About KK

Nixon baby with female parts and a truly bizarre, totally normal family. Read as: Erma Bombeck on jet fuel.

This Side B’s for Adam Yauch

Like most folk, when I think of certain music, my brain generally redirects to memories made during specific points in time. Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Bluejeans” will always be the song Mom and I played at full volume along the backroads of Texarkana in the Trans Am sans T-Tops, heh. WRR was the only radio station that played on my cubed, beloved Sony Dream Machine’s alarm clock — the backbone of my Carter years. And so on. When I accidentally saw the Beastie Boys open for Madonna in 1985, though, the musical barometer for the rest of my life was pegged. After that, there was never a Beastie Boys’ era for me, per se. They were always just there for the rest of the ride — the bad and the good stuff alike.

Russell woke me up this morning with the rotten news: “Adam Yauch is dead.” I knew MCA’d been battling cancer, but I thought it’d gone into remission and that he was going to make it. This was MY Beastie Boy. I hate to see him go. It’s heart-twisting, heavy-hitting. Through the years, MCA had become my old friend from the other side of the speakers.

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I told Russell that Adam’s band haphazardly managed to have always been in the background of my entire adolescence and adult years, like those guys’d made a deal with the devil or something. I knew them when every house still had a record player with its crappy original needle, when cassette became king, CD following shortly thereafter. I bought their music when we all started feverishly turning toward records again, but this time calling it “vinyl and wax.” It didn’t matter if they had a song in the Top 40; buying Beastie Boys at the record store was still cool, even for music snobs. After Al Gore invented the internet, erm, we didn’t have to dig for the rare stuff anymore; you could get the Beasties on mp3. Happy/sad. They stuck the course and adapted in their own way, often setting the tone for an entire culture. They taught us it was ok to be assholes as long as we were also morally conscious:

I want to say a little something that’s long overdue. The disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends. I want to offer my love and respect to the end.

I had a fistful of records when I first heard the BBs. These days I can’t park my car in the garage because we’re overwhelmed by so much music in this house. I would be a fool to think Adam and Co. didn’t influence a lot of the stuff I love. After all, those three MCs have seen me through my entire musical journey, taking over exactly where my parents left off, weaving in and out between my pop, goth, PR, reggae, Americana, modern classical phases of life. They were there. Always.

In junior high I was playing “Brass Monkey” on my tape recorder when a boy on the school bus in the row across from mine decided to show everybody his dick. I can’t listen to that song now without thinking about being shocked by the sight of little Jackie Tarwater’s penis, the first one I ever saw. Gad. One minute I was a preacher’s daughter from a small town in northern Texas. The next minute I was trapped in an outtake from License to Ill. Magic.

My friend Anna’s parents used to let us borrow their gigantic camcorder when we were in high school and shortly thereafter. I still have several of those tapes — different nights in Deep Ellum and at friends’ parties. In all of those silly windows from our yonder years, the Beastie Boys were back there behind whatever was going on, busting rhymes while we’d lipsync dressed like Lady Miss Kier Kirby. Gag. We knew all the lyrics, all the samples, all the everythings. I was probably never cooler, looking back.

Lori and Gabe and I spent hours listening to Check Your Head. I remember an entire night staring at the evening’s clouds rolling past while we were lying on some kid’s trampoline. One of of us had ordered a lyric sheet from an address on the cassette, and we all took turns reading through the leaflet, reveling in the knowledge of mysteries unfolded: “It’s ‘I think you’re funny with the money that you flaunt,’ you guys.”

Ill Communication was California: mountains, ocean, my Mustang GT 5.0. That was when I turned into a bonafide grownup: married, about to have a kid, three states away from my comfort zone. The Beastie Boys, with this record, were also miles away from where they began. They were adults, having soldiered through their own rites of passages, and charging forward in musicianship. In the afternoons, I’d open all my windows and blare “Get It Together,” every version — and not a soul ever complained.

When Bella was born, she was unintentionally a Beastie baby. There wasn’t a frown “Intergalactic” couldn’t cure. Music during that time was so serious, except for this. And, man, that video sure was a relief from all the otherness on MTV during its time. We put “My name is: Hello Nasty” name tags across her diapered booty and watched her run around with her Teletubby toys. I shouldn’t have been so surprised last year when I was listening to Hot Sauce Committee, and Bella appeared from her room dancing and singing along, “Mom, I didn’t know you had this record.” Why would she say that? Because it was cool? Who was she talking to? Of course, I had that record. Pfft. Now the Beasties had crossed generational lines.

Like Star Wars.

And Apple.

A few weeks ago, when I was under the impression everything was going to be ok for MCA, “Sabotage” came on the radio. We’d been talking, but my fourteen-and-a-half-year-old Bella interrupted me.

“Sorry, Mom, but you know we can’t listen to this song unless it’s loud. Really loud.” And we turned it up and sang-yelled that thing so hardcore that I started to cry a little because it was so incredibly awesome to be doing that with my own teenaged daughter.

After Russell broke the news about Adam Yauch this morning, I realized how important MCA had been throughout my entire life. As obvious as that should have been, it never occurred to me. What a great rock star he was, a champion of goodwill amongst men, a mouthpiece for my generation. Tonight, I’ll drag out my paper thin B-Boys’ “Goodbye, Mr. Hand” t-shirt and celebrate the past twenty-seven years I’ve known a guy I never met. The guy who “never rocked a mic with the pantyhose” was right:

There’s somethin’ coming to the surface. There’s fire all around. But this is all illusion. I’ve seen better days than this one. I’ve seen better nights than this one. Tension is rebuilding. Something’s got to give. Someday we shall all be  one.

High five. See you on side B, Adam.

My Valentine Totoro

It is Valentine’s Day. I’m supremely fortunate to have a valentine who makes my heart jump every day.

When I walked down the aisle two years ago to Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E,” I carried a bouquet Russell and I made using origami flowers and white hydrangeas the night before. Our vows were strikingly similar, so much so that my father asked me before the wedding if we’d written them together. Staring at the floral paper remnants of that arrangement each day, I am frequently reminded that we have a unique and special partnership balanced by a free-spirited, whimsical practicality.

Russell leaves tiny love notes for me rolled inside metal caplets under my pillow, in my coat pockets, etc. At the fair, he wastes money trying to win silly stuffed animals for me to carry around. He makes my coffee every morning even though he doesn’t drink it himself. He pulls my boots off when I get home from work, and he makes hot tea. He always lets me watch my terrible DVR’d shows before we watch his brainy stuff. He rubs my shoulders even though his hands hurt. He gets my car inspected and makes sure my oil is changed. During the day, he always texts me, “I love you!” At night, he drags his night owl body to bed early so we can fall asleep next to one another.

But I don’t love him only for all the little things he does for me every day; I love him for the things he does for my mother and my child, too. When there’s a school function, he always makes plans to attend. He poses thoughtful questions to Bella’s teachers and emails them. He checks her grades online. He makes sure she has money in her school lunch account, and he is the first one to reward her for special achievements. When Mom needs a “tall person,” Russell is always there, always putting together her IKEA finds, always answering each honey-do chore without complaint on his way home from work. This man I married, he sincerely cares each moment of each day — not just when February 14th falls on the calendar.

I know it’s gaggy, but I want the world to know: I really love this guy, his big brain, his quirks, his flaws, the way he always has to hold hands in the theater, the way he looks at me like he has from the beginning as if I am the only girl in the room — even in a room full of girls who are five billion times prettier than I could ever be. I love that he keeps his metal records around from the eighties and that he beat-mixes Sesame Street and his DJ scratch vinyl without warning on any old Tuesday night. I love that he is loyal to his friends without limit, yet is honest with them even when what he has to say may not be what they want to hear. I love that he is kind to animals and to people in need; I love how he isn’t afraid to regularly give up his time to volunteer, like it’s his duty. There is no one I admire more than my valentine. He really does mean the world to me.

Infinity plus one. Thanks for being mine, my Totoro.

 

Since September

Not wanting to polarize the animal rescue effort with my politics and personal beliefs, I’ve been writing elsewhere, including here.

In September, as you may know, my kid and husband and I set out to volunteer at the State Fair of Texas with a local dog rescue group. We were looking for a way to get Bella interested in community service doing something that we felt she’d enjoy as well as find educational. I never expected it would change my life.

I knew the world was full of dark cracks in the pavement that we often avoid out of convenience. I didn’t know, however, that I could find such joy within those cracks. Animal rescue always seemed like an overwhelming task, and I wasn’t sure I could make a difference. I know that’s not true now, having seen exactly what happens when people stand together in responsible action.

We have a home with only two spoiled cats, both previously rescued before we ever thought to set out for the fair mission. I think frequently about how much I love them and how happy they’ve made us, about what a huge change their presence has brought in our home and about how lucky we were to find them before they were euthanized. Once at the fair, though, I quickly realized we could easily repay the rescue effort by offering to foster just one dog at a time.

Just one dog at a time made a difference to every family who is in love with their new forever pets, families who would never have had the opportunities to discover their new BFFs if rescues hadn’t stepped up. Just one dog at a time saved a dog on death row. Just one dog at a time saved a rescue from having to board an animal, enabling scarce resources to help other animals with medical needs. Just one dog at a time has taught us that the world is full of hope within those dark pockets.

Soon enough I discovered that people want to help, but sometimes aren’t sure where to begin. Even though we’re complete noobs in this world, friends who wanted to volunteer have asked us how to get involved, where to get low cost vaccines and care, how to avoid taking an animal to a shelter. Neighbors started alerting us to other animals who needed a hand. It seemed contagious, pleasantly, and that put a kind perspective on something I thought just a year ago was too daunting to undertake — even just one dog at a time.

During an adoption event, a sixth grade girl petted one of the dogs our group is fostering. She told me about how her parents divorced, that she wished she could have a dog or a cat, but that they couldn’t at that time. I asked her if she thought her parents would let her help me with the rescue cats who live at a local pet supply store, awaiting adoptive homes. Her dad agreed, so we exchanged info and agreed to meet the following Saturday.

That evening I received a barrage of the sweetest text messages ever from the excited girl: What should she bring? Could we play with the cats outside of the cat condos? Would it be okay if she helped every week? She thanked me with a lot of smiley-faced emoticons. I told her she needed to thank herself.

That Saturday the girl arrived fifteen minutes early, ready to scoop cat poo and disinfect the cats’ homes. She wanted to work and did so like a complete trouper.

Later in the evening, she again texted me about how happy she was to help. Remember, we’re talking about a kid here, folks. My heart melted.

Over the course of our past few play dates with the kitties, this young girl, kindly dropped off by her parents on their respective weekend visitation schedules, inspired me tremendously — maybe more so than anything else I’ve seen thus far in my journey. She’s giving up her Saturday evenings to help a total stranger care for animals who have no homes. This girl is going to, in turn, show other kids how easy it is to become involved in whatever is important to them.

Really, that’s all it’s about, right? Passion is a great thing, but action has to follow.

The dogs and cats have taught me a valuable lesson about people. We’re a good lot when we put our hearts and minds together, you know. So grateful for this opportunity.

Just one dog at a time.

Just one person at a time.

We are closed: Roadtripping with Mom

A cop called my mother “feisty” once. He was right on. Once Mom gets something stuck in her head, there’s no stopping that party — and you will be her guest, like it or not. Knowing that, I agreed to accompany her this week to “the best concrete statue distributor ever!” (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking either.)

“I really want a giant rooster, and I don’t care what my neighbors think…bu-u-u-ut I’d have to rent a flatbed, so I’m getting a bench instead.” She wasn’t fooling me. I knew that rooster was going to end up on her front lawn come hell or high water.

In exchange for driving about four hours roundtrip to the middle of BFE, I was promised giant, painted, concrete poultry standing at attention in rows of yard art-y wonder. I admit, I was oddly looking forward to that.

An hour and a half into the trip, we made the unavoidable side jaunt off Hwy 35 to the Czech Stop in West. As I pumped gas, Mom went inside to spend nine billion dollars on kolaches. Russell texted, “Mr. Peppermint died.” I went inside to find Mom, suddenly feeling a little less resentful about finding myself on a road trip to a lawn sculpture place in the middle of nowhere with her.

“Mr. Peppermint died? No! He can’t die,” she said. (Good point. Noted.)

We talked about Dad and the school board and the cats and my sister and Russell and Bella and Bella and Bella. The radio never came back on. We talked about gardening and plans we had for fixing up our yards. We talked about labor unions and doctors and lawyers and philanthropy. We talked about Mom’s upcoming missions.

In Lorena, Mom bought a hundred dollars worth of cheese and chocolates. It was very Wallace-and-Gromit. We ate the kind of food I only thought people sold at the State Fair of Texas. Mom described life as a preacher’s wife in Eddy, where her parsonage was forced to pass a white glove inspection by the little blue hairs there in 1963. Back in the truck, we ate a whole package of homemade truffles in five minutes. I told her, licking my fingers, “Those little old ladies would have heart attacks if they tried to bring white gloves in my house right now.”

And then, just like that, we arrived at the concrete place.

It was a Monday.

I got out of the truck and took a few photos before Mom realized we weren’t bringing home a gigantic cock-a-doodle-doer.

They were closed. Russell calls this the Indian Curse after the time Mom dragged us four hours north to Vernon for a powwow that hadn’t happened in three years. Then there was the long trip in the squashed car to the infamous Creation Museum Uncle Paul and I wanted to scope out, also closed. Then there was the time the Griswolds went to Walley World, and it was, yep, closed. I could go on.

Mom asserted from the passenger’s seat, “Look, I called to make sure the cheese cafe was open.”

[Smile]

I couldn’t help but laugh at the circumstance from the side of the gravel entry. “Mom, you know this is going in your eulogy if you die first.”

“I know, I know.”

Still, I’m kinda glad the concrete people weren’t there that Monday. That was how the trip needed to end, I think — standing there, laughing outside of the closest thing to Peppermint Place that Hwy 35 has to offer. Mr. Peppermint might have reminded us:

When you feel unhappy, nothing seems worthwhile. Just give yourself a peppermint grin, and you will wear a smile.”

 

On the way home, we cracked up as we read Russell’s return text messages about the photos we sent from Concrete Statue Nirvana. Mom, smiling and goofy, acted like a teenager in her new shirt from Forever 21, enjoying her fourth month of retirement. This was fun.

Maybe not as much fun as the Griswolds had after they broke into Walley World at gunpoint, but, hey, this isn’t our last trip either. There is plenty of time for Walley World after Peppermint Place.

Giant gorilla in dino PJs, yes. You saw that.

Behind the baby elephant with the tennis shoes, there's Mom's rooster. It's only about twelve feet tall. That's it.

Giant creepy things, fondling their nether regions?

For the Ogden Nash garden. I might have an Ogden Nash garden, hm.

I love you, Mom — you and all of your travels.

Clap, clap clapsssssss!

This is great news from the SPCA. Taylor Licare, a Texan youth, spent her summer operating lemonade stands. Last week, she presented the SPCA with a check for her earnings — $600.00.

Someone give this kid a few gold stars.

If you’d like to donate the proceeds from your lemonade stand, give the SPCA a shout.

And God bless the Texas heat for once!

(photo from http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150262606808978&set=a.424963808977.210060.12876978977&type=1&theater)

 

Hold your head high, kid.

Watching the live Wisconsin recall election returns feels like watching the Superbowl — if the Decepticons were playing against the Justice League. As I type, the score is: Decepticons – 3, Justice League – 2. We’re in overtime, and somebody’s about to win. Big.

The crowd behind MSNBC’s Ed Schultz is clearly rooting for the Justice League, and so am I. As we wait for the final votes to be counted in the race between Sandy Pasch (D) and Alberta Darling (R), a very familiar uneasiness is rearing its ugly head — that head belonging to one Kathy Nickolaus, Waukesha County Clerk.

Perhaps you might remember Nickolaus from the Wisconsin Supreme Court brouhaha in which two days after the results were announced, the clerk miraculously discovered over 14,000 votes she neglected to tally. Rachel Maddow dubbed Nickolaus as “the only famous county clerk in the entire nation.” Once again tonight, the country is on the edge of its seat wondering why in the world Kathy Nickolaus and Waukesha County are unable to count votes in a timely manner using the same voting software and equipment that caused no controversy anywhere else in the state.

Something fishy this way comes. Again.

Behind Ed Schultz stands a young girl holding a sign and an American flag. Earlier in the evening, she seemed hopeful, obviously excited every time the Justice League pulled ahead. Now, as the shenanigans have become apparent in Waukesha County, her face is full of real anxiety.

I remember how this feels. When Reagan won, I was about the same age and cried all night because I was scared that he was going to blow up the planet. (Turns out, he only ruined the middle class.) I wish I could tell this kid that’s it’s going to be okay.

But I can’t…

…because it was just announced that Alberta Darling has won.

Hold your head high, kid. Don’t cry tonight; just keep fighting the Decepticons.

Why does Chase Bank hate animal rescue so much?

This week, volunteers for a well-respected Dallas area animal rescue group, DFW Rescue Me, were denied access to one of their adoption sites because Chase Bank did not want to risk possible damage to the grass in the parking lot from the group’s walking dogs. Although the volunteers with DFW Rescue Me maintain they do and will continue to clean up any excrement, the branch representative still would not compromise with the pet store who was sponsoring the event, nor would Chase entertain the idea of the rescue workers being allowed to use any part of the shopping center away from its grassy areas.

For those of you who might be wondering: Yes, this is the same Chase Bank that was amongst the top four failing financial institutions bailed out recently by the American people in an unprecedented giveaway of around 800 billion dollars in total. They pissed on our lawns for years with their poor mismanagement and complete disregard for business ethics, yet the company is unwilling to clean up its mess with the public even after we rolled up our sleeves and did the dirty work for them.

Here is what Jim Wenger, Co-founder of Rescue Me, has to add:

For further information on how you can assist, contact DFW Rescue Me. The animal service has a variety of volunteer opportunities available and is always accepting donations at any level. This is a well-operated, professional, non-profit organization that deserves to be honored in our community.

If you have an account with Chase that needs to be closed or would just like to voice your opinion, contact the company at: 1-877-682-4273. If you would like to call the specific branch of Chase responsible for waging this campaign against animal rescue, please contact its management: (214) 827-8611. While you’re on hold, shoot Chase an email, too.

I haven’t seen it with thine own eyes, but this grassy area in the parking lot must be one of the world’s seven wonders in order to elicit such protective measures. Is it solid gold? Is it landscaped with moon rocks? Who knows! Let’s go see. If you would like to check out Chase’s grassy area in question — perhaps even with a friend who has paws, the location is: 6310 E Mockingbird Lane, Dallas TX, 75214.

You might need directions. I’d hate for you to miss this spectacle of spectacles known as The Grassy Area in Chase Bank’s Parking Lot:

6310 East Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75214 – Google Maps

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Update: 8:46 p.m. from DFW Rescue Me: “We have had an overwhelming response from our DFW Rescue Me supporters. The branch manager has contacted us and we are working towards a resolution. Chase bank is very much in support of our rescue efforts and it was the actions of one misguided employee that caused the situation.” Michael from DFWRM adds: “I’m hoping that if we’re successful in resolving this problem, we can then get the same kind of response with animal friendly folks sending thank you’s to Chase for modifying their position!” Stay posted.

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LATEST UPDATE 10/2011: Given every opportunity to right the situation, Chase Bank has opted to ignore the staggering number of requests from the Dallas community. In fact, everything Chase assured the rescue about supporting adoption efforts and DFW’s bevy of concerned citizens has yet to be demonstrated by the financial institution’s failure to act. Like other local businesses, Chase was even offered the opportunity to sponsor an event through the State Fair of Texas and repair the bank’s less than philanthropic appearance locally as a result of the animal rescue episode. Instead of becoming part of a community solution, Chase, by its continued lack of solidarity and unwillingness to rectify the rash actions of its branch representative in the above instance, has made the decision to stand against helping animals on euthanasia lists find homes. 

It is important to understand that taxpayers locally spend $111 on average every three minutes to euthanize animals. Chase has blocked a solution to this crisis, choosing to ignore many taxpayers’ wishes. That’s pretty high and mighty of them after how hard we worked to bail them out of their gross financial mismanagement just a few years ago. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Banned Books

As a young mother, I took my daughter to the library for story hour at least twice a week for years. Without a doubt, it was the best way I could have ever helped her get a head start on just about everything. One thing always stood out for me most on our trips to the “Museum of Books” — the signs hanging all over the children’s section that told them to: “Read Banned Books.”

It was a brave thing, I thought, and a great point. If we don’t read banned books, we’re not living in a democracy where Freedom of Speech is respected. So, yes, at all costs read banned books!

Recently, reports surfaced that Republic High School (Republic, MO) banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Well, alright. That’s one way to get high school kids off of Facebook long enough to bend the spine of a GREAT piece of literature. After all, the fastest way to convince a teenager to try something is to label it “forbidden.”

On Friday, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis responded by offering the students free copies of SH5. But there’s a “but”: The institution doesn’t have a fat wallet, and they are asking for your help. With only enough funding to provide Missouri students with 150 novels, plus shipping, the institution is requesting supporters and all those who find book-banning distasteful to make $5 donations via PayPal so that every student who requests a novel can be included.

And God bless you…Kurt Vonnegut! (For the nerds, heh.)

Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

When I was pregnant forever ago, I dreamed I was observing my daughter as an adolescent, living her daily life, becoming independent. I remember wondering, as I woke up, if I’d ever be able to look at her without being emotionally overwhelmed by love and fear and everything else. I knew I wanted to give her the world, but how? Parenthood seemed like such a symphony of emergencies when I was full-bellied-with-baby.

Then she went to kindergarten.

Began reading.

Discovered her own music.

And, suddenly, she was on auto-pilot — needing me to only serve as a bumper guard for her awkward, burgeoning life. (I’m not fooled, though; this is what I’ve been rehearsing for since my kid was born.)

With the potential for so much sensory overload, it’s important to steer our surly junior high replicas down good paths whether they seem to like it or not. Being a valuable parent is about making choices for our children and then allowing them to choose their own options from there. It’s not rocket science.

Or, maybe, it is partially rocket science.

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