he likes to talk about all the drugs and drinking that fill his life. Sometimes, he was funny, but for the most part he was slow and negative and terrible. He blamed his poor performance on a ravaging hangover from the night before. Highlight of his set: when he started up a dialogue with the Iraqi vet (in our group, coincidentally) after completely insulting the war and getting called on it by the vet. Nice.

Candance got a little restless toward the end (sitting next to me, of course). She didn't care for the fourth comedian either, and made that known by talking to every single person on the row individually in a fairly loud voice about her plans to head to Mickey's (? never hear of it) after the show. I wanted to strangle her: no matter how bad the guy was, there's no need to be so rude. Except maybe to the scary bar waitress, who basically punched people when they didn't get the "two drink per person minimum." Hott.

Molly and I waited politely outside the show to thank Candace. Alas, we lingered a little too long because MB whipped his phone out and took Molly's number. Fortunately for me, twitchy OCD guy was from out of town and didn't even try. Though MB did suggest that OCD massage my neck. "Just let him rub your neck, he's an amazing masseuse." "I'm not a toucher."

The night ended when I finally said, rather rudely, "So let's get in the car, I'm freezing." Molly and I spent the ride home coming up with ways to screen MB. A winning night, on the whole.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I've missed the boat.

I woke up on NYE fully intending to write. Instead, I watched football. In the words of Regina Spektor, this is after all "Uh-Merica." (But the Chiefs ARE in the playoffs, hot damn!)

Perhaps this vignette is indicative of my 2006: paving the road to hell with my intentions, whether good or bad. I finally sat down two nights ago and took 20 minutes to make a catalogue of the year. For my own personal benefit, for prosperity's sake, for the sheer exercise of pen on legal pad. It seems to me that many of my friends took time at the end of the year to review its passing.

This catalogue is pretty boring, but much more full than I expected. I divided the year by its months, and watched the names affecting each month change. I shudder to think about what I left out.

The thing that interests me most is whether or not I'm the same person as I was at this time one year ago. Obviously, that's physically impossible: people shed 7 layers of skin each day. Think of the regeneration involved. In looking at my catalogue, I realized that I had accomplished a lot last year: I changed jobs, I bought my first car, I moved out of my parents' home. These are the tangible, financial-type growths. These are the proof that I am out there, I am succeeding, I am doing something productive with myself. There's no tangible way to show that I think about breathing in a different way, that I value more time to myself, that I try to read a book once in awhile instead of succumbing to numbing TV.

Things like that accumulate sneakily, like feelings. Can they be qualified to 2006? Not really. But it's nice to know that, over the span of 12 months, things change. I'm banking on that for the next 12 months...