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Some 30 years after my introduction to the sultry musical magician known as Prince, I finally got to see him in concert.

It would turn out to be his second-to-last performance.

Prince

Prince hit the airwaves with Purple Rain when I was 12 years old and newly “into” music, and I saw the movie at a friend’s 13-year-old birthday party. Not to go all get-off-my-lawn on you, but 13-year-olds were less world-weary back in those days, so Prince’s overtly sexual performances and offstage antics in that movie were eye-opening for us, a group of relatively sheltered girls in South Mississippi.

Suddenly, guys who could dance were HOT (Dirty Dancing was still three years away). Guys who wore skintight jumpsuits, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses were HOT.

I say guys here, but I really mean just the one guy. Sure, we had David Bowie on the charts already, but he was still two years away from his turn in Labyrinth, another movie that illustrated the utter hotness of guys who danced in skintight pants, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses.

Prince sang about sex in ways that even 13-year-old girls sensed were more empowering than creepy, more poetic than dirty.

For example, this passage from When Doves Cry starts out as a well-crafted poem, then turns erotic:

Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and you

I could go on – the man had SO MANY songs.

I can only say that Prince’s April 14 concerts were pure magic – even though I was only able to go to the first, everything I’ve heard assures me that the second was just as good, if not better.

When I learned it was only going to be Prince and a piano on the stage, I briefly worried. It sounded very Las Vegas, very gimmicky.

I had faith that Prince wouldn’t do gimmicky, however, and I was right.

From the moment he stepped onto the stage, emerging from a cloud of fog, I went pure fangirl. Understand, I’ve seen A LOT of concerts, and never have I spontaneously high-fived strangers, screamed uncontrollably and danced with no thought of remaining inside of my own personal body space.

This is what it must have been like to see The Beatles in 1964.

He looked and sounded amazing. He didn’t have to adjust his songs down to meet any reduction in vocal capacity, a trick that I’ve seen other older singers use. His voice had lost absolutely no range over the years.

I came out of the Fox wanting an album filled with Prince singing his songs accompanied only by his own piano-playing. There was nothing Vegas about it – every song was pure feeling and talent. He could have sung it all without the piano and it would have suffered little.

I almost didn’t go. We missed the initial ticket sale and were already slated to be out of town on the original performance date. Had he not postponed his shows by a week, we wouldn’t have been able to go.

Thirty years. That’s a mighty long time.

And it was worth every minute.

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I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

For the record, today is January 20, meaning I tried on a bikini in the dead of winter and didn’t hate myself. That’s next-level crazy.

pants

Clearly not a bikini shot, but I’m loving my strong legs these days. Also my lion’s head garbage can.

 

By no means was there an Instagram faux-perfect body staring back at me. First of all, I’m paler than any swimsuit model would dare to be. Six-pack abs still elude me, mostly because I’m not giving up ALL of the good things in life, like the occasional glass of wine and chocolate croissant. The thighs could be spindlier, but they just don’t seem to want to (even when I was seriously tracking meals and workouts and weight and body fat percentage, they didn’t want to be tiny).

What I saw in the mirror was … OK. My abs are in good shape (I have a little oblique action going on). I’m loving my arms and shoulders — although my lifting game is not impressive weight-wise, my tiny muscles are a joy.

Finally, my legs are STRONG. They have a few muscle cuts. They can climb and lift, which in the end is more important than being skinny.

At 43 years old, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and I feel fabulous.

Over the past few years, I started rethinking my nutrition and fitness goals. I stopped having a “goal weight” (I have no idea what I weigh right now, but my clothes fit the same week after week, so SCORE). I began to pursue weightlifting not as a weight-loss activity, but as a bone-building, let-see-what-these-muscles-can-do activity. I’m not lifting super heavy – my condo gym is small and frequently not populated with spotters, so I have to lift only what I can safely carry (a good travel rule for suitcases, too).

The husband helped me make a standing desk for work – it’s hard to get sleepy after lunch if you’re on your feet.

The biggest changes I’ve made have involved food. I cook. A LOT. We eat more whole foods than processed foods. Note I didn’t say NO processed foods – we still eat meatballs from the Trader Joe’s freezer. I still make a weekly trip to Moe’s Southwest Grill with the office crew (Moe’s Monday waits for no one). We eat the occasional frozen chicken burrito at home (a Trader Joe’s original, yet again).

But for breakfast? Oatmeal. Not instant. Sometimes steel-cut. Topped with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

Lunch? Leftover quinoa. Always a salad (sometimes only a salad) with good greens, grape tomatoes, feta and sometimes banana peppers. I like the Caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but after reading  about “natural flavors” in The Dorito Effect, I’m considering just topping my greens with a little vinegar.

Dinner? I have a great recipe for chicken tacos from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by my favorite cookbook authors at America’s Test Kitchen. Also included in that book is a stuffed manicotti recipe – that one is a two-day affair, since it’s easier to make the sauce one day and complete the dish the second day.

We eat a lot (A LOT) of cheese and salad. I make a mean meatloaf. The aforementioned meatballs come into play at least once a week with my homemade marinara sauce – sometimes with stuffed ravioli (yo, Trader Joe’s again), sometimes on a bun from Publix for sandwiches (although I’m notorious for leaving at least half of the bun on my plate – simple carbs aren’t taboo, but they aren’t a requirement, either).

I drink a lot of water. And a bit of coffee. The occasional glass or three of wine.

Perfect dietary guidelines? No. Better than some, worse than others, but it’s working for me. My meal-planning is a combination of deciding what I would really enjoy and what’s good for my body. Not good as in, oh, this will keep/make me skinny, but good as in, oh, this will help with today’s deadlifts, or help me stay upright and focused while I finish making this presentation.

Good as in, I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

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reindeer

The filigreed reindeer built for themselves a primitive god, not recognizing the power they had unleashed until it was too late to dash away.

Because all Christmas decorations should come with a backstory.

A friend embellished the legend for me, complete with a short “Repo Man” reference:

And the caribou deity proclaimed, “For I am Reednier, and I have become Yuletide! Thou art my minions. Let us go forth and rejoice, defy gravity, eat apples, fine cheese and chocolate, and pause for decaf lattes! Yes, and not pay.”

Because everyone should have friends who add delightful details to your weird backstories.

 

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I recently took my final ride in an Atlanta taxi.

No, I’m not moving. Neither do I plan to drive, walk or bicycle everywhere in this only partially pedestrian-/bike-friendly city.

My latest experience with an Atlanta taxi was simply the last straw in a old, troubled relationship.

Since I moved to Atlanta nearly two years ago, Uber has been my go-to car service. The cars are cleaner. The drivers are nicer. The pick-up times are more reliable.

taxi

Writing that sentence, I just realized that Uber’s cheaper pricing really is at the bottom of my list for using them. How about that.

Anyway, returning from a business trip to San Diego last week, I found myself arriving at the Atlanta airport at around 8:30 p.m. Normally, I would take the MARTA train back to Midtown and either get my husband to pick me up at the station or take an embarrassingly short Uber ride back to the condo (if the sun hasn’t already gone down, I’ll happily hike the mile or so back).

For those familiar with MARTA, however, you know that trains get stupidly scarce at night, and I was facing a 20-minute wait for a train, plus a 20-minute ride to Midtown, plus another, say, 10 minutes to get back to the condo.

Just taking an Uber could get me there in less than half the time. (more…)

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So I had this dream a couple of weeks ago (and yes, I do realize that reading about other people’s dreams is Fascinating with a capital F) in which I was on vacation by myself, on some sort of encapsulated manmade beach (a la Syfy’s Ascension) that seemed to be near an annoying number of clothing stores (my nightmare vacation does, indeed, involve a lot of beach time and shopping) (not kidding).

I was sitting in a chair waiting for a meeting to start (dreams, right?), when this guy starts getting handsy with me. Nothing overtly aggressive, just a hand on my arm, an arm around my shoulders, etc., and I felt more uncomfortable and irritated than endangered. I was done with it all, however, and suddenly stood up and loudly informed him that he DID NOT have permission to touch me and was to CUT IT OUT right then and there.

The dream ended then, as dreams tend to cut out mid-cliffhanger. I knew the origins of this dream the second I woke up, however.

In front of the Publix near my workplace is a covered dining area, complete with sturdy tables and chairs. Frankly, it would be more appropriate to call it a loitering area, although it does give quite a few decent folks a place to eat their Publix deli subs (delicious, BTW) while people-watching their lunch hour away.

It also gives a few men the opportunity to practice their catcalls and leers.

As long as I walk past this area with even one other person, male or female, nobody says a word to me, but if I’m by myself, all bets are off. “Hey baby.” “Uh-huh.” “Ooh … you lookin’ GOOD today.”

Am I in danger? No. Am I furious that I can’t walk 50 yards of what is essentially a public space without unsolicited commentary? SO MUCH YES.

And the dream? The dream is indicative as to how angry I am with myself for not confronting these jerks. If I need to walk past this space by myself, I will actually take a quick scan of the crowd seated there, looking for known catcallers. If I spot any, I’ll walk through the grocery store to avoid them.

That’s right. I change MY behavior to avoid the unwanted behavior of others.

Only I don’t know that there’s any confronting these guys. I’m reasonably sure that I would only be designated a world-class bitch for calling them out on their behavior, and at worst I might provoke an even uglier confrontation.

So there you have it. In my dreams, I confront jerks who exceed my boundaries. In real life, I try to avoid them.

Fair? No. Inevitable? Pretty much.

But that dream. Man, that dream felt GOOD.

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I had the run of my grandparents’ home since before I could even run. I miss that sort of familiarity with a living space.

A few years ago, I realized that our house in Huntsville didn’t feel like home and never would.

Is it weird that a two-bedroom condo in the heart of Midtown Atlanta feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever spent significant amounts of time, save my grandparents’ house?

After every major family visit, I lament the lack of a comfortable secondary family space. My grandparents’ house was like a second home for my family — we knew where everything was and how to operate the TV and other essentials. We felt free to graze in the kitchen, grabbing leftover biscuits from their stovetop perch throughout the day or snagging Little Debbie snack cakes from the stash that was inevitably residing on top of the fridge.

The house is still there, and I could still go there if I wanted, but my uncle and aunt live in it now so it’s their house. Different stuff, different people, different vibe.

I’m convinced that no one ever feels 100% comfortable in their in-laws’ house, nor do you feel like you have a refrigerator-privilege kind of relationship when there’s a step-parent on board, even when they’re beyond awesome.

This not-being-able-to-go-home-again notion? Totally a thing.

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photo

I’m not a person who gets attached to things – I have spent a great deal of effort trying to free myself from the tyranny of stuff, to make my household easier to maintain, enjoy and, if necessary, uproot. There were really only two pieces of furniture that HAD to make the move to Atlanta: My grandmother’s awesome spice cabinet and the Swedish-design kitchen table the husband and I bought before we were even married (the table isn’t so much an emotional attachment as an awesomeness attachment – it’s extendable via two inserts that stay underneath the table until you gently pull the two ends out, revealing a six-top in place of the previous four-top).

So I’m as surprised as everyone else to find myself unwilling to give up my nearly-11-year-old car, Pica.

I find myself comparing him to an old pair of jeans: I slip into his seat and everything just feels right.

He’s only got a little over 80,000 miles on him, which I like to imagine makes him a tween in car mileage years. And he had some tween problems this summer: We just paid an enormous amount of money for a new AC compressor (I would argue that making it through 10.5 brutal Southern summers is enough for one poor little compressor) and new bushings, among a couple of other minor fixes.

It was a bill that was high enough to justify keeping him for at least another 8 months. Or so goes my argument.

If (when) I have to buy another car, I’ll buy another Mini. They’re the perfect size for driving around Atlanta, and they’re laughably nimble in parking garages.

They’re also super fun to drive.

Pica’s biggest negative in the city is his six-gear manual transmission. He rarely sees the interstate anymore, meaning that the short slog to work involves shifting from first, second and third, back to neutral for the next red light, then repeating. I don’t mind, really, but he’s probably going to work his way through a clutch at some point, and real transmission problems could signal the end of arguable financial benefits to keeping him.

Of course, I’m also averaging less than 50 miles a week, given my extremely short commute and the weekend walkability of our neighborhood. It somehow seems stupid to trade him in for something newer that will travel less than an average of 250 miles a month, the occasional road trip not included.

Although his interior is in great shape (the second rule of Mini Club is you never eat or drink in your Mini), save for a few mysterious bumps and scratches on the glove compartment door (get your act together, rogue passengers), his rear trunk emblem has started to flake. I think it’s quite fetching, like a cool scar, so it stays. Also, we all know that it’s bad luck to start fixing small cosmetic details on a really old car.

Face it: new upholstery = new water pump. Science.

So, Pica stays in the picture. For now, and for the foreseeable future in which I keep coming up with valid let’s-keep-him arguments.

You’ll pry his keys from my still-warm yet extremely sad fingers.

 

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