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I originally published this article in The Portlander on August 20, 2009. Since then, Storm Large has published a gripping memoir that is a great ride and a great read. If you did not get to see her one-woman show, go buy the book and imagine her performing it for you right there in your living room.
This is my nod to Storm. You go girl!
It’s Sunday at 2pm, and the Ellen Bye Studio at the Portland Armory is sold out for the last performance of Crazy Enough, the one-woman show that is Storm Large’s life story. The sign at the door warns of explicit language and adult subject matter, so you wouldn’t expect to see your mother or your grandfather there in the audience, but they are.
On the small stage: three male musicians and one very tall microphone stand, which has everyone whispering, “Is she really that tall?” The lights go out, the music comes up, and when the lights slowly return there she is: all six feet of her, wearing sneakers, loose black pants, and a fitted tank top that leaves nothing to the imagination.
There is some small talk, and then the tall confident woman on stage quickly transforms into a vulnerable young girl who is desperately trying to find some stability in a home that has none. And thus the gritty ride begins.
The audience is rapt as they watch Large try to navigate the completely unpredictable nature of her schizophrenic mother, who is there one day and institutionalized the next. Large painfully relives the moment when a doctor tells her that insanity is in her genes, and she too will be fighting the same demons some day. She soothes herself with promiscuity, alcohol and a heroin addiction.
The audience is stunned to silence, brought to laughter, and tempted to tears, watching her gripping life story unfold at their feet. She has their hearts in the palm of her hand as she takes them willingly on a journey of wanting, desperation, hope and finally love.
By the end of the performance there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Storm Large is not just another voice talent, but a formidable actress and incredibly engaging performer. She reminds the audience that, “Life isn’t safe. It isn’t always quiet. And it certainly isn’t small.” The lights dim, and she exits the stage one last time. It is clear that although her run with Portland Center Stage has ended, this show will live on if Large is willing to revive it in another venue.
Storm Large is in fact crazy enough and her life is indeed one big exclamation point.
When a girlfriend asks you to run a half marathon on her “birthday weekend” you can’t refuse. When she tells you it’s kind of hilly, but there’s a great after party, you just have to suck it up and sign up.
July 10th 2011, marked the second annual Fueled by Fine Wine One-Half Marathon held in Dundee, Oregon in the heart of wine country, and Team Bubbles was there to suffer and celebrate.
I picked up the Team Bubbles Captain (the birthday girl) at 5:30am to make the drive from Portland to Dundee, and we arrived with just enough time to drop off our post-race paraphernalia at a friend’s house, meet up with the other members of Team Bubbles and head to the park down the street for the 7am start. I knew I was in trouble when the first turn across the start line was straight up a 45-degree hill into a Dundee neighborhood. The paved road quickly turned into gravel when we turned off into a winery at Mile 2.
Then the fun began.
Running along dusty dirt paths between rows of vines reminds me of the fact that picking up the rear on a dusty road is never a desirable position to be in. I used the water at Mile 3 to wash the grit out of my mouth.
And Miles 4-12 weren’t much better. Some of the terrain was so steep that I could power walk it faster than I could run it. I heard more F Bombs uttered in this race than I have in any other race, including the three marathons I’ve run.
“Are you f*cking kidding me?! Another f*cking hill?!” was the mantra of the day.
At some point between Mile 12 and 13 we turned onto a paved road and encountered one of the few downhill portions of the entire route. Thankfully I still had a good kick left and sprinted the last mile of downhill to the finish line where the rest of Team Bubbles was already standing in line to collect their wine glasses for the after party. We quickly grabbed our glasses and went straight to the Argyle table for a glass of what else but bubbles.
I pity the poor people who chose this race as their very first half marathon. They have probably all hung up their running shoes and decided this whole half marathon thing just isn’t for them. Don’t give up! The Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon is just some crazy person’s idea of seeing how much torture runners will endure if there’s free wine at the end. Apparently the answer is “a lot.”
We worked our way through the post-race nosh of salami, bread, cheese and brownies, and sampled plenty of wine. In the end we raised our glasses of bubbles in a toast to surviving the crazy course, and swore we’d never run this race again.
The day after the race I drove 647 miles to Lake Tahoe. When I stopped to get gas after four hours of driving I could barely get out of the car, let alone walk. I have been running for 30 years, and I felt like I had just run a marathon for the first time. I lived on Advil for three days after this race. But like childbirth, you forget the pain, and even though we all said we would never do it again I’m sure you’ll see us standing in line at the wine tent after the race next year with dirt on our shoes and smiles on our faces.
I started my week with a trip to the Doug Fir (one of my favorite live music venues) to see a little band called One Eskimo. I sent out an email the previous weekend trying to round up some friends to go, and I got a lot of responses saying things like, “I can’t make it because…” You fill in the blank.
I honestly didn’t care, because I was determined to go no matter what, even if I had to go alone. I had seen One Eskimo at the KINK Live Performance Lounge a few months back, and I wanted to come out to support them for the end of their U.S. tour. Besides, it is a kid-free week for me and I need to socialize!
My friend Michael ended up coming with me.
It was one of those really crappy rainy days that came on the heels of the deep freeze in Portland. We met at the Doug Fir bar upstairs a full three hours before the show was to start, and just ate dinner, had a drink and caught up.We hadn’t seen each other in person for many many months.
We finally walked down the stairway to the basement venue and it was almost totally empty. We stood around the bar, looked around the room, and decided that this would make the most awesome party room in a house.
People slowly started filtering in to see the first band whose name I couldn’t tell you because when they had the chance to introduce themselves the lead singer said, “Hi, we’re blesd leits. Thank you for coming.” Obviously their name is not “blesd leits,” but that’s what we heard.
Michael turned to the bartender and said, “What was their name?” The bartender pointed to the poster above the bar that said something with the word lights in it (I still don’t remember).
“What is with these bands and their mumbling?” I said. “They have this great opportunity to get their name out, and they wait until the end of the set to introduce themselves and then they totally blow it.”
“Believe me I know,” said the bartender. “I have seen a lot of bands from behind this bar, and there are three things I want to tell them. One, get some decent publicity shots. Two, Banter with the crowd, Three, say your name clearly and say it multiple times.” Amen!
The first band never talked to the “crowd,” except to self deprecate when they messed up a song.
When the band had finished their last song, and the crowd of about 50 people started to buzz again, Michael and I began to observe. There was a group of 20-something friends at some tables against the wall. A dreadlocked girl approached the table. One of her male friends turned to see her approaching and they both smiled with enthusiasm and embraced in an unabashed bear hug. They were not a couple. They were just friends who were happy to see each other. And not one of them was texting. They were there with each other, and fully present.
“What has happened to us?” I asked Michael. “Why don’t people our age have that much enthusiasm for each other?”
“I know,” he said. “They seem so naive and innocent.”
So what has happened to us? Have we let Facebook and Twitter replace our need for real human interaction? We put our most intimate emotional needs out their in a status update and hope someone will comment and fullfill that desire to feel needed and loved.
It’s a bandaid for a fatal disease. Real social intimicy is dying.
I struggle to get my friends to go out to hear live music, find a new restaurant, taste some new wine.
If the Internet died tomorrow, where would you be?
One Eskimo came on at 10pm, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed at their lack of interaction with the crowd as well. Very little eye contact, no banter. I enjoyed the music, but I enjoy it more when the band interacts with the audience, especially in a small venue like this where you can actually see the people you are playing for.
Even bands have forgotten how to be social.
I stayed afterwards to talk to one of the band members (Pete Rinaldi). We talked about the tour, the fact that they’ve been wearing the same clothes for a year, and how they’ve been stuffed in a decrepit van traveling the U.S. We talked about what it feels like to go home after you’ve been away for a while.
I think a lot of us have forgotten.
Unplug more often. Hug more often. Remember what it feels like to go home.
I am going to start moving past blogs from MySpace to this site. Those of you who are subscribed via email or RSS feed may get bombarded over the next few days. Just wanted to give you a heads up.
Welcome to my world. Fasten your seat belts and open your minds, and come with me on the wild adventure I call living.
It’s A Muse View.
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Billy Idol was playing at the McMennamin’s Edgefield Amphitheater (more like grassy knoll) last night, and I was lucky enough to witness the spectacle with my friend Charlie.
This is my friend Charlie. I was doing my best Billy Idol lip and I have no idea what Charlie was going for with that face? WTF?
Charlie picked me up in Old Town where I work, and if I had been standing on that corner much longer someone would have tried to sell me drugs or ask me “How much?” Okay, Charlie actually arrived before I did, so that didn’t really happen, but it could have because that’s what Old Town Portland is like.
We drove out to Edgefield in beautiful Troutdale, Oregon in record time. Troutdale is known for three things:
1. It has outlet malls.
2. It’s the exit to take if you’re going to Mt. Hood (snowboarding!)
3. Jubitz Truck Stop, “Two bits at Jubitz will get you…” Oh never mind.
We turned into the venue and saw two signs: One for a wedding and one for a concert. I looked at Charlie and said, “A wedding on a Monday night? Is it the only night they could get?” Charlie jokingly replied, “Maybe Billy Idol is the wedding band!” Wouldn’t that be amazing. Turns out we weren’t that far off.
We parked in a big grassy field like the other hundreds of concert goers, and noticed something odd. I looked over at Charlie and said, “Oh my gosh. We’re here with a bunch of old farts. Look at these people.” Yeah well, those old farts are my age! People were carrying vinyl Idol in to get autographs!
Issue 1: Grass everywhere. I have grass allergies. I had taken a Zyrtec, but I was still sneezing.
Issue 2: We get up to the entrance and the guy checking bags looks at Charlie and says, “Is there food in that bag sir?” Hmmm, let me see. It’s an Elephant’s Deli bag. Brilliant detective! Yes, there’s food in it. “No food allowed in the venue sir, because we sell overpriced crap like hot dogs inside.” He didn’t really say that last part about the hot dogs but it was true. We took our food to a grassy hill just up the hill and had our dinner picnic outside the venue in peace. Much better idea anyway.
We finally went inside (a relative term since the concert was outdoors) and got in the shortest line at one of the bars, which was still 20 people deep. But those bartenders had their art down to a science. They were mixing drinks fast and we had our Herradura Silver margaritas in no time.
Now off to find a spot that hadn’t already been staked out by a group of drunken mullet-heads with vinyl albums in their hands. We found a spot on the slope behind a guy with his two daughters (probably eight or nine years old). I figured they’d be pretty fun to stand by, and I wanted to watch the dad explain the inevitable (Billy Idol cussing, bras onstage, topless partiers, etc.).
The view from our spot
The concert was supposed to start at 6:30, but Billy Idol didn’t actually come onstage until almost 7:30. He did not bound onstage. He did not run onstage. The guy practically needed a walker! Where’s the Billy Idol I remembered? Gasp. No more bleached blonde hair, but he does still have the trademark do. He looked, dare I say, tired
He stood in a 10-foot square area in the middle of the stage for the most part, and didn’t move much at all. He did finally find some energy during the second half of the show. I saw Billy Idol on a double bill with the B52’s in 1983, in the gym at University of New Hampshire on Halloween! That is the Billy Idol I remember.
Billy left the stage three times during the performance, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for 10. Charlie and I came up with a list of things he could have been doing offstage:
- Taking a nap
- Changing his Depends
- Shooting up heroin
- Having a quickie with one of the many groupies
I can make these jokes because I am almost as old as Billy Idol! Turns out he was just changing his clothes each time (at least that’s what he wanted us to believe).
And now for the highlights
Acoustic White Wedding: Billy Idol and Steve Stevens did an semi-acoustic version of White Wedding, and it was awesome, Then they broke into the commercial version, and we finally started seeing some energy.
Steve Stevens: Steve Stevens has been with Billy for 28 years. He did a solo that had me mesmerized. That guy is by far one of the most talented guitarists I’ve ever seen. Purists might disagree, but I could watch that guy play for hours.
Billy Idol has Abs: Believe it or not the guy is still in great physical shape (on the outside anyway). He has great abs and he’s 52!
The Wedding Party: Yes, there really was a wedding going on that night, and the entire wedding party came through the concert crowd with their photographer at one point. However, they completely missed “White Wedding,” which Billy played very early in the set.
The Topless Women: There were two women MY AGE who were up on someone’s shoulders taking their shirts off and flashing the band. This was a bad idea on a number of fronts. First, not attractive. Second, YouTube. Hello? I am sure those women are up on YouTube right now, and their teenage son’s friends are checking them out along with the rest of the world. The really sad thing is that Billy Idol didn’t even notice! Ouch. Notice the young kid just to the right of the topless woman. I bet Daddy had some splainin’ to do in the car ride on the way home.
The Sign: A guy in the front handed Billy Idol a sign that said, “PLEASE FUCK MY WIFE.” Excuse me? Not after the road rash that thing has seen.
The Signers: There were two sign language interpreters off to the side of the stage. They were the two most unlikely women to be signing a Billy Idol concert. I think they must have been from a local church. Having said that, they were more into the songs, and were more animated than Billy Idol was most of the time!
Hand Sanitizer: Billy Idol went to the edge of the stage and shook hands with a lot of fans during the evening, but there was one particular instance where he shook someone’s hand, then Steve Stevens whispered something in his ear. They both had a good chuckle and then walked over to a speaker stack where there was a bottle of hand sanitizer! No kidding. He actually poured a bunch on his hands and then wiped with a towel. I was dying to see who he shook hands with before he felt the need to sanitize. Wow. Must have been a really scary looking fan.
The concert ended with an encore that included “Hot in the City” and “Money Money,” which was a great way to end. I’m pretty sure Billy went back to his trailer and took a little nap before he walked over to the bar in the hotel and partied the night away.
Blog Reader Sarah was way closer than I was and has better pictures. You can see them here: Billy Idol Pics