Balloons

It's no secret that I have struggled with depression and anxiety for just about as long as I can remember. It's a shitty way to get through life and once I got my ADHD diagnosis, roughly 80% of my anxiety and depression disappeared, which is nice.

But there are days…

And that seems normal, to me. Everyone has a bad day from time to time. I'm finally at a place where my bad days don't stretch into bad weeks or bad months or, as with the 1990s, a bad decade. It's a bad day, that's all. What this adds up to is the fact that I feel weird when I feel normal. 

One of the things that gets me through is identifying and naming my various issues. I've learned to visualize them as a bunch of helium balloons. Have you ever seen anyone trying to carry around a bunch of balloons? It's fucking hard, and if it's windy… good luck!

But that's what I have: balloons. On a good day, they're all floating above me in a more or less serene clump that can be safely ignored. On a bad day, the balloons have a mind of their own, flying around and about my head, clouding my vision, getting in my way, and generally being a fucking nuisance. Fucking balloons. I wish I could let them all go.

Of course, I can't do that. No one can really let go of all their balloons, but we can learn to let go of the balloons that don't belong to us. I've spent the past two years doing just that and now I think I'm only carrying my balloons and a few of Freddie's and some of Jillian's. I have them mostly under control, most days.  

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Experiments!

I love and hate to cook. I love it because I like making things but I hate it because it takes effort (story of my life: ask me how many unfinished knitting projects I currently have). I'm a fairly decent cook – I haven't accidentally poisoned anyone and I only served broken glass that one time, which truly was an accident. We all survived.

Anyway, I love my kitchen gadgets. I don't have as many as I'd like, due to space constraints. My kitchen is like a reverse TARDIS because it looks spacious but it just really, really, really isn't. This is mostly due to the fucked-up design of the space and as I've been saying for the past 10 years, if I ever get my hands on the previous owners of this house, I am going to choke them out. I did finally get a new oven/stove situation this year but only because the old one starting doing weird fiery things and I really prefer to have my house in a non-charred state.

But I digress.

For Hanukkah last year, I got an Instant Pot and joined that cult. It's worth it, because that thing is a marvel. It does wonders with recipes that would normally take all day and the fact that I've been making perfect hard-boiled eggs in it pretty much weekly makes it a must-have.

This year I got a sous vide immersion cooker thingy.  Does your average home cook need one of these? Of course not. It's perfect for precisely held temperatures over long periods of time, which is not a thing I am usually into. I barely even measure when I cook – mostly because I can't be bothered but also because half the time I can't find my measuring spoons and cups anyway so whatever. I do measure when I bake but I've been baking by weight instead of volume and it has stepped up my baking game considerably.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The sous vide thingamajig appears as if it's going to be A Thing. I made carrots in it last night and holy shitballs, you guys. I like carrots in every form, but usually when I'm cooking them I chuck them in the steamer and that's that. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll roast them or do the garlic/orange things I like to do on holidays. But with the sous vide, I stuck them in a bag with some butter, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of sugar and popped them in the bath for about 90 minutes. They were magical.

Can't wait to see what else I can do – right now I'm experimenting with yogurt. When I bought my Instant Pot, I didn't get the one with the yogurt setting because at the time I was all "ugh yogurt gross" but then I did my whole Fitness Revolution Thing in July and yogurt has become a staple in my house. I only like the super-thick Icelandic-style skyr yogurt which is HELLA SPENDY. So I need to figure out how to make my own.

Enter the sous vide! Heat the milk, cool it back down, add the yogurt starter (which is yogurt, which leads one to wonder if there is a chicken-egg situation here), plunk it in the bath for 12 hours and… well, we'll see what happens. I'll take it out tonight before bed and put it in the fridge and if you don't hear from me again it's because I've poisoned myself.

Ehhh well I probably won't die, but I might be in the bathroom awhile. Time will tell.

The other major thing that The Internets suggests making in the sous vide is steak. I'm not sure about that, because steak can be expensive and I am wary of experimenting on expensive food. That didn't stop me from buying a $70 lump of beef in a cut I've never personally cooked before but whatever. It turned out fine because I am pretty magical when it comes down to it.

Carrots, man. Who knew? 

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To sum up…

Eh, I'm not gonna do that. 2017 was interesting, to say the least. Instead, I am going to look forward. I'm not a huge fan of resolutions, but way back at the turn of the century a friend of mine decided to call them "revolutions" instead, and that kind of stuck. I could go back and look for and look at the things I thought I was going to do this year, but chances are pretty good that I didn't do very many of them and that's okay. I did a lot of other things! And they were fine! I made the Dean's List twice this year!

So 2017 is done. Let's see what's in store for 2018!

 1. FITNESS GOALS. Totally trite, true, but oh so necessary. I have made pretty significant progress and plan to turn it up to 11 in 2018 and get at least 50 pounds off of my body. It's an uphill climb in any direction, what with age, genetics, metabolism, taste buds, and general laziness working against me, but I think it can be done because I am going to do it. I'm going to get to the gym (for which I pay handsomely) 3 times a week like I'm supposed to, drive less, walk more, and maybe this year I'll be able to do a pull-up, finally. 

2. I'm going to throw myself at this last semester of school and make the Dean's List again just before I graduate in May. This is a terrifying prospect, because it means that I will, at long last, be an actual adult person.  Sort of. I will have a fancy new degree to wave around and use to cajole someone into giving me a job of some kind, doing something I actually enjoy doing. That search will start in March or April and should be full of hilariousness as I explain my incredibly convoluted employment history to people. I need to distill that into a cocktail-party-style anecdote.  Hmm.

3. I'd like to spend less time in front of a computer. This will be a challenge, given that I spend a lot of time doing actual research online, but outside of school/work-related things, I need to shut it down more often. I'm going to turn off my phone instead of just putting it in my pocket, and maybe give up my tablet because I don't really use it for anything other than games and winning arguments via IMDB.

4. 2018 might be the year that I organize my bookshelves. They're triple-stacked with stacks on the floor and there have GOT to be some up there that I can get rid of. I probably won't but at least I will have a better handle on what's up there.

5. I'm going to read all of Shakespeare's plays. I've done it before and I've studied most of them, but they're fun to read, so I'm going to do that.

6. No Chinese food in 2018 unless I make it myself. I have successfully avoided Dunkin' Donuts coffee after declaring them dead to me 5 years ago (the coffee is just SO DAMN BAD, it's offensive), so I have no doubt that I can avoid Chinese food. Maybe it's psychological, but no other Asian cuisine bothers me like Chinese does. No more! Begone!

 

And that's really it. The first three are all things I'm already doing and the other three are things that I might do but maybe not. It doesn't matter, really, because the world won't stop turning if my bookshelves stay chaotic, but it would certainly be nice to look at them and not be irritated by what I see. 

 

Cheers, team. Go be better than you were before. 

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At 4 AM

At 4 AM, everything is dark. The sun has not yet crept over the edge of the world.

At 4 AM, all lights are bright. You get dressed in the dark so as not to wake the house with blaze of the hall light.

At 4 AM, everything is very loud. You tiptoe out of the bedroom. The cat greets you, bellowing, and you wonder if the crinkle of the catfood bag will wake the whole street.

At 4 AM, nothing is happening. The television offerings are so bad, you think perhaps it would have been best for TV not to have been invented in the first place.

At 4 AM, nobody is awake. Unless you count alcoholics, angry loners, the unemployable, and me, who is worrying.

At 4 AM.

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Something Happened Today

Body-positivity is not easy, you guys. It takes a lot of hard mental/emotional work to get to a place where you are happy with the body you HAVE. This is doubly true if the body one inhabits is not the body that society/media/the world tells you is acceptable or desirable.

Lucky for me, I’m not terribly concerned with being accepted or desired, but I’m still human. I’d like to lose a little weight. I’d like my clothes to fit better. I’m fairly healthy but I’d like to stay that way now that I’m like, an actual adult person. But it is HARD to walk around in a body that people abhor and even fear.

AND I’M NOT EVEN THAT BIG. I’m on the border of a size 14 and size 16. It’s not the happiest place to be, because shopping is problematic on the best day, but that’s where I am and it’s fine. I am an average-sized woman. Genetics are NOT on my side – while there is a range of sizes amongst the women in my family, I was pretty much destined to have either a big ass or a big chest and SURPRISE!! I GOT BOTH! Thanks so much, doughy German ancestors!! MORE SCHNITZEL!

Anyway, aside from all that, I’m also a runner. I am fat and slow and that’s my lane, but I run. Slowly. I was doing that today! I have a 2-mile loop that I stomp around, and my current mantra is “fuck this, finish strong” so I run hard (for me) for about the last 100 meters, from the trail to where I park my truck.

This leaves me all red-faced and sweaty and generally pretty gross. Salty. I forgot deodorant this morning so I’m a little funky. And I’ve been recovering from bronchitis that turned into pneumonia, so my lungs are still getting back into the swing of that whole “breathing” thing. Freddie says he’s going to get me a shirt made that says “I’m not dying, this is just how I breathe.”

This was my state when I made it to the car, fished out my keys and started to stretch.

Two women parked next to me looked over at me and one of them snorted, “Fat girls look so tired! I’m so glad I don’t have to work that hard to stay this thin.”

Oh. OH!!

Now, some of you know that I am a big fan of the witty comeback. I spend a lot of time in online comment sections being hilarious and clever and a little bit rude. I’m not always like that in real life because honestly, who has the time, and 90% of the time I’m not paying attention anyway. But today? Oh.

I stood up.

I walked over to this woman and looked her straight in the eye, smiled, and said, “It’s so nice the sun is out today, isn’t it?” I never break eye contact.

She stammered some kind of reply.

I kept smiling, kept looking her in the eye.

“Sorry.” [mumbled]

Still smiling, still making eye contact.

“You will be.”

[smiling]

Then I got in my truck and went to Starbucks for my big-ass bucket o’coffee.

What did I mean by “you will be?” Welllllll that’s the beauty of that kind of statement, isn’t it? It means everything and nothing at the same time. I hope it confused her. I hope she takes a look at the women in her family and realizes that yes, the adipose will come for her, too. Or maybe her family is full of thin women who are cold all the time. Maybe she’ll find that someday, she does indeed have to work “that hard” to stay “that thin” and she’ll wonder if it’s worth it.

I know what I meant. Someday, she will, too. In the meantime, I will continue to run, continue to be slow, maybe be less fat (probably not, though).

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Karaoke Dreams

I am not a singer. Not in any socially-acceptable way, that is. Whatever musical talent I have is localized in my hands, and even that is questionable. I sing the way I used to play oboe: LOUDLY, and with more enthusiasm than skill!

But I really, really, really love to sing, and whenever we play the three wishes game, one of my wishes is always “to be able to sing better.” Now, maybe with some time and training I could improve, but I will never be asked to sing by anyone with functioning ears. There’s a difference between enjoying something and being subjected to it, after all.

In my car, I’m a superstar, and these are some of my karaoke jams:

1. Only The Lonely – The Motels

2. Never Surrender – Corey Hart (could this be any more Canadian?)

3. Come Sail Away – Styx

4. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper

5. No Myth – Michael Penn (I might be the only person who likes this song)

6. Father Figure – George Michael

I’ll sing anything, and god knows my brain is about 84% song lyrics, but I rarely sing in front of other people, except Jillian. She has the misfortune of being related to me and since I am her principal chauffeur, not only does she have to listen to whatever I want to listen to, but she has to hear me sing it, too.

Poor kid.

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Observations

I am taking a Facebook break. It’s become obvious to me that there are some people out there who should have been drowned in a bucket when they were toddlers and I am tired of interacting with them, even in the most passive way (scrolling past).

It will probably be good for me, since for the first time in my life, my blood pressure (which is traditionally hilariously low) has been “elevated.” Gosh, I wonder why that might be? Anger and frustration are not a good combination at the best of times and we are nowhere near the best of times. If this is what “making America great again” looks like, I’m going to have to opt out, thanks.

At the moment, I’m doing homework. Most of what I have to do is read and write papers, but I’m taking a logic class which includes problem sets that are giving me fits. Not to worry, this is a 100-level class so just by showing up and breathing I will likely pass. The quality of questions being asked by my classmates is… well, most of them are freshmen and it shows, let’s say.

This semester is much more of a challenge than last semester. Fall was more of an experiment, to see if I could fit academia into my chaotic existence, and it went pretty well. I didn’t have to actually kill anyone, and I only had to screech at the family a few times. The novelty aspect of it all helped quite a bit, too. But this semester? This is a challenge. Increased workload both for me and for the family means that we are all running at full speed all the time. They say it takes a village, but we only have ourselves. Busy times.

In other news, the dogs do not seem to enjoy the musical stylings of Radiohead. I never noticed that before.

What I really need, and will not get until nearly August, is a full weekend with no commitments. I need this block of time because my closet REALLY needs to be cleaned out. I have so much stuff that I don’t wear anymore and it needs to go! I’m looking at the calendar, though, and… August. Maybe.

ADHD being the 4th family member in my household doesn’t really help. I am battling the early stages of a cold and really needed an extra hour of sleep this morning. That means What’s-His-Name needs to get up at 7AM (instead of his usual 7:30) to get the kid up and moving because nothing happens in this house in the morning unless I’m doing it. 7AM rolls around and he’s still in bed breathing on me, so I said “you’d better get up.” Yeah, yeah, he says.

Now, having an ADHD kid is akin to driving a truck with no power steering. It might go in the direction you want it to go, EVENTUALLY, but it takes a hell of an effort to get it there. Over the past 6 years, we have established a morning routine that is successful about 85% of the time and MY GOD I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THIS ROUTINE IS.

10 minutes later: “You know, routine is pretty important and you’re fucking it up.” He got out of bed then.

I don’t even feel bad – I explicitly asked for something I need (extra sleep) and he agreed to take over the morning shit so I could get that and he dropped the fucking ball. It’s annoying because it’s almost as if he thinks I am asking for the fucking moon sometimes. I’m really not. In the end, I got about an hour of sleep that I sorely needed and everyone got out the door on time, so all’s well that ends well, but fuck, man. Frustrating.

Currently taking a study break to read a GQ interview of Tom Hiddleston. So far, my takeaway is that if I go wandering through some of London’s park, I may run into the man who loves to wander aimlessly through them. TICKETS BOOKED!!

Just kidding, we’re not doing a big vacation this year!

That reminds me, I never wrote the Germany travel blog. I should get on that.

Ohhhh it would seem that Hiddles is a fan of Jonathan Franzen. Ugh. He should stop that because Franzen is such a hack. Maybe if I can get Hiddles to just stand near me and be pretty and we never talk about anything of substance? I’m more than happy to discuss the weather with him. Oh, but he’s tall! Hmm. We’re back to a balance point, then.

I should go to the gym today. Well, I should have gone to the gym today. I went yesterday, despite feeling a bit blah, but I felt worse this morning and now it’s a bit late for me to do that and still get home and showered in time to leave for my class. I’m at the point now where I feel a cold coming on and I’m not sure if exercise will kill it or make it worse. Winter sucks.

This blog post will probably post to Facebook. I think that’s how I’m going to do this for the foreseeable future – I’m not going to interact directly with Facebook, which means any likes or comments on whatever we’ll call this particular bit of drivel will go unseen. Like I said, if you need me, you know where to find me. And if you don’t… there’s a deficit in your existence, isn’t there?

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Three In A Marriage

When Freddie and I first got together, nearly 21 years ago now, we didn’t give a lot of thought to things like meal planning. We went out a lot, and he cooked for me now and then, but for the most part, we were in restaurants for much of our courtship.

When we moved to Indiana, we kept up that habit. It was easy then – we lived in an apartment the size of a NYC city block and paid $400/month for it. We were fucking loaded (living off grad school loans and my three jobs). Then we moved to New Jersey and things changed. We downsized from a fairly palatial spread to a teeny tiny garden apartment for more than twice the rent. He went to work and so did I, but money was… different for us. We had to eat at home a lot more.

Enter: Jamie Oliver. You know him better as The Naked Chef. Right around the time Freddie and I got married, I acquired the first Naked Chef cookbook. It was a revelation – instead of a rigid list of ingredients and instructions, his book encouraged the reader to trust their instincts and wing it, when necessary.

Now, THAT is how I like to cook. None of this measuring bullshit for me! A handful of this, a pinch of that, extra garlic, more butter, cook until it’s done. How long? UNTIL IT’S DONE.

And so, Jamie Oliver became a very real and important presence in our marriage.

Fast-forward sixteen years – Freddie is working full-tilt, 25 hours a day. Jillian is in school and basketball and Scouts and cello and Hebrew school and and and and and and and all of the busy-ness that a good suburban Jew kid gets up to. I myself am back in school because I have too much free time and money, apparently.

Through it all, Jamie Oliver has been my go-to, my godsend, my guru. I have 11 of his books and they all show signs of heavy use: tears, grease stains, spatters, post-it notes sticking out all directions. They are my love and my life and if the house ever catches fire, those are the books I’m gonna save. Luckily, they’re near the front door.

This semester promises to be a challenge in almost every way. My classes don’t get out until afte r4PM every day, and most after-school activities for Jillian start around 6. It takes me about 45 minutes to get home, which means I have about a half-hour to get food on the table for people. Thanks to Jamie, I can do this. His book “Meals In Minutes” promises that I can get a full meal (plus dessert, bitches) on the table in about a half-hour and JAMIE DOES NOT LIE. In sixteen years of cooking his recipes, he has let me down only once (some chorizo soup thing that everyone hated). Without him, things would look very different in my house, that’s for sure.

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Who Am I, Anyway?

There are at least 13 legal permutations of my name. I know this because in 2004 when we first applied for a mortgage, I had to ask for more paper to fill out the “other names under which you are known” section.

I blame the state of New Jersey for this. When we got married, waaaaaay back in 2000, I first changed my social security card to reflect my new identity. When I went to change my drivers’ license, it turns out that the state of New Jersey’s computer system can’t handle the badass feminist I was back then (I’m more badass and more feminist now, thanks for asking) and decided that I needed a hyphen between my two last names.

After an 8-hour ordeal during which I challenged the DMV worker to call the governor’s office in Trenton, I left with a hyphen. Which does not match my social security card. Or my passport. On my credit cards, we dropped my maiden name completely, and never added the new one at the bank, so NONE of that matches anything else at all.

When I was going through all of this name-changing identity crisis nonsense, I was a student at Rutgers. While they allowed me to add a second last name to my current last name, they ate my MIDDLE NAME, of which I am quite fond, and slotted my maiden name in there. Well, okay then. Not terribly progressive of you, Rutgers, but we’ll deal with it.

Fast-forward to 2017, 16.5 years since I got hitched, and I have never once addressed any of this. At first I didn’t have the energy, then I didn’t care, then I didn’t have TIME, and now I’m back to not caring. I also find it amusing, that I can choose who I want to be in a given context.

Now I’m back in school and I have at least four “official” combinations of my name. My original, maiden-as-middle-name is one of them. I think that will show up on transcripts and junk. My drivers’ license name, which is the one I usually go by and sign to papers and exams is another. My OTHER official name, which erases my maiden name entirely (The person “Rachel A Zack” doesn’t technically exist), and my email, which is rdiroll. HILARITY ENSUES.

Example: “Excuse me, Mrs. Zack?”
[crickets]
“Mrs. Zack?”
OH WAIT HANG ON, THAT’S ME.

Another Example: “Rachel D——– Zack?” (Very, very few people can pronounce the maiden name correctly. Hell, half of the family gets it wrong most of the time)
YES, THAT’S ME.

“Rachel D Zack?”
Sure, that’s me, I guess.

It’s very confusing being me. People joke sometimes that they don’t know their own name, but I ACTUALLY DO NOT, at times. I also confuse my left and right hands, but that’s a topic for another day. I’ve also called the kid by the dog’s name which is something my grandmother used to do but in her defense, she has 9 kids. I only have one.

On the one hand, I really should just get a couple copies of my marriage license and pick one name, and make all of my things match. On the other hand, I rather like the chameleonic aspect of having 13 versions of my name. Each one of those ladies inhabits a different version of me, so why not give them each a name? It’s not a split-personality situation (because who has the energy for that, honestly), but more of a way to name my various moods, you know? Sometimes I’m a nice lady who opens doors for old people and says please and thank you and smiles a lot. That’s probably “Mrs Zack.” Other times, I cut people off in traffic and flip them the bird and mouth “ASSHOLE” at them when I pass them on the highway. That’s clearly “Ms Diroll.” Most of the time I’m just doing my thing. That’s what the hyphen is for, I suppose.

As Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Luckily for me, most of my 13 names are the name of a complete badass who is just trying to be her best self, most of the time.

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Some Things Stick

Sunday, February 29, 2004
Happy Leap Day! i just had to post today, even though i don’t have much to say. eh.

last thursday we went to happy hour at Houlihan’s (it being the closest thing to a local bar) and we were playing the trivia game. as usual, i was kicking major ass. i looked over to my left and noticed the guy sitting next to me. i had to look again. and again. and then i had to ask Freddie if he would look at the guy.

the guy was a dead ringer for Bono. hilarious. hair, earrings, everything. it made me laugh. he was playing trivia too. and his nickname?

Bono.

HAHAHA!

so we’re all playing and goofing off and stuff and Billy Squier comes on the music. FakeBono and his friend start arguing about whether Billy Squier was in Band-Aid or not. FakeBono says no, the friend says yes. so they tap me and ask me. heh.

Me: no, Billy Squier wasn’t in Band-Aid.
Friend: but didn’t he sing a christmas song?
FakeBono: [singing]: but tonight thank god it’s them, instead of you….
Me: yeah. he did that ‘christmas is the time to say i love you.’
Friend: oh. RIGHT!
FakeBono: [to friend]: see! i was right! [to me]: you know how i know that?
Me: because you look like Bono? unhealthy fixation, perhaps?

turns out that FakeBono is in a U2 tribute band called Unforgettable Fire. ACK!

unfortunately, i didn’t get a chance to talk to FakeBono much more because that’s about when Freddie decided we needed to leave so he could watch The Apprentice. heh.

I almost NEVER go back and read my own writing because so much of it is uniformly terrible. This, however… this is an interesting snapshot into how my brain worked back then and it’s amazing to me how far my writing has come since then. I’ve been a first-person observer for so long that I am having trouble transitioning to straight academic writing, but the one thing I know I DO have is a clear voice and a pretty good command of the English language. Even when – especially when – I make up my own words. This post right here is a good illustration of how much I’ve improved, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m glad I finally embraced the use of capital letters – is there anything more annoying than some pretentious asshole blogger who thinks she’s worthy of this kind of conceit? e.e. cummings and bell hooks can get away with it because they are fuckin’ geniuses. I’m more of a special-ed genius.

It blows my mind that 2004 was 12 years ago. I have problems wrapping my head around that sometimes because it doesn’t feel like more than a decade has passed since I wrote this little blog snippet.

We were pretty close to being Actual Adults by then. I was 29, Freddie was 30, and we were living in our very last apartment before buying our first house later that year. We both had like, real office-type jobs (he’s still with the same company whereas I have had at least 5 other jobs since the one I held then because I am bad at adulting, we’ve come to find). We weren’t planning to have kids, ever (oh, how the universe LAUGHED AT US), but we had a cat. Our decorating style had progressed from “post-college desperation” to “we went to Value City!” We were, as the song goes, movin’ on up.

I remember this particular day SO clearly. We met friends at Houlihan’s after work, which we did most Thursdays. They had trivia at the bar (it used to be called NTN but now it’s BuzzTime) and because I am full of random facts and useless knowledge, I was in the lead. Over the years, I’ve found that this really pisses people off. My handle is “Piglet” and every now and again, I’ll see dudes peer around the bar, all “who is this Piglet? Fuck, man. I want to beat this dude at least once!” They always, always, assume that a guy is at the top of the scoreboard because ladybrains? Get the fuck out of here! No way a LADY can beat a dude at trivia! But I can, and I often do. There was at least one guy across the bar, looking around and muttering when I was tapped on the shoulder by FakeBono. To my credit, I neither laughed nor spit my beer out (I was likely drinking Bass or something else boring… the switch to craft beer happened later).

This incident makes me laugh every time I think about it. I’d like to bump into FakeBono again, because I have so many questions that have occurred to me over the years. The tribute band is still together and still playing, according to their website, so maybe I will get a chance to do that and let them know that I think of them every time I hear Billy Squier’s “Christmas Is A Time To Say I Love You.”

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