Saturday, November 28, 2009

driving mr. schneider: my day as a runner for the bob schneider band (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

I am sitting in the lobby of Bob Schneider’s hotel, waiting for my favorite rock star to finish showering and get back into my car. As I say this, I still can’t believe Bob Schneider was just in the front seat of my car! It’s even more surreal than the time I touched Kip Winger’s stomach. I look in the bathroom mirror at my face. It’s older than it was this morning, and I have a bunch more new silver hairs sprouting from my center part. But I don’t bother with refreshment makeup or my hat. I find a giant round ottoman close to the coffee bar and try to stretch my still-crippled back by lounging. I imagine I look like a black widow stricken with the Cruciatus Curse—or, worse, like one of those sit-com women who tries to seduce a man by splaying herself atop a bed, putting her body in several awkward positions, eventually giving up and doing something hideous, at which time the boyfriend comes into the room. I prop myself against a mirrored column and call a friend.

I’m a groupie. It doesn’t mean what you think: I am an appreciator, an aficionado, an enthusiast—at least when it comes to a few individual bands (most of whom are mentioned by name in the acknowledgments of The Book). I like seeing live bands more than I like food; indeed, I get through this entire day on a scrambled egg and some beer. I bask in the afterglow of sweaty rock stardom much the way Hendrix the Creature, our bearded dragon, basks on a rock: with his tongue out and a big snaggle-toothed grin.

It’s not celebrity. I wouldn’t wait in line for an actor’s autograph; would not seek out the artist at an opening; don’t care much to meet my favorite writers (I would have my books signed if the line is short). It’s not about sex, either—at least I don’t think it’s about that, though who has not imagined making out with an attractive, talented, famous person (Bruce Springsteen comes to mind—a lot). Hell, I’ve thought about making out with Brandi Carlile, and I don’t even swing that way.

It’s music. Music makes me swoon. Music and lust and love are intertwined in an intoxicating three-way.

Maybe I think that rubbing elbows with talented people will take me back to when I fronted a band and performed every weekend for dancing crowds who knew the pretentious words to my eighties band’s songs (a time before we had computers, sonny). Or maybe all this psychoanalysis of my musical motives is bullshit, and I’m just an old band whore with a solid moral center and a flabby self-image.

When Bob comes down from showering (does he look even better with wet hair?), I barely see him because I’m trying to catch the score of the Ravens game, out of bored curiosity rather than concern. And I think it’s the first time Bob even looks at me, though it may be with a little bit of annoyance—I can’t tell. I just smile.

We get in the car, and he wants to know about museums and galleries, and I give him as much of the scoop as I know about the Visionary and the probably-closed galleries up Charles Street, where I don’t take him, though I could easily have given him a brief tour. We had time. Instead, I turn down Light Street as he admires the bird skull I’d hung from the rearview—it replaced that awful blue and gold Goucher tassel. And now, because “where’d you get it?” inevitably leads to Marty, which leads to "what does he do," which leads to my humorous-but-misrepresentational answer, that “he's an atheist-communist teaching at a Catholic school,” I am sucked, and I mean shop-vac’d, into a discussion about God—or god, as it is in my case.

Oh, why couldn’t we be talking about his son’s little electric guitar or naming the album of songs left after my favorite ones were put on The Californian? (I suggest The Baltimorean, and he loves the sound of it, says it a couple of times, nods, “The Baltimorean, yeah!”)

Without turning his head, Bob asks how a person arrives at that—at atheism. “It’s just another brand,” he tells me. Perhaps it would be, I argue, if we actually celebrated or reveled in the atheism, but we don’t. I’m looking straight ahead, like a deer in the headlights, but with a view of the Maryland Science Center and encroaching traffic. If I crash, it will be God’s fault. “Every religion known to man, from the ancient Egyptians to the present-day religions, is founded on Do Unto Others, and I think we know that moral code from birth. It’s innate. It’s why we feel bad when we hurt someone’s feelings. And those who don’t have that conscience turn out to be psychopaths and sociopaths. I don’t think god can save those people,” I say in similar words.

Is Bob answering me? I don’t know. I am busy rambling about how ridiculous it is that people who treat others with cruelty get to accept Jesus on their death beds and go to heaven. I talk about how I’d rather think of the pretty trees—which change color, lose leaves, come back with a whole new sense of tree-ness—as miracles and everything else man’s fault. Otherwise, if we give credit to a god for the good things, we have to blame him for the Holocaust and kidnapping and rape.

Poor Bob. He might as well be a member of my family now; he can’t get a word in edgewise. He tries to clarify that he’s against organized religion, that it’s just another “brand,” too; he is struggling not to be misunderstood. Or maybe he is listening and thinking. I can’t tell. I am absorbed in making the case for atheism, practically turning it into the irreligious conviction I had previously denied.

By the time we are at the venue, the conversation comes to a halt with the car, and I practically shove him out the door—“Out you go!” or “Well, here you are!”—and go to a bar to drink with the Raven maniacs.

Not exactly. First I make friends with a football-fan-hating cop, who allows me to park with my rear end hanging past the sign. Then I run into Harmoni while strolling back past the club. “There’s so much cool stuff,” she tells me while looking through a store window. She’s lamenting all the money she spends in cities before shows, and I ask what she can do besides shop. “I will sometimes go to a park and take pictures,” she says, and I tell her about the view from Federal Hill, about overlooking the Visionary Arts museum. I’m attempting to walk her out the door, maybe go with her to the hill, but she’s hinting that she’s a solo flyer, so I point in the general vicinity and take my cue to duck into the bar.

I am on duty, but I’m waiting for sound check, which I expect to be between 4:30 and 5:00 and take about an hour. So a 3:00-ish Sierra Nevada is not irresponsible. I’d rather be eating sushi with the guitarist or on the hill with the bassist. After my beer, I charge my phone in the car, and talk to Marty and my sister, who wonders if Bob'll do "Titty Bangin'" tonight, as if I could gauge that by our god discussion. I get Ted's text, and I'm off to sound check.

It’s uneventful at first—a lot of nnns and uuuuhs and “more monitor” and wire detanglement and cord arrangement, but eventually it’s time for drums, and Conrad Choucroun takes his spot at the kit. He looks up and sees me on the second floor. He waves. “Hi, Leslie!”

The whole world stops. Nothing else is happening. At all. (Hint to men: women like this.)

In a few minutes, I’m (mostly) over the flattery and taking pictures and even secretly, guiltily filming a little of the sound check. An hour later, when it’s all over, my handshake to Conrad is replied with a hug. Bob asks for dining advice, and Harmoni worries about time and a shower. Both she and Conrad walk to my car for a lift.

"So what are you working on now," Conrad asks. "Another book?" I'm surprised. I didn't tell anyone about the book—not Ted, not Bob. Perhaps they looked me up on Ted's laptop, or maybe he looked over the summer, when I added him as a My Space "friend." He wants to know if it's a food book, but I say I'm over that and working on a book about going to rock and roll camp. I tell them how hot Kip Winger is in person, and then we segue to crime, and they want to know if it's really like The Wire. I get graphic with my tale of the guy who died on my corner, how I watched the last blood gurgle from a murdered gang banger’s mouth on the corner of my street. I was robbed at gunpoint. And my parents were mugged and my mother beaten up in front of her house. And my sister was robbed at gunpoint at work. "But it’s not
so bad."

I write my cell phone number on Conrad’s key envelope (he still hasn’t called), and I start the driving race—home to pick up Marty and Serena, to my mom’s to drop off Serena, back to the hotel to pick up Conrad and Harmoni. Uptown, across town, and downtown across town. I am there in 43 minutes, despite having to turn around to get Marty's show ticket. I'm three minutes shy of my 7:00 promise, but my charges had only just come outside. When they get in, I apologize for scaring them out of their wits, and they both laugh, somewhat relieved; I might have really worried them. Then Marty does all the talking for the rest of the drive, asking the questions I should’ve asked—how long they’ve been playing, whether they like being in Bob’s band, where they live. Back at the 8x10, I get an excellent parking space, find my name on the guest list, and go inside to drink. I deserve it.

The show’s opening act, One Eskimo, is like a slowed-down Phil Collins with one long, ethereal song performed by not one but four Eskimos with unusual hair. I drink two pints of ale during their short set (and get a third once Bob’s band comes out). Meanwhile, Marty is flirting with two blonds. He picks them up by telling them his wife drove Bob Schneider around all day, and one of them, the drunk dumb one who's my new best friend, says he must really trust me to let me—his hot, young wife—do that.

Marty sits on a stool against the wall with his bleary eyes closed most of the night. I’m on the side of the stage with a couple of friends and have a good view of everyone except Harmoni and Ollie Steck, the horn player. Only once during the show does the front man look my way, and when he does, there’s a slight smile of recognition. Bob is Bob. He sings great, cusses, gets crude, and peforms what I call “The Pussy Song.” I don't like it, but it dispels any rumors that he’s really become Daddy Man, making his songs and shows safe for Rachel Ray’s viewers. Actually, Bob's usual audience is probably those very same viewers—women who love it when someone talks dirty to them. The men love him, too, for getting to say all the things they'd like to but would get slapped for. And he warms up their females. A Bob Schneider show is all the foreplay most people need.

I don’t get a chance to shout out my favorite song, “Game Plan,” and that’s OK because Bob plays “The Hulk.” I yell a thank-you afterward, as if my liking the song in the car that afternoon reminded him to play it.

The show lasts about two hours, by which time I’ve had three pints of beer and leave without my Frunk or any goodbyes, except a text to Teddy asking him to save me a CD of the show. Marty drives us home, and we both agree it was one of Bob Schneider’s best, most hard-rocking shows. That’s all we say to each other. And while my husband is upstairs asleep at midnight, I eat leftover lasagna and think of all the things I should’ve done differently—from my fashion choices to the quality and quantity of my conversation. My biggest regret is not getting any casual, daylight, non-concert photos, for fear I’d look like a fan instead of a professional rock ‘n’ roll driver.

I also regret not using this perfect reply when Bob asked what my husband did for a living: "Oh, he's a titty banger from way back."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

driving mr. schneider: my day as a runner for the bob schneider band (part 1)

On Saturday morning, while my husband and daughter share cinnamon Bismarcks and chocolate donuts, I am getting intimate with a roll of paper towels and a bottle of glass cleaner in my car. I wipe away a year—that’s when my car was last cleaned, just before back surgery—of dog noses from the rear window, grime and bird shit and squashed bugs from the rest. I scoop up piles of hair and lint from the vinyl stick shift bag. I put away CDs that might be embarrassing, stick down a dashboard hula given to me months ago, and scrape off the entire cast of Sesame Street, save Elmo, applied for then-two-year-old Serena; I still love the furry red monster, and I do a wicked impersonation of his R-rated off-camera commentary (“Boys and girls, Elmo needs a cigarette and a six pack real bad”). I take my graduation tassel down; it was only there to hold the pen, which had long been missing. I throw away a ripped road atlas and a mountain of gum wrappers.

That I was cleaning my ten-year-old Pathfinder could only mean one thing. Somebody important was getting in it.

I had volunteered to be a runner for Bob Schneider’s band—someone who would take them where they needed to go—places like the hotel and the venue. I forgot about hating driving, erased the fact that my daughter's first cuss word was in imitation of me yelling at other drivers, dismissed the thought that it could be a nightmare with a Ravens game, already well attended but even more serious with their nemesis, the Colts, in town. But I said yes and wondered how I’d break it to my husband—who has seen about seven years of my bad behavior at Bob shows—that my fantasy might be sitting in my front seat.

My husband feigns hurt that I would clean the car for Bob but not for him or our daughter, yet on Sunday, he takes over the shop vac, sucking up every speck of dog hair from the car's floors and seats and head rests. He can't help it. He loves Bob, too.

It’s probably an odd thing for a forty-(inaudible mumbling)-year -old woman to be doing on a Sunday from noon to eight p.m., during her daughter's last soccer game. It's a task that requires several days of advance preparation, what with clothes shopping, dieting, and hair straightening. I’ve been told I do weird things, that I “squeeze the fun out of life.” (I’m not sure whether this means I kill it with strangulation or suck out its best juices.) But I write what I know, and there’s only so much knowing you can do sitting at the kitchen table with your laptop. And there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for good music. I do not, however, dress on Sunday morning in anything that plunges. I do not, as my sister and husband both suggested, pack a change of underwear. I do not wear my BABY, HERE'S YOUR GAME PLAN t-shirt. I'm in the Threadless haiku tee and black cords, my usual brown cowboy boots, my old Indian hat, and a black jacket. My hair is straight.

I had what I thought to be a pretty realistic grasp on what runner detail would entail: I might take Harmoni Kelly, the bass player, to buy a new lipstick; shuttle Conrad Choucroun between hotel and venue; hunt down several cans of Rockstar Energy; separate and remove all the green M&Ms, because surely Bob doesn't need to get hornier. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with the front man in the front seat of my SUV; I doubted he'd even get in my car.

My first assignment, from a sleepy Ted Roberson, tour manager, is to deliver Ted and Eric-the-bus-driver to the hotel from the 8x10. I stand outside the bus and wait for them to emerge, pack them up, move them out. When we arrive at the hotel (which hotel is privileged information), Eric tells me he is pleasantly surprised to find a woman driving a stick shift and a truck. Ladies don’t roll like that in Texas, apparently.

The second unglamorous order of business is helping Ted get a new laptop plug from to the Towson Apple store. It is a ten-mile schlep, and the tour manager, who is, follicle-ly at least, nearly identical to a young Bob Ross (he of “happy trees” fame) is friendly but not exactly a self-starter in the talk arena. First I offer him a red-hot atomic fireball; I'd jammed a whole box of them in the side pocket of my door because they're great appetite suppressants. Ted turns his head slowly, like I'd somehow turned into Afro-dite, like the atomic fireball was only the best edible confection known to man. He holds out his hand to receive the individually wrapped, irresistible red tongue burner (and, careful, tooth breaker). Then I entertain him with exciting tales of my guitar prodigy daughter, my thoughts about Billy Harvey having made a mistake leaving Bob’s band, and my opinion about Bob Schneider’s latest album, the cuss-less Lovely Creatures. Ted says that many fans have conjectured that foul language (songs like “Titty Bangin’” are always crowd pleasers) was holding him back from national recognition. But the real reason for this change is Bob’s four-year-old son, which has made him more sensitive to how he behaves in the world. Bah. I don’t know Bob, but I don’t buy it. I think he’ll always know when it's inappropriate to be inappropriate. I pray to the music spirit that Bob does what I call “The Pussy Song” tonight—just as a sign that this Daddy Virus hasn’t affected his gauge.

Serena, almost twelve, has been a Bob fan for most of her life, and let me tell you it was quite a feat quick-turning the volume up and down in anticipation of the fucks and shits and motherfuckers on nearly every record (but especially The Californian, my personal favorite). Eventually, I let the songs play thinking she wouldn’t notice, but she did. For awhile, she’d cover her ears until the offensive word had passed. But soon she just started singing along with “The Sons of Ralph,” and it was all over. (I have a recording of Serena, 9, and my nephew, Graham, 7, singing "Party at the Neighbors.” It’s a testament to the ageless appeal of the Bob.)

Ted thinks his boss will be a household name (and not just in my house) in about six months from a combination of good airplay and his guest appearance on Rachel Ray in early November. He sure holds sway with middle-aged buxom brunettes. By the end of our twenty miles, after discussing Ted’s work as a sound engineer and Bob’s lunatic fan base, we are back at the bus. I tell him I'll hang around Federal Hill so that I can see sound check, though parking is ridiculous during game day. After about ten minutes of riding up and down the same four blocks, I finally come upon someone leaving at 1:45. That’s when my phone buzzes with a text: “Hey, bob would like to go to hotel before load in. I would say within the next 30 minutes. If you could be available to run him over that would be great.”

Bob. The hotel. Bahhhhhhhb.

I find guitarist Billy Cassis on the corner with Ted searching for any glimpse of Bob, who has wandered up Cross Street in road-trip haze. “You know what it’s like to be driving in the bus all night and wake up in the morning and just wander out into a strange place, not knowing where you’re going,” he says. I don’t. I usually wake up and bolt out of bed, fresh and alert, I tell him. But yeah, I do understand. You go on the inertia of road hum. Billy was with Bob on the summer tour, replacing Jeff Plankenhorn, a guy so brilliant that he deserves the cover of Guitar Player. Like Billy Harvey before him, Plank left the backup band to attend to personal projects.

Cassis is only about my height, handsome, with a soft voice similar to that of Billy Harvey. He is both funny about and sensitive to an elderly lady on the street. She’s carrying a grocery bag with Charmin in it, and she looks lost. I’m a little worried that it’s me in a few years—some old ho hanging around a tour bus in front of a nightclub, wishing she had misspent more of her youth.

Bassist Harmoni Kelley returns from wandering the neighborhood and is excited about a thrift shop purchase. Billy thinks that place might have something that matches my own style and tries to sell me on a trip there, but I’m a working girl after all. And I have a Bob Job.

I move my car to the alley, half on the sidewalk, and wait for the man who finally comes in the crosshairs, heading toward us in Chuck Taylors and his FAYM (short for Fuck All You Motherfuckers, of course) hoodie, carrying an issue of The Goon under his arm from a visit to a comic book store. In the daylight, without the drama of darkness and ale, without the magic of crude lyrics and one of the best rock voices a person could hope to hear, he’s just sort of a boy. I move my car off the sidewalk so he can get in, and we go, a little quietly at first. He asks what I do. Well, I drive rock stars around—and apparently not well. A cab has stopped in the street, and I try to go around him, but the light changes too quickly, and I have to back up out of the lane of oncoming traffic. Something like this has to happen when you’re with someone you like. (For years I’d see a secret crush, and I’d always be in sweats with a bad cold and messy hair.)

I tell Bob I’m a writer and a photographer. He wants to know what I write, and I do not tell him that I wrote the book I gave him last time—I don’t want him to think I had any fantasies that he’d have read it or even cracked it open to see whatever I’d scrawled in pink marker to him after I’d had a pint of Smithwicks before the Annapolis show over the summer. It’s not really a man’s book, after all. And it’s certainly no Goon. So I tell him I’m working on a book about rock camps, and I brag on my daughter some more. At one point, I joke: “Now that I have you in my car—“ but he looks a little squeamish, so I just ask what was up when he wrote the songs from The Californian, songs that are entirely different from his usual repertoire. But he was not, as I’d suspected, going through some manic phase (like I was at the time of its release). It was more like what happens when a praying mantis dies and goes into overdrive. It was Billy Harvey’s last album, and it was going to be recorded live in the studio, using all of Billy’s best Billy-ness to go out with a bang and a double-record set. But a friend listened to it and said, “Why not put all these hard rock songs on one album?” So he did.

Bob doesn’t do a lot of those songs at shows anymore. He stopped doing my favorite, “Game Plan,” in favor of the title track. “I have so many songs,” he tells me, including the ones he hasn’t even put on a record yet. But he fears he’s getting a little like his dad, a musician who had a huge repertoire and one day just started playing the same twelve songs over and over again. I think at some point my daughter is going to say that about her father, who is now in his Pink Floyd and Yes phase of guitarring in the kitchen. I ask about his son, who likes to sing in his home studio and wonder about the song he inspired and “cowrote” with his dad, “The Hulk.”

“I don’t do that song anymore,” he says, almost wistfully.

“I like that song a lot,” I say, wistfully.

We’re at the hotel, so I help him get his key from the front desk, and I sit down to update my Facebook status—something like “is at the hotel with Bob while he showers. In the lobby. Hooray for clean. Boo for lobby.” But really—hooray for the lobby. And hooray for finding my own way here, to this point in my life.

To be continued.

(Next: God is Bob’s friend, and drummer Conrad Choucroun is mine.)

*Kissy-face-Bob manipulation by Steve Parke

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

stepping away from the cake

The scale at Weight Watchers showed a 3.4-pound loss after the first week. That's almost three and a half pounds of cake research (and beer research and Halloween candy research, et al.) gone. I realize it's time to step away from the cake in other ways, too.

As you know, I don't blog about confections, though I used to when I was working on The Book. Those days are gone now, and, though I would have loved a bestseller, I have to face some hard facts: I'm no Chesley Sullenberger. I'm no Sarah Palin. I didn't live through Columbine. And these are tough times. Some of us can't even afford a Ding Dong, much less a book that disses a few of them.

So I've redesigned my website to reflect my for-hire photography skills, and I've fixed my blog to reflect that I am more than my first book (and even my second book).

It's not a sweet parting of ways. I'm disappointed that Let Me Eat Cake won't be released in paperback, that it could easily wind up in the cut-out bin, that I didn't get on The View or feed cake to Stephen Colbert. And I could have done a lot more to promote myself.

I don't have that kind of head—the kind that can hand out business cards by the dozen to strangers and friends, that can impose on people, that can beg, that can toot my own horn in any but the can-you-believe-the-luck?! way. And most of the people who can do that are overbearing and obnoxious. For me, it would have been like wearing clothing that's many sizes too big; I would have lost myself.

That doesn't mean I can't or won't ask, every so often (but not face-to-face!) that you buy the remaining copies of The Book, especially from your independent retailer, if a copy can be found there. I worked really hard on it, I tell you tearfully, if the truth be told. And it's funny. And the person you give it to this holiday season will probably really like it a lot.

In fact, I have two signed books I would like to sign and give away, completely free, even the shipping. Here are the conditions. 1. If you like the book, please post a favorable review on Amazon and B&N. And 2.) Please share it with at least one other person. Leave an email address in your comment, and I will put your names in a hat and have a drawing next Monday.

(P.S. You can still see old Cake posts and links to author interviews and reviews at The Cake Life.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

fall's fabric

fall's fabric

the fabric of fall
is a narrow gleaming strip
between bloom and detritus,
at once fresh and frayed.
autumn is weaver,
seamstress, singer.
she is the glee
and the lament.
birds and squirrels
scavenge the yard
for scraps we’ve sewn—
swinging tube of seeds,
bucket of black walnuts,
worms plugged into moist ground.
these are the days
of luscious comforts,
down and cider, fire,
the crow’s song sung
to the tune of radiator hum,
rhythm tapped by knitting needles.
I have worried all the buttons
on this shrunken, ill-fitting year,
and its first good breath
is a last colorful gasp
with flaming maple leaf confetti.
adieu, adieu,
remember me
it calls as the last bright remnants
are stitched into the waning light.
I will.
I will.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

she hearts guitars

When my daughter left the house this morning in her school uniform, she was carrying far too many things: a backpack, a hoodie, her lunch box, a 20-ounce water bottle dangling from the handle, a book, and a magazine. It wasn’t just any book, either; it was a heavy one, the sixth Harry Potter, which she reads voraciously. I looked at her, stuff in each hand, on her back, slung over her shoulder, and hanging off her head and thought how uncomfortable and bogged down she seemed. I wore a fanny pack exclusively for about twenty years (until I was robbed of it at gunpoint—another story) because I loathe carrying things. I wanted to relieve her of some less-necessary stuff, but it was all imperative.

The magazine leaving the house with her was the latest Musician’s Friend catalog, which we’d all given the slow once-over. Serena has read it again and again, always with vigor. On the first pass, she said, “Guess which guitar I want.” She’s been angling for an SG—Gibson, not Epiphone, because she’s a brand snob—but since we saw It Might Get Loud, she has eyes only for the double-neck. So I guessed right.

This morning, with all the stuff she carried, why did she add the burden of the catalog? “Because I like looking at guitars. I like dreaming about guitars,” she said, with the kind of fluttery-eyed ecstasy she used to reserve only for my cooking.

I think I’ve lost my daughter to rock and roll.

I am grateful that it’s only rock and roll (and I like it too). And though I know that in the not-distant-enough future, she could easily be making that face over a boy, I can see her on a Gretsch poster, hair and eyebrows ala Brooke Shields, with the caption: Nothing comes between me and my Hollow-body Electromatic.

Well, a mom can dream.

Serena’s first complete sentence, besides “Mommy, diaper, have it?” which she asked at the pediatrician’s office when he didn’t believe my fourteen-month-old child knew over 100 words (“OK, never mind, I believe you,” he said after the diaper sentence), was this: “Hi, boy, kiss you?” The first time she used it was in the Safeway, and she promptly chased the boy out of line, arms outstretched more like a zombie kissing machine than an awkward toddler.

My girl spent the rest of her first decade finding a way to hang with the boys. For the first five years, that meant eschewing Barbie dolls for Legos and trucks and creepy pirate-y toys with a billion pieces. For the next five, it meant never wearing a dress or her hair down. We had to shop in the boys’ department, or she wouldn’t wear it—even t-shirts with skulls.

But I feel the strong, strong wind of change. The other day, Serena got in the car and couldn’t wait to tell me that her math teacher had played them a Heart song—“Dog and Butterfly”—a song we both used to play and sing. Heart is Serena’s current favorite band—and not just because she likes the music but because a girl plays the acoustic intro to “Crazy on You,” and it’s hard. One of her best friends for nine years said, “Ew, what is that awful music?” She shot him the look of are-you-crazy-or-just-lame? and said, “It’s Heart!” at which time he rested his case. She just shook her head. “He doesn’t know anything,” she told me.

Music has always been a litmus test for couples, so it’s probably not uncommon, even for a ‘tween girl, to start clicking her tongue and rolling her eyes over some boy’s (or parent’s) unsophisticated, undereducated tastes. And I’m glad she’s made this her priority rather than, say, soccer, which she declared three years ago was her “life.” And rather than using her guitar to play the boys, she is more concerned with outplaying them.

I think that what surprised me was the look in her eyes. It’s going to be hard for my lasagna and stuffed peppers to share that look of rapture with pictures of fancy guitars, even when they look as hot as the new rainbow SG Zoot. Oh, baby!

But I'd rather she get that way over a guitar than a man, like her mom. Oh, baby!