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Old Man at the DMV

An elderly gentleman shares opinions with strangers to pass the time at a government office.

At the department of motor vehicles (DMV) you can frequently observe a diverse array of humans.

Recently, while waiting to renew my vehicle registration, I heard an old man loudly sharing his opinions with what seemed to be the entire room. As he sat directly behind me in an identical plastic chair, I had one of the best seats in which to bear witness to his strongly held beliefs.

The first information he shared with the group was concern for the joint health of other tenants at the apartment complex where he lives.

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“Those girls in the apartment building going on the treadmills just bang and bang,” he said. “They don’t even weigh 120 pounds. I talked to my doctor about it and they’re going to wear out their knees.”

Next he became nostalgic about the efficiency of the DMV of the past.

“When there are people waiting like this, workers didn’t used to take breaks. Or someone would fill in to keep things moving.”

Finally, he shared a few makeup tips.

“That’s the gal we had last time, at the end,” he said to someone next to him, pointing at a woman behind the counter that appeared to be about 55 years of age.

“She wears so much eye shadow it looks like her eyes are sunken into her head,” he said.

“A45,” called one of the other DMV workers, not the eye-shadow lady.

I didn’t get to hear any more from the old man at the DMV, because my number was called and I had to focus on that interaction.

I’m sure everyone in the room remembers him fondly and was glad to have someone to occupy their thoughts while they waited.

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Last Year’s Deer

A popular night of killing animals is cut short by an unsightly blemish.

It was cold that afternoon when Grandpa and I made our way past Townline Creek over that narrow homemade bridge he built. It was still his land way out back there. I don’t know how far it was from the house, but it seemed like miles. Of course, I was a kid so everything seemed like miles.

The little shack was only about six feet wide at the biggest. Room for a chair, a stove, and a twin-size bed. Grandpa had some old yellow newspaper comics in there, but I got tired of reading those pretty fast.

I watched him build a fire and waited as the shack got warm. Grandpa took off his coat and loaded his rifle.

He opened up the latch on the window facing across the creek where a pile of apples lie rotting.

You never knew what as gonna be there. Could be deer, black bear, grouse. I had my small compound bow along with me, but there wasn’t any sense in it. I only had practice arrows. If I wanted to shoot anything I was gonna have to use Grandpa’s thirty-ought six.

It was the first day of rifle season so he wanted a buck.

Where I come from people take hunting season seriously. It’s like a national holiday or something. Most people wouldn’t want a kid along either unless they already got their buck for the year.

Grandpa was in his eighties. Maybe he figured he shot enough deer.

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We waited as the sky got dark.

I had a weird mole on my neck that I started picking at. It was ugly. Every time I looked in the mirror I had to see it and it was driving me nuts.

I scraped my fingernail hard across it, felt a gush of something warm in my hand.

Putting my fingers up to the light by the stove, I could see the darkness running down past my wrist into the cuff of my jacket.

My shirt underneath was getting wet.

“Grandpa, I think I’m bleeding.”

He set the gun in the corner and picked up a flashlight.

Nodding gravely, he began packing up our things.

I could feel my jacket getting wetter and wetter with blood. I started to panic. Maybe I clawed down to an artery or something and I was gonna die right there in the woods. My throat made some kind of sound. Like a deer gurgling and choking on its own death.

“Go on, run ahead to the house,” said Grandpa, moving slowly.

I ran, hard.

Back over the bridge, through the wet grass of the field. The coyotes were starting to yip. I could hear a pack of ’em far off to my right and I ran faster. I imagined them smelling my blood and signaling one another to come and get me. One coyote wasn’t anything, but a whole pack of ’em could take me down easy.

I knew there were wolves out there too, bob cats, cougars, and I was sitting there bleeding away like a dumbass.

I cursed my stupidity, looking behind every now and again to see if Grandpa had caught up with me.

He hadn’t.

I finally caught sight of the smoke from Grandma’s chimney. The scent of frying meat hit my nostrils and I ran faster, breath coming in bursts of white steam in the cold night air.

I just about tore the door off its hinges.

Grandma jumped, her eyes wide at my bloody coat, face, hands.

“Are you shot?” she croaked.

I shook my head and peeled the sticky layers off me, feeling the hard crusted scab that had started to form on my neck.

“I think it was a blood mole,” I sniffed, snorting up a stream of snot that was running down my upper lip. “I picked at it too much.”

She nodded and handed me a plate of venison. Last year’s deer.

Tequila Tuesdays: TSA Stands for What?

It was the shortest airport security line I had ever seen. That should have been my clue that something was amiss.

There have been a few airline incidents lately where passengers, or in some case, potential passengers, have been treated less-than-stellar. With that in mind, I will share a fun anecdote from a recent flight of mine.

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I was going through security, minding my own business when something truly unexpected happened. After setting off the nuclear-radiation, full-body molecular scan sensor, I was herded over to a giant man who growled something indistinguishable.

Suddenly a lady appeared and groped my crotchal area noting that my pants were “saggy.”

“Well, you took my belt,” I offered helpfully.

She asked if I wanted to go someplace private. I figured the genital exam would go much faster, with fewer liberties taken, if I allowed them to perform it in the middle of the concourse. It reminded me of my last trip to Vegas – minus the cocktails.

By the time my clothing and personal effects were returned to me in plastic bins, I wandered unsatisfied to a bar for two shots of Patron (not enough). I also ate nachos and my wife and I posed with matching sweatshirts in front of a Minnesota Twins sign for an impromptu selfie. A girl striding by this red carpet experience took pity on our contortionist routine as we struggled for the perfect shot and offered to snap our picture.

Some time after that we boarded a plane.

Oh, and TSA stands for Tequila Somewhere Ahead. Just remember that.

Tequila Tuesdays: I’ll tell you a story, often involving tequila. You can drink.

 

P.P.S – I usually post stuff European time because they get up earlier. Go figure! LOL 🙂

On the Road with Hunter Valentine

MELANY JOY BECK & JANELLE BECK

Hunter Valentine are touring and will play 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on March 16, 2016.

“It’s about a girl who comes back to kill her rapist,” explains Hunter Valentine frontwoman Kiyomi McCloskey about the controversial track, “Revenge” from their album Lessons from the Late Night.

“Unfortunately I have a friend who was taken advantage of, and it kind of messed with my head for a very long time. Writing this song was the best way I could get it all out and process it,” McCloskey shrugs and leans forward on the stone ledge in front of the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. “I guess a girl took things into her own hands.”

Hunter Valentine has also done a fair job of taking matters into their own hands. In their seven years as a band, they have weathered the ups and downs of the music industry.

Releasing The Impatient Romantic in 2007, an eponymous EP in 2009, and their most recent effort Lessons from the Late Night, with the support of Tommy Boy Entertainment (released in May, 2010), the ladies of Hunter Valentine have logged the miles and paid their dues.

Currently traveling the country with Sick of Sarah and Vanity Theft on the Lady Killer Tour, Hunter Valentine shows no sign of slowing down.

“It’s going to be crazy,” drummer Laura Petracca says. “All three bands are extremely professional, but we all like to undo our top buttons as well, so to speak, so we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Petracca glances up at her tourmates sharing cigarettes and loading gear into the club. “We’re all very different,” she says. “Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started. You want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing. Sick of Sarah falls in between us. Pop-punky. Emotional.”

Touring almost non-stop for the majority of their careers, it’s clear they love what they do. Even the most rigorous aspects of the job become routine.

“Getting to a new city every single day is an amazing thing to do when you’re doing it with your best friends [who are also] in your band. And then with these other two groups,” McCloskey says. “I’ve started to not really feel normal when I go home now. So I prefer to be on the road.”

For these girls, the road is their home; and close quarters definitely lead to really getting to know your band mates.

“Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started if you want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing.” – Laura Petracca of Hunter Valentine

“I’m actually an accidental cupper. I’ll cup in my sleep,” laughs Petracca of her nocturnal tendency to crotch-grab. “I’ve shared a bed with a woman, with women, and it’s just automatic. Sometimes I’ll go for the boob, but most of the time I’ll go for the gold,” she admits. “I’m a cupper.”

Playing as a three piece is another thing that separates Hunter Valentine from the pack.

“For a while we had the idea that we had to be the perfect four,” McKloskey says, “As we continued as a three piece, it sort of evolved and became really strong and tight. It became clear that adding someone else to the mix was going to be really difficult.”

Having perfect musical chemistry is important when spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together, and is critical to the live performance.

“I think it’s a really honest rock show. I don’t think we plan things out. We write things and our emotions are on our sleeves. It’s a great show because it’s at a time when we’re at our most creative and vulnerable points,” McKloskey says.

Finishing up touring for Lessons from the Late Night in September, the girls are set to head home and start writing for their next effort.

That is, if they can manage to stay home long enough.

EDITOR’S NOTE: PORTIONS OF THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED AS PART OF THE CURVE MAGAZINE BLOG, SHE’S ELECTRIC IN OCTOBER OF 2011.

About the Authors:

Melany Joy Beck and Janelle Beck are writers and filmmakers. Their short documentary Bring It 2 Peter was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, and Official Selection honors at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. They can also be heard in vocal harmony on the Delavan song, Pistols Blazing.

ALL CONTENT AND IMAGES COPYRIGHT MELANY JOY BECK, JANELLE BECK 2016©

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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Front Woman Shines at First Avenue

 

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the Curve Magazine blog, She’s Electric in September, 2010 as “Un-Jaded with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.”

By Melany Joy Beck & Janelle Beck

It’s easy to write off Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as one of L.A.’s newest musical shticks. With their psychedelic prairie garb, dreadlocks and obvious appreciation of a certain herbal substance, the band is easy to stereotype. It is also true that their lineup includes a former ABC Family star, an American Apparel model and a cadre of west coast scenesters, including former Ima Robot front man, Alex Ebert who now dresses like the next messiah. However, Edward Sharpe and their free-loving ethos is a Kool-Aid worth drinking.

One of two women in the ten-person ensemble and the ingénue behind their breakthrough single, ‘Home’ is Jade Castrinos. Channeling Grace Slick at her most affable and Janis Joplin at her most lucid, Castrinos’ voice conjures images of wide open spaces and the fantasy of some nameless, long-forgotten west. But the singer becomes humble at the evocation of such icons and seems hard-pressed to claim any rock-idol throne.

“That’s a fucking honor, man. My dad and I were in a jam band and we would jam Janis Joplin,” she says, taking a seat backstage at Minneapolis’ First Avenue nightclub. “Strangely, I just picked up a biography on her and the first page I opened up to was a story about her sleepwalking as a kid and her mom woke her and asked what she was doing and she said, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ That instantly hooked me.”

The sentiment of ‘Home’ has hooked a lot of people on Jade Castrinos too.

“The other night we had a show in Montana and it was just incredible,” she muses. “We had one of those moments when everyone is jamming and we become a unit and everything syncs up in the room.” She shakes her head and focuses her eyes on a seemingly empty patch of dressing room wall. “Those are the ones. The soul shakers. The moments when I understand why I’m on earth.”

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In an industry where competition is par for the course, Castrinos maintains an holistic view of her musicianship and why she twirls and wails and bangs the tambourine in the Edward Sharpe rock collective.

“It’s not just about me,” she says. “It’s about us making a sound together and being of service to song and love and supporting each other. The opposite of jealousy and competition is admiration and sharing. That’s the side of it that I’m on.”

The overall essence of Castrinos reaches beyond the notion of taking the stage. Marveling at the state of the world, our country, and even the music being written she is visibly struck by the sudden magnitude of import.

“What really matters when you go to your death bed?” she asks, raising her hands up and letting them flutter back down to smooth her tunic. “It’s not about the fuck-you songs to the government. I don’t think that’s what it should be about. It’s about shining a light and being a light and not cursing the darkness. We are all born into a world that is at war. Brothers and sisters don’t recognize each other and we all are living in this illusion of duality.”

At the sold-out show with opening act, Dawes, there is no hint of disharmony as Castrinos and Ebert echo the anthemic chorus of ‘Home’ to close out the night. In this band of brothers, sister Jade shines.

 

About the Authors:

Melany Joy Beck and Janelle Beck are writers and filmmakers. Their short documentary Bring It 2 Peter was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, and Official Selection honors at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. They can also be heard in vocal harmony on the Delavan song, Pistols Blazing.

All content and images copyright Melany Joy Beck, Janelle Beck 2016©

Sweetheart Mixtape

If you’ve got a sweetheart, one of the most thoughtful things you can do is to make her (or him) a mixtape. I know, nobody does “tapes” anymore, but mixCD, or digital song mix, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In order to spread the Valentines Day love, I’d like to share with you the mixtape that I made for my sweetheart this year. So if you love slide guitar and a Western skyline, wild horses and whiskey, or a kiss by a campfire, then this is sure to put you both in the mood to ride off into the sunset.

I’ll even throw in a free song to get you started. Enjoy!

  1. The Black Lillies – Dancin’
  2. Chris Stapleton – When the Stars Come Out
  3. Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth
  4. Hozier – Like People Do
  5. Kacey Musgraves – I Miss You
  6. Delavan – Love Shine (Free Download)
  7. Jason Isbell – Stockholm
  8. Sturgill Simpson – The Promise
  9. Alabama Shakes – I Found You
  10. Ashley Monroe – Has Anybody Ever Told You
  11. Erik Koskinen – First Time in Years
  12. Patty Griffin – Heavenly Day

 

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Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

“Let me tell you ‘bout a man I knew…” – Sketches of China, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, David Freiberg

I discovered Jefferson Airplane when I was about twelve years old through my dad’s record collection. At the time there wasn’t a lot going on musically. My early listening years consisted of vacuous 80’s hits and hair metal.

Obviously Hendrix, Zeppelin, and other mid-twentieth-century artists blew my mind. But it was Jefferson Airplane that really resonated. I liked the melodies, the three part harmony, the trippy lyrics that later (with Jefferson Starship) gave way to sci-fi ponderings.

White Rabbit and Somebody to Love clearly belong in the rock and roll canon, but I really thought things got interesting with Blows Against the Empire (the first rock album nominated for a Hugo Award). With this project, Paul Kantner got a chance to explore his interests lyrically and it was a departure from earlier iterations of the band.

To this day, Kantner remains an underrated songwriter and rhythm guitarist. His vision, often not necessarily musical in nature but conceptually compelling, led the group (Slick especially) into uncharted territory. He remains the unsung creative director of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship franchise.

I met Paul once, some years ago, at a divey little casino in Wisconsin. I had gone to the Jefferson Starship website and saw that he was playing not far from where I grew up with Marty Balin and Jack Casady (original members of Jefferson Airplane).

Nervous and weirdly star struck, I approached the band after the show.

“I’ve been waiting almost a decade to meet you,” I blurted.

Paul glanced at me, and then out the window at the blizzard that had begun to rage outside. No doubt wondering how their tour bus would fare on the icy roads.

He looked back at me with a smirk, “You must be cold.”

And then he was gone.

 

About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is a writer, musician, and award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival 2011, and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival 2012.

 

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