Graturday (Extended Get Up and Go Mix)

I didn’t post a Graturday post this Saturday because I was busy having an absolutely smashing weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for, so I’m going to weave it into this tale of my adventure in…WICHITA, KS!

But first, let’s go back a few years. Through my online friend Bonnie Burton, I found out that Jane Wiedlin, guitarist, back-up singer and songwriter for the Go-Go’s, was on Twitter and was a massive science fiction nerd. I immediately started following her. Jane tweeted about Jon Stewart being her “#imaginaryboyfriend” and said she wanted to get that hashtag really going on Twitter. I tweeted at her, “Would you be my #imaginarygirlfriend?”, and much to my amazement, she replied with, “Yes! I’d be honored!” This began an exchange on Twitter in which she would often refer to me as her “imaginary boyfriend” (or “IBF”). Meanwhile, back in 1983, 13-year-old Josh was utterly astonished at how this could be happening.

Jane was a guest at the 2010 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, promoting her (sadly short-lived) comic, Lady Robotika. The first day of the con, I nervously walked up to her booth, fully expecting that she wouldn’t remember who I was at first. (Surely she gets a lot of people tweeting at her, so why would she remember li’l ol’ me?) I stood in front of her and said, “Hey, it’s my imaginary girlfriend!” She smiled and said, “Josh!”, then came out from behind the table, gave me a hug, and posed for a photo with me. She insisted Berkie and I stay and chat with her for a bit and asked us to come to her panel the next day. Which we did. In the middle of the panel, she saw me sitting in the middle of the second row, stopped what she was saying, waved to me and said, “Hi. Josh!” She then informed the entire room that I was her Twitter friend. I blushed. Berkie tweeted about me being a rockstar.

Since then, Jane and I have continued to tweet to each other, usually about nerdy stuff like Star Wars or Star Trek, sometimes about more serious stuff. I have been very grateful for Twitter for giving me the chance to interact with someone who I consider a major star, but on a level where we’re both equals, just goofy nerds becoming friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the Go-Go’s would be starting their new tour with a show on the last night of the Wichita River Festival. What with it being so close, I absolutely had to go. I never gotten to see the band perform when I was younger, and their recent tours haven’t taken them anywhere particularly close and affordable. I sent Jane a direct message on Twitter to let her know I was going, and she said, “I’ll get you some after-show backstage passes so I can say hi!” Not “so you can meet the band and bask in our glory” but “so I can say hi.” I asked 13-year-old Josh how he felt about that, and he said, “ASKJMFTHPFRTLN!!”

On Saturday morning, my daughter and I lazed around the house for a bit before getting in the car and driving down to Wichita. (Sadly, Berkie couldn’t go, due to work and other commitments.) I’m very grateful I had Morgan with me, because although she’s a 16-year-old, she’s very calm and easy-going. When we got lost in Wichita trying to find our motel (thank you, Google Maps!), Morgan merely shrugged and said we’d find our way eventually. It helped that she was using her smartphone to navigate. She makes an excellent co-pilot. I’m also very grateful for pharmaceuticals, because when we left for Wichita, I was rocking a powerful, stabbing headache and was feeling anxious about that night’s plans. I loaded up on decongestants, ibuprofen, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and was feeling much better by the time we reached Wichita.

When we finally found our motel and got checked in, I pulled out my laptop, got online, and found a message from Jane that the plans had changed. “Meet us at our hotel, in the lobby or bar, after the show.” Ummmm, OK? Like…this is my life? Meeting the guitarist from one of the biggest bands in the ’80s at her hotel after a show? It seemed so unreal.

Morgan and I got to the River Festival as Me Like Bees were finishing their set as part of the “Go-Go’s Beach Party.” (I’d never heard of Me Like Bees before, but they were quite good.) It was starting to lightly rain, but I didn’t think much of it until a woman came on stage and announced that a thunderstorm was heading in from the west and should be hitting the area in around 15 minutes. They didn’t consider the weather safe for performing or spectating, so they were asking everyone to head inside the convention center to wait out the storm. Despite this setback, the show did go on, albeit about an hour and a half later than scheduled, with rain still coming down at the beginning of the show.

It was their first show of their tour, the weather was pretty miserable, but the Go-Go’s put on a hell of a show. Yes, they played all of their big hits–“Get Up and Go,” “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “We Got the Beat,” which they mashed up with Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”–as well as classic songs from their early albums, Belinda’s “Mad About You” (my favorite of her solo songs), the song Jane sang with Sparks, “Cool Places” (with Belinda singing Russell Mael’s part), and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Jane wore a classic Star Trek dress (blue, which maybe makes her Nurse Christine Chapel?), further endearing her to me. Belinda commanded the stage effortlessly; she just radiates this sort of zen confidence. It was also a lot of fun to see the way Belinda and Jane interacted with each other on stage. There seems to be a lot of love and respect there. Meanwhile, Charlotte, Gina, and their new bassist (whose name I don’t know) solidly rocked out for the entire show. (If you’ve never seen her on drums, Gina Schock is a fucking powerhouse. Seriously.) By the end of the show, I was all pumped up on rock and roll, bouncing down the streets of Wichita.

Morgan and I walked to the hotel where the band was staying and found Jane hanging out with members of her boyfriend’s extended family who live in the area. She jumped up and greeted me with a hug and a “How are ya, buddy?” She was very nice to Morgan and introduced us to her other guests (saying proudly, “Josh and I met on the internet!). We chatted about the show, then Jane posed for picture with everyone. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Josh was screaming, “THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” But Jane is so sweet and funny and modest, it all felt completely natural to be hanging out with her. Thank you, internet, for making this experience possible!

The next morning, Morgan and I hit The Donut Whole to get some breakfast (and tasty treats to bring back to Berkie). The Donut Whole is ZOMFG AMAZING! I would spend so much time there, drinking coffee and eating donuts, if I lived in Wichita. It’s probably best for my wallet and waistline that I don’t. But damn, their donuts are tasty! Thank you, Donut Whole!

I’m so grateful to everything and everyone who contributed to this fantastic weekend I had! What a wacky, wonderful, nerdy world I live in!

If You’re Ever in San Francisco…

I just got an email from the nice folks at Caffe Capriccio, a coffee shop in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco that Berkie and I hung out at on our trip to the Bay Area a few years ago. I liked Caffe Capriccio a lot, and they have a new website (nicely designed!) where you can order food online, which is very cool. If you’re ever in North Beach, I highly recommend the coffee shop. (And if you need a place to stay, the San Remo Hotel is glorious.)

And now I find myself missing San Francisco terribly, wishing I could drop everything and head back west. *sigh*

It’s the Only Way to Fly! Can I Get a Refund?

I’m in Pennsylvania right now, spending time with Brooke and her family. I’m having a great time, but there was one hitch in getting here. I had to fly.

I hate flying.

It’s not that I’m afraid to fly, although I do get anxious during take-offs and landings. And whenever the plane hits turbulence. But that’s what Xanax and Dramamine are for, right? No, it’s not the fear that makes me dislike flying. It’s…well, pretty much everything else.

I’ve traveled by car, bus, train and plane. The most inconvenient way to travel, by far, is by air. Airports are never conveniently located to anywhere. Parking at airports is always inconvenient. Getting a direct flight anywhere is pretty much impossible, so you’re constantly dealing with very long layovers and/or rushed transfers from one part of the airport to another. You have to get to the airport at least an hour or two before your flight, to be subjected to intrusive, insulting and essentially pointless security measures. All in all, the time involved in flying is incredibly inconvenient, especially if one of your flights is canceled or overbooked, an all-too-common occurrence. Traveling by air takes too long, but always feels rushed.

The seating on planes is cramped. There’s rarely anything to see out the windows. There are no free snacks or meals on domestic flights anymore. Airlines now charge you to check bags and they limit the number of bags you can carry on flights. I can only imagine how much fuel air travel uses every day and how much pollution jets cause. (OK, I could do more than imagine if I took the time to look up numbers on this, but I’ve got a head full of steam right now and don’t want to take the time to do research. Sorry.)

I think it’s tragic that air travel has become the default mode of travel in the U.S. It’s become relatively cheap (although with lots of extra costs, like overpriced food at airports, parking, etc.), so people use it despite its inconvenience. Every time I fly, I swear it will be the last time. I’m swearing it again. I hope this time it really is the last time I fly, unless I’m traveling to another continent.

Because I really, really hate flying.

Right Back Where I Started From

I just flew in from San Francisco and, boy, are my arms–sorry. Let’s not go there.

A couple of months ago, in the heart of an extremely cold and snowy winter, I suddenly had an urge to be in San Francisco. I was born there, but we moved away when I was about a year old or so. I’ve been back a couple of times since then, but the last time I was there was 25 years ago. Why I had this urge to go back, I can’t really say, but it was there. My girlfriend, Berkie, had never been. We both looked into airfares and hotel rates, discovering that a trip was actually affordable.

And so we went. 5 Days and 4 nights in the city of my birth. We had an amazing time. I’ve said before that San Francisco is my favorite American city. This trip confirmed it. Berkie and I were terribly sad to leave the Bay Area.

We stayed at the San Remo Hotel, which I highly recommend. It’s cozy and beautiful, with very friendly staff. It’s in North Beach, a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf. Across the street is a fabulous coffee shop, Caffe Capriccio, where we had breakfast every morning.

While in the Bay Area, we geeked out outside of Mythbusters HQ, visited the grave of Emperor Norton, discovered why people are so fanatical about Trader Joe’s (because it’s awesome!), checked out City Lights, saw the house in Berkeley where my parents lived when I was born, met some online friends in person for the first time, saw some college friends I haven’t seen in 15 years, and ate loads of incredible food. We traveled around the Bay Area by foot, bus, trolley, BART and car. We fell in love with the restaurants and coffee shops, the architecture and design, the multicultural mishmash of people. If I didn’t have so many friends and family here in Kansas City, and if the Bay Area wasn’t so freaking expensive, I’d move there in half a heartbeat.

I’ve posted my vacation snaps to Flickr. Check ’em out, if you’d like.