Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, November 22, 2018

It’s the Great Pumpkin Juanita Mantz

I’m in Vegas with my hubby and the moms. And, I’m missing my dad today.

Dad loved Vegas and would have loved to go with me to Vegas if he was alive. I imagine us sitting at the bar playing Keno together or side by side at the blackjack table. I imagine myself pointing at him and telling the table, “that’s my dad.”

We would both be up early and eat breakfast together. He would order hash and eggs or pancakes.

Dad’s gone so it’s not to be. But my mom is still here and part of writing this is to remember that and savor my time with her.

Dad also loved him a thanksgiving. Dad would cook for hours every thanksgiving. He would make a turkey, mash, a ham, potato salad and more including his ambrosia fruit salad served with orange jello. As a kid, as I have said before, I never appreciated it. But I do now.

Dad would always watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown with me and my sisters when we were little. To me, the moral of that cartoon, if indeed there is one, it is that sometimes faith is not rewarded. But that doesn’t mean you stop believing.

And dammit, I’m a believer. Just like Dad.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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.