Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Journey to Dubstep

I've always had eclectic taste in music. As far back as I can remember I've liked hard rock, dance music, the blues, and country. I've even been known to listen to Enya at times. (Don't judge me. Sometimes you just need a good chill-the-eff-out song.) I studied classical piano in high school, and then went to the premier jazz school in the world. Although there are certainly some songs and artists that make me want to poke my eardrums out, there are few genres that I'm willing to write off as inherently suckish.

In my formative years, the years when most of us tie our very identities into the music we like, I gravitated toward 80s hair bands - Poison, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, etc. I enjoyed this good time music with its wailing guitars and driving beats. To this day I still love to screech my heart out along with Sebastian Bach to "I Remember You." And hearing Bret Michaels demand that I talk dirty to him always makes me smile.

I forgive you for Rock of Love.
At the same time during my misspent youth, back in the olden days when MTV played actual music videos and the average sound system was waist-high, I would also enjoy listening to Madonna, Salt N' Peppa, and Tone-Loc. (I challenge you to listen to this song and not wanna get down witchya bad self.) I would do my homework to the soundtrack to Amadeus. I would even listen to the occasional bluegrass song if my friends weren't within earshot.

My openness to various music genres and my unhealthy obsession with Ghost Adventures recently joined forces and led me to something my ears are very happy about: Dubstep. I had heard the word bandied about before, but never really checked out what it was. Then one day I dutifully followed a link tweeted by host Zak Bagans, and oh my eargasm, it. was. awesome. Not long after that, EVP analyst Billy Tolley (aka DJInferno on the Las Vegas club scene when he's not ghost adventuring) released a dubstep mix on his podcast. (Seriously, if you need some good workout music check it out. And no, nobody is paying me for all this advertising.) That did it. I was hooked.

Now I can't get through a busy day at work without hearing the likes of Skrillex, Bassnectar,  and Deadmou5. (That second syllable is pronounced "mouse," for those of you following along at home.) The cool thing about dubstep is that it takes a bunch of genres (dance, rock, rap), ties them together with a heavy bass line, then kicks it up a notch with electronic sound effects that sound not unlike grinding metal and chainsaws. I don't really know why, but that particular mixture greatly appeals to me.

Not only does dubstep help me think straight while playing editor at work (No really, it gives the easily distracted part of my brain something to do while the rest of my brain stays focused.), but it also gave me an increasingly elusive bonding moment with my 15-year-old nephew. On a recent Sunday my local sibs and I, plus spouses and offspring of course, converged on our old family home and made our parents feed us. I heard the familiar strains of Skrillex coming from the room where all the chi'drens were hanging out and got excited enough to dislodge my behind from my comfy chair and go in there.

Me: You kids listening to Skrillex??

My nephew's eyes grew wide with concern. He's the oldest cousin in the family, and he probably figured I was about to tell him to turn off that damn noise before it corrupted my sweet little angels. Or something like that.

Nephew: Yeah. Is that OK?
Me: OK??? It's freaking awesome!! I LOVE this song!!

His eyes grew even wider, only now with wonder. Kinda the way I'd have looked at my Gramma if she'd busted out with Funky Cold Medina back in the day.

Nephew: Aunt Sassyfats, YOU like dubstep?
Me: Hellz yeah!! D-d-d-d-drop the bass!!!

A slow smile spread across his face, as if he were a research scientist who had just discovered a new species of super adorable puppy and realized he could charge a million bucks per litter. I smiled back. I knew that I, a grown-up, had just won major cool points.

Either that or I totally ruined dubstep for him. Since I didn't see anything on his Facebook page telling all the other young'uns, "Dubstep is dead!!! Even the elderly like it now!!!" I'm gonna stick with cool points.

Update: How could I have been so silly not to have mentioned Baltimore's own LAZERbitch? Sweet DLake dubstep remix of their song "I Loved You." And I'm not just sayin' that because I've known LAZERLibby since she was my little sister's horseback riding partner when they were like my Daughter1's age...     

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Remedial Economics

There is nothing more gratifying than getting your biweekly direct deposit from Corporate America, paying all your bills on time, and still having enough money to live on for two weeks. I know how gratifying this experience is because I have done it - once or twice.

More often than not, payday in the Sassyfats household looks more like this: check the bank balance every five minutes until the direct deposit hits, do a happy dance for 3.7 seconds, go online to pay everyone who sent you a turn-off notice this pay cycle, then slap yourself on the forehead when you realize you're out of money and the cupboards are still bare. (Did you know that chid'rens demand to be fed several times a day? Each and every day? True story.)

Against my better judgement, I will go on record to say that we make a decent living. On paper, our financial situation is quite lovely. We have reached a point where we make more than we owe (on paper), and our living expenses are fairly stable (on paper). Ergo, I attribute 90% of our financial woes to user error. Which really makes no sense, because Miracle Man and I were each pretty good financial managers - before we entered our marital union. We each paid our bills on time and there was always enough left over for little luxuries here and there. But when we joined forces, our approach to financial management rapidly turned into this:

Checkbook Balancing Time at the Sassyfats Home
Granted, life did throw us a few curve balls we did not see coming.  Like how friggin' expensive it is to bear and then raise chid'rens. And how friggin' expensive it is to go through a life-threatening medical crisis that leaves you permanently disabled - not only do you lose your income, but you also get slapped with multi-thousand dollar medical bills on a routine basis. Those things are enough to put any family behind. But when you're already behind, those things are enough to drive you into the ground.

We are no strangers to receiving turn-off notices, car repo notices, and even the dreaded home foreclosure notices. We have bounced so many checks over the years that we have been banned from writing them in most retail establishments. When one of our cars starts making a funny noise, we both get a tight clenching in our guts because we know anything more than an oil change is going to mean we will have to decide which bill won't get paid that pay cycle. 

After 14 years of wedded bliss, fiscal tomfoolery, and life-changing events, Miracle Man and I have learned a lot of hard lessons, and have gotten pretty good about making tough choices. Thanks to time healing wounds, generous relatives plucking us out of the drain we seem to enjoy swirling around, and newly acquired skills to negotiate with creditors, we are *this close* to living completely within our means. We have streamlined our spending by Draconian measures, and we have learned to budget and plan what gets paid on each pay cycle. It's almost like we're grown-ups or something. However, we still have no effing money most of the effing time. On paper we're doing great. In every day life, we're still squeezed so hard it hurts.

Fried chicken is for rich people.
Our basic living expenses have increased way faster than our income since the economy tanked, and we still have a few monthly bills that we have to pay a little extra on as we catch all the way up. One good thing about the recession - it made being broke trendy. Who cares if we were ahead of the trend, now at least we know we're in good company. If you talk to anyone about money long enough you're bound to hear at least one horror story. But deep down I know full well that overspending during our boom times are the biggest contributor to our broke times. And it's downright amazing how long it can take to claw your way out of that damn hole.

Stupid well, with its slippery walls and
demonic child spirits and whatnot

Looking back, I can clearly see where we made our biggest mistakes. I want to go back in time, confront the younger us, and be all like, "Drop the credit cards and step awayyyyyy from the merchandise!!!!" I might even slap us around a little bit, just for funzies.

Anybody know a good Plutonium dealer?

Now my challenge is to make wise decisions now so that 48-year-old me is not stuck trying to figure out how 38-year-old me could have been so stupid. I mean, how many dumbass badges does one person really need?

Wish me luck, my friends. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Hate You, Philip Morris

I started my life as a closet smoker about five years ago. I had just come through a decidedly nasty bout of postpartum depression, and Miracle Man's health was in rapid decline from neurological issues. I had a preschooler, a newborn, an increasingly debilitated spouse, and a full-time job. I felt pulled in at least three directions at all times, and I guess I needed a substance to abuse to get through the waking nightmare. Nicotine is legal and easily accessible, so it won. (Actually, it tied with high fructose corn syrup, but that's a whole nother story.)

Regardless of my reasons for taking that first drag, the bottom line is that I was the idiot who started smoking in my 30s, when all my peers were trying to quit. And yes, I realize this life choice qualifies me for a dumbass badge. At the time, I figured one little cigarette a day wouldn't kill me. Then I figured two a day wouldn't kill me. I continued the rationalizations until I was up to half a pack a day, and extraordinarily unhappy about it.

I tried to hide my dirty little secret from most of the world. I would have clandestine smoke breaks in my car and in my garage. Of course Miracle Man knew, and eventually the chid'rens knew. They outed me to my parents and siblings. And when I realized how hooked I was, I even started 'fessing up to my doctors. The message I got from everyone was clear - are you NUTS?? Why did you start smoking? And why haven't you stopped???

The reason is simple: Nicotine is addictive as hell. When a nic fits hits I get all ragey and homicidal, like this:
Dangerous, Yet Still Adorable
Then I become steadfast in my belief that a cigarette is the only thing that will make me feel like this again:
Ah Yes. Much Better.
But the rational side of my brain knows that in the long run, I'm really just making myself like this:
Me In 10 Years
So I recently made my billionth attempt to quit. For two glorious weeks I celebrated not being a slave to the nicotine. No nic fits, no inconvenient yet all-important smoke breaks, no guilty conscience. My car started to smell less like an ashtray and more like Orbit Bubblemint gum. I was rather proud of me.

Then it happened. Life got hectic. My day job got crazy busy, my family's schedule got crazy busy, and I had failed to refill my Paxil before it ran out. (Is it possible to earn two dumbass badges?) My anxiety level was through the roof. Not quite off the charts, but getting there.

One fateful night, I ran up to Walmart to pick up a few things and somehow ended up with a pack of smokes. When I got in the car, I somehow found myself with an open pack of smokes. And wouldn't ya know it, I suddenly found myself with a lit cigarette in my hand. I honestly don't know how I ended up with this evil little flaming stick, but my theory centers around alien abduction and cosmic worm holes. Fo' realz.

So now the addiction is back in full swing. Hello, nic fits. Hello, inconvenient smoke breaks. Hello guilt. I have not missed you. And I want you gone again. The question is, how do I get far enough away from you to make you a permanent thing of my past?

I know the only way to get there is to keep on trying. Sooner or later I'll be able to hand in my dumbass badge and call myself a successful quitter. That may sound like an oxymoron, but I'd rather be an oxymoron (wait for it)... than the regular kind.

Get it? See what I did there? Ha! Ahem. Alrighty then...