Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Morrissey and Me (Again)

Is it weird that I only feel truly alive at a concert? More on that later. For now, let me tell you about my latest Morrissey concert.

On November 1st (which was Day of the Dead), I was up at 6 am searching the set list from Morrissey's show the night before in Ventura. As soon as my husband Adrian woke up, I showed him the set list bemoaning the fact that we had missed his Halloween show. "Look at this,” I said scowling. “Morrissey sang all of my favorites!"

At 10 am, I received a text from my husband while I was in court. "There are tickets on sale for Morrissey's show tonight for the pit at the Microsoft in LA. U wanna go?" Hell yes, I thought to myself. Then thought, double hell, hell yes.

Even though I was in court doing my usual public defender gig, I had to let go a little yelp of excitement. Joan Jett was opening for Morrissey and the Microsoft's pit was amazing. I texted back within two seconds, "Hello, of course!!!!! Love u!"

The rest of the day at court, I was the happiest girl in a criminal courtroom. I was singing and humming Morrissey and Smiths' songs under my breath all day: "Is It Really So Strange", "Sing Your Life", "There is a Light That Never Goes Out", and "First of the Gang to Die". I would also throw in a little "Cherry Bomb" by Joan Jett's first band The Runaways for good measure.

I rushed home after work, leaving an hour early to be safe, and me and my husband drove to Los Angeles. We made sure to arrive to LA by 6 pm to make sure we didn't miss the opener, the one and only Joan Jett. Joan Jett was on my bucket list. I had never seen her perform live and had loved her since junior high.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hit big in 1982. As a young girl growing up in Ontario who loved music, I wanted to be Joan in her tight leather pants rocking out on her guitar. My three rock sheros back then were Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Belinda Carlisle. I listened to all of their albums on repeat and worshipped them.

After parking at the 30 dollar lot (yuck), we got a table at the Wolfgang Puck's outside the Microsoft Theater and waited for the doors to open at 7 pm. I had one beer then switched to Diet Coke. This was going to a sober show for me. I didn't want to miss any of it and I planned on being by the stage and knew I wouldn't be able to leave to use the bathroom.

What haunted me was my drunken self at Cal Jam around my birthday. I had left Foo Fighters early after too many beers and after the set, all of the remaining members of Nirvana had reunited and they played six Nirvana songs. I call it, the one that got away.

There was also a merchandise booth that was already open outside the front doors of the Microsoft and I was able to buy a Morrissey sugar skull shirt. Hubby bought the Morrissey shirt with James Dean's face (the one Morrissey would later wear during his set at Tropicali and on the Late Late Night Show with James Corden).

By seven pm, the doors to the Microsoft opened and we lined up on the left side of the building for the pit. I met a girl from the high desert who had grown up in Ontario and went to UCR undergrad like I did. We chatted and as the line began to move, I started jumping up and down in excitement.

I stopped jumping when the lady in line in front of us started screaming at security. She was pissed that security searched her bag and mentioned that she had waited on the wrong side of the building for hours to get to the front of the pit. She kept screaming and crying the whole way in. I felt bad for her. Any true Morrissey fan knows that getting to the front of the pit is serious business at a Morrissey show.

As soon as we got inside, I ran to the stage and was able to find a place right at the stage on the side. Joan Jett came on 7 pm and rocked it hard as she played all of my favorite songs: "Cherry Bomb", "Do You Want to Touch Me", "Bad Reputation", "Crimson and Clover" (which was so beautiful I teared up), "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and of course, "I Love Rock n Roll". I was screaming along to every song and I was so close that I could see her wide smile and shining eyes as she rocked out.

After her set, I begged someone to hold my space and ran to the bathroom. Adrian was sitting in the back of the pit and I exclaimed, "Oh my god, that was amazing!" We talked for a bit then, when the video came on, I knew Morrissey would be on soon and rushed back to my place at the stage.

Morrissey came on with just a little fan fare. He was wearing the same sugar skull Morrissey shirt I had bought earlier.  I was so close. I could see the expressions on his face when he came over to our side to sing. The first song he sang was a Smiths' song and I swooned and sang along to every word of "William It Was Really Nothing."  Next up, "Alma Matters" then off his new album "Low in High School" a tune called "I Wish You Lonely" which captures the sadness inherent in life with a message of resilience at the end.

I started jumping up and down in excitement again when I heard the opening strains of "Hairdresser on Fire" and Morrissey was on fire following it with the Smiths' song "November Spawned a Monster" then my favorite song off his new album "Spent the Day in Bed". I screamed when he sang "Sunny" (lamentations on love lost) and then after a few more, the "piece de resistance": Morrissey's cover of Chrissie Hynde's "Back on the Chain Gang".  It made me weep with joy that song. It's the way Morrissey sings it with such melancholy. It was the climax for me, and after, I went to stand with my husband Adrian toward the back of the pit. I wanted Adrian to hug me from the back during the show and he did and we swayed to the rest of the concert. Right after I left, of course, Morrissey bent down and shook everyone's hand in the area I had been in. But, I do not regret it because I would rather sway with my love.

The rest of the show went too quick. In Morrissey's rendition of "Break Up the Family" you could hear the nostalgia and sadness of looking back on his younger years and where he is now. Next up was his sexiest song, "When You Open Your Legs" which always makes me shiver in delight and then after a few more grand tunes, the encore of "Everyday is Like Sunday" and the Smiths' song for the ages, "How Soon is Now".

The lights stayed dim even after Morrissey and his band left the stage. I felt the downside of a concert, the minute the lights came on, the familiar stab of disappointment. It was over.

On the way home in the car, I tried to make my euphoria last the only way I knew how, by rehashing the concert and singing aloud to Morrissey's music. We hit traffic and by the time we got home to our home in the Inland Empire, it was after midnight.

After taking off my winged eyeliner and brushing my teeth, I put my head on the pillow and dreamed. In my Morrissey shirt of course.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Family Matters

The job of a writer is to illuminate the human condition, but it can lead to maudlin thoughts at times. Then, something really bad happens and you think, what was I so upset about before because this is a true catastrophe.

And, something really bad happened. Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law was hospitalized with a life threatening condition.  I raced to the emergency (my husband had to drive me because I could not drive) to support my sister Annie and her daughters. I kept praying to myself on the way, "Please God, keep him safe. Let him be OK."

Thankfully, he got himself to the emergency and they transported him to a better hospital and he is awake. But, two weeks later, he is still in the ICU. It will be a long road ahead, but I know he can do it.

It was horrible to think that we could have lost him. Horrible times like these give you perspective. Because, you only know how important family is when you almost lose someone important to you. We all get caught up in the day to day. Jobs, family, bills, and entertainment. It is easy to just forget what is really important.

It is not as if I didn't know. I had been reminded recently of how short and fleeting life can be. We lost my husband's brother six months ago and the only word I can use to describe the experience is traumatizing.

This time, we will have a happy ending. My brother-in-law Vince is strong. My sister Annie is also resilent and supportive and most of all, kind. She will be his rock. I’m so proud of how she has weathered this storm. Annie has positivity and faith. Belief is hard when bad things happen, I know, but it matters too.

Yet, still, it reminds me of how fragile life is. How we must make the most of every moment, lest it be our last. And go for your dreams. Dreams are everything.

Speaking of dreams, on Monday, I saw my twin sister’s dissertation defense. I sat in the conference room and it was like we were kids again and I was cheering her in the stands. My heart swelled for her. My swollen heart felt so big in my chest that I had to hiccup to avoid weeping. Me and my twin don’t always get along, the family chaos we were raised in permeates our relationship at times, but I love her. We are twin souls and wonder twins. And, I felt Monday was a new beginning for me and Doctor Jacqueline Marie Mantz. I thought about what my dad would say. Dad would be amazed that he, being a poor boy from Montana, has a daughter with a doctorate.

Ultimately, what I am starting to see is that family matters. It is everything. And I’m glad I have one.

Friday, October 5, 2018

it's my birthday and I'll cry (or not) if I want to

I am a big baby about my birthday I admit. I want messages, cards, presents, events and more. I was feeling a bit melancholy about this year and this particular forty something birthday. Yet, this morning when I woke up at 5 am, I felt, well, happy.

I snuggled my dogs, sang a song I made up (I always sing when I'm happy) and practically whistled as I trotted down the stairs, dogs in tow.

I even smiled as I fed the dogs which can be a taxing process. Chewie eats from the bowl, but Frodo makes me feed him his wet food by hand. This has been going on for months. I do not know when it started. One day, Frodo wouldn't eat his food so I fed it to him with my fingers and now that is the only way he will eat. This drives my mom crazy. "Why do you baby them" she mutters to me.

But, it's because I love them. My dogs' little shih tzu faces are the best thing in the world. And, they love me back, unconditionally. And while they may not know it is my birthday, Frodo and Chewie know something special is going on because for the last few days I have been decorating for Halloween.

The house looks incredible. I put a ton of witches, skulls and skeletons. We have a glowing pumpkin and I put up my Halloween dolls on the mantle. The dolls are named Pumpkin Head and Witchy Poo (basically caricatures of me and my husband) I found them at the grocery store last year in a post Halloween sale for 90 percent off.

In fact, Chewie just tried to pee on Witchypoo. She had fallen from the mantle. Instead of yelling, I shooed him away and said, "She will curse you if you do." And yes, I think Chewie understood me.

Even when the dogs started fighting over their blankets, and who was sitting on whose blanket, it didn't faze me. Nothing can. Then, when hubby came downstairs at 6 am and complained about all the lights that were on and all the noise, I laughed and made a joke about how it was going in my blog. Still smiling.

The best part about today is that I am seeing Billy Idol at a concert down the street from my house. And if that can't make me happy, nothing can.

I guess the moral of this story, if there even is one, is that today is a good day and Sunday is my birthday. Don't you forget.

Monday, October 1, 2018

this is forty (something)

I turn forty something on Sunday. I am getting all the closer to a touchstone birthday and with that closeness comes some melancholy. To combat the sadness that eased into my mind as I woke up this morning, like a fine mist breezing into my brain at 5 am,  I will try to remind myself to be grateful.

And I am grateful, truly grateful. This year has been filled with loss and sadness, but also with great moments of joy.

We lost my brother-in-law Gabe at the young age of 54. But we became closer to his son and son's mother as a result. That was the silver lining on the deep dark cloud that about destroyed my husband and mother-in-law.

Mere weeks after Gabe's death, I presented my story "Witchypoo" at the AWP writing conference. I had struggled with whether to go. Despite everything my family was dealing with, I went and met a friend I will have for life. And came back able to weather the storm of grief that had enveloped my family. It's been eight months and the fog is just beginning to lift.

And then there was Macondo. A life long dream of a writing workshop. Traveling to San Antonio and meeting my literary idols was inspiring and created a sense of purpose in my writing. I also reconnected with old friends and made new ones.  It is really something that cannot be described in words. Macondo is beyond that. It is kinship.

And I saved some lives along the way. Trials are stressful, but for me, it is about the clients. My clients are the most voiceless, and to get paid to tell their stories of mental illness is a gift from God.

See dear reader, I already feel better. Tears are brimming in my eyes as I write these last lines. But I can breathe again.

And will.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wonder Woman

I am sitting here at 6 am watching Everybody Loves Raymond and writing in a mumu and my Bowie socks. I have already picked up the house, fed and watered my dogs, made and ate my own breakfast (vegan pancakes and faux sausage) and am about to take the dogs for a walk. It got me thinking about all I do.

My job is more than demanding. I don't write about it much because it is technical, intense and at times very sad. I represent people at the state hospitals who are incompetent to stand trial and it is a stressful and surreal experience at times. Public defenders get a bad rap in the media, but everyone knows you only stay in this job if you love it. And I have been here a decade and adore my job, taxing as it is.

I also have two dogs, a writing career on the side and I serve on a magazine board as well as a nonprofit rehabilitation center board. We also caretake for my mom in law. Add in my love for music and obsession with live shows and some days, it is all too much.

This Thursday, I have a show at Pappy n Harriet's in Joshua Tree (The Breeders yeah!) and have to be at March Air Force Base at 8:30 am the next day (did I mention, back in the day, that I was the veteran's court attorney for a year?).

Then, on Saturday, I have an overnight writer's conference in Wrightwood. I have classes all day Saturday and  I am performing in a spoken word contest Saturday night (I have written the pieces but need to practice). I know, woe is me, but it is a lot. I am blessed to have these opportunities, but I think I may need to put on my Wonder Woman underoos and a cape to do it all.

I think, why do I do this to myself? But I know why.

I truly believe that life is here to live. To love. To be present and happy. And for me that means music and my writing. These things make me happy, plain and simple. And I want to be happy.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I had a really bad day the other day. My client's energies were off, they are PC 1368 incompetent for trial so energies are always off, but this day was worse than usual. It was traumatizing. Enough said.

After court, I was sapped. I felt a tightness in my chest. I couldn't relax. My heart was racing. My mind was spinning.

I decided to go get a quick 30 minute lunch massage at a reflexology spa and it worked wonders. I felt bad for my therapist and I groaned as his fingers took away the pain in my neck and upper and lower back. Finally, I could breathe.

It made me realize that my job is toxic in many ways. I need to learn to block but it is hard. Most people know that I am naturally empathetic. But empathy can go too far when it harms you mentally and physically. A spiritualist and writer I know advised me to go to the ocean and pick a shell and keep it in my pocket to ground myself in court. That's a good idea but I have yet to put it into practice.

What I want the most is to feel like me at work. Not irritable or stressed, but the real me. The JEM who is happy and sings out loud. But maybe I am not that person. Maybe that person is the person I want to be. Or used to be?

My goal in the next month (it's my birthday month so it is a good time for rebirth) is to be the positive energy in the world. In my world. I pledge to be happy no matter what. To find joy in the mundane and even within the institution of criminal justice.

It is after all a choice to be happy. And I choose joy.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


A phrase keeps repeating in my head, this is all an illusion. Yesterday, my phone rang and rang. My head banged and banged. I read thousands of records. I sent emails and I made my own calls.

Does any of this really matter? I mean it does as far as work. I have a calendar and cases for trial to prep. But sometimes, I think we get caught up in the minutaie. In a week, will I remember everything I did? Or will it all blend together and melt in my mind like ice cream in a bowl? Maybe Facebook is a way we remind ourselves? The minutiae becomes pictures, memes or text.

Last night, after my rough day, I sat on the couch eating cereal and watching The Great British Baking Show. My dog Frodo knew. He wouldn’t leave my side and somehow his presence made it all OK. Just his breath. His heat next to me. The rhythm of his panting and beating heart. It sustained me.

Is that what having a child is like? Being distracted by love and from mid life musings by carefree and joyful youth? I wouldn’t know. I’ve given up that dream and many others. But some still remain. My book, my writing. The need to memorialize it all.

To show we were here. I was here. Life is not an illusion if something tangible is the result. The book on your coffee table is someone’s lifeblood. All those stacks at the library mean something. Don’t they?