A Little Eye Cookie

The Airborne Toxic Event fans, are you ready for some more cookie love?  Something a little sweet and a whole lotta sexy?  One lovely fan Instagramed, “It could arguably be said this is the 6th member of the band.”

The day is finally here where Mikel’s Gretsch guitar makes its cookie debut.  I can write more words about it, but I don’t think I will.  Instead, lookie at the cookie.

mikel guitar copy

mikel guitar 2

Do you want to get your hands on one?  Just wait.  Your chance is coming soon.

Choosing Today

Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be brave enough to color my hair some bright color.  The bleaching commitment was too much for me to make the leap.  What if I ruined my hair in the process and it all fell out?  Would it turn out as badly as the time I asked the lady to give me a style with the same length and she layered it all the way to my scalp?  The more time I waited, the more fear crept into my mind.  What would my job think?  Would people doubt my parenting ability?  And the worst fear of all, what is an almost forty-year old doing with that colored hair?

I’d made some meager attempts along the way.  In high school, I bought some temporary blue color.  I think it was made to tint grey.  A concept I really didn’t understand at the time and one now I’m way too familiar.  I’m not sure which old lady was actually using blue, but the point is the flaw in my thinking.  I slathered the stuff over my head like shampoo and washed it out a few minutes later hoping for awesome.  It mixed with my mousey brown to create some blah gray grossness.  I spent the rest of the night in the shower condensing the wash out time.

In college, I went a little more brave.  I choose a semi-permanent color.  My dorm-mate and I each picked a color for a wild time on a Saturday night.  She was going from blonde to brown, while I wanted a maroon-ish red.  We read the box, poured some drinks, and colored away.  After the first application I didn’t think it was bright enough under our fluorescent lights in the middle of the night.  So I did it again.  I ended up with some almost black color which did have the hint of purple in the sun.  It looked kinda cool, but completely washed me out into vampire like status.

I’d learned I couldn’t do it on my own.  I needed a professional to help me pick the right color and apply it the way it should.  Lucky for me, I found a terrific professional about ten years ago who has become a great friend.  The best part is she’ll tell me like it is.  If it’s going to look like crap, she won’t do it.  I finally had the perfect set-up.  So why couldn’t I pull the trigger?

When I’m with my bestie who has a bright color under black, we get stopped constantly with “I love your hair.”  I’ve been jealous for years watching her cycle through the rainbow.  So I made goals.  I’ll do it when I get an agent because when people ask “why did you do that to your hair” I’ll say “I got an agent Mo-Fo.  Shut it.”  Then when I realized I might want it sooner, I thought I’d do it when I reached a goal weight.  If people made a cringed face I’d proudly tell them how hard I worked to get to a particular size.

I started to ask myself why I was waiting.  Why did I need a justification to do something I wanted to do?  How silly was it to prepare my defense to a person I probably didn’t care about what they thought?  So I did it.  I pinned a bunch of hair looks to my friend and told her I was going for a bright red.  Under it I wanted purple peek-a-boos.  I showed up a week later and she delivered a most daring red and purple (for me).

I love it.  It’s bright, kinda different, and a little bit rock n’ roll.  The purple was too muted and will be corrected the next time.  Yes, the next time.  There’s been many opinions.  People have told me they love it and some have even said they hate it.  One person did what I feared the most.  She grimaced and said, “Why did you do this to your hair?”  I straightened my shoulders, grinned from ear to ear and said “I did it for me.”

Swimming in the Deep End

With the recent suicides of the missing Oregon mother and Robin Williams, there’s been an outpouring of people acknowledging depression as a disease.  I have to admit before my mother-in-law committed suicide, I thought I understood depression.  I thought I was pretty in tune with people’s feelings, I worked in the mental health industry for a bit, and had watched my mother-in-law go through many ups and downs.  I was expert enough to make comments about mental health or say I kinda understood.  I thought so until the moment I was told she was dead and then realized I didn’t understand shit.

As an adolescent I watched the after-school specials where they talk about suicide and the devastating mark it leaves on the people left behind.  They looked shocked, analyzed the note, figured out the subtle clues, and solved the “why” mystery in record time to find closure.  The story usually revolved around someone who worried they wouldn’t be loved or felt alone in a moment. Love the person, I thought.  Tell them how special they are and all those dark monsters hiding in their head will disappear.

Which guy do you think commits suicide?


Survivors from a close suicide have to live with so much afterwards.  I knew my mother-in-law was mentally ill even though we never spoke about it out loud.  She made jokes about being crazy and had worked hard to keep her thirty-five years of sobriety.  As her husband became more ill, the alcohol made its way back into her life to numb the hurt.  We begged her to go to AA or try counseling.  Something to fight the monster inside.  I thought I could counter the isolation by repeatedly telling her how much we loved her.  How we needed her every day in our lives.  Her grandchildren needed her laughter and love.  I thought we could be enough if we loved her more.  That’s the funny thing about being naive.  The innocence behind the thought is laughable to someone who knows better.  It’s a disease, not a choice.  Would I ask someone to recover from cancer because I loved them a lot?  Suicide survivors understand this like no other.  They put in the countless hours listening, talking, begging to find it doesn’t change anything.  We were never enough.

The day after she died, we took the kids to a local pool to take their minds off the sadness.  They peeled off their shirts and raced to the edge.  I called them back to warn them about swimming in the deep end.  “Be careful with the slide.  Don’t swim near it.”  They dove in and had great moments.  There was laughter and smiles even with the pain heavy in their heart.  Hubs and I watched with hopes they wouldn’t be scarred for life.

My son swam closer and closer to the deep end where the mouth of the slide poured into the pool.  Racing bodies shot from the plastic tube and torpedoed the water.  I watched a giant kid climb up the three stories of stairs to get to the entrance.  I looked down to watch my son bob his head barely above the water to catch his breath.  His body squared in front of the slide’s opening.

“He’s gonna get hit,” I said to Hubs.  I wished my son to swim faster.  Mentally screaming at him to move his body out of harm’s way.  When I knew he wasn’t going to make it, I stood from my seat and started yelling at the water.  His ears were submerged under the water line and I couldn’t catch his attention.  I yelled louder.  He couldn’t hear me.  Not even when my voice turned from a shrill scream to a pathetic begging.  I tried turning my attention to the giant who was about to throw all his weight down the slide.  An unstoppable force.  Something completely out of my control.  Maybe I could alter his course.  Tell him to wait five minutes.  Then he disappeared.

The large kid shot from the tube like the weapon I knew he could be.  His feet crushed against my son’s back and pushed him under the water.  I almost dove in to wrap him up in my arms and make sure he was okay.  My son pushed up through the water and choked on chlorine and tears.  He got out, I cuddled him, and whispered warnings about swimming in front of the slide.

This is a the closest comparison I can share with watching someone you love battle depression.  (Please note, this is only my account.  Every person’s experience is unique and their own story.)  No matter how loud you scream, their demons flood their ears to keep it out.  They try to keep their head above water until some force is too much for them to take.  Unfortunately, they don’t always come back up.

And while everyone’s situation is different, this isn’t the afternoon special I was sold.  One person tweeted about how if only the Oregon mother knew how much her family loved her maybe the ending would’ve been different.  I countered with, it didn’t matter.  Because for the survivors who lived around the depressed person, we saw it coming all the way.  We hoped we could stop it.  We wished them better.  We begged for them to stay for us.  Which only confirms how naive we all are.

Calming the Waters

So there’s been a little excitement lately in the TATE world.  Some stones thrown in our pool causing long lasting ripples.  Let’s get back to our calm and light-hearted love, shall we?  I was going to save these, but I think there’s a need now.

Here’s a little mermaid love to smooth things over.  If you were upset,  you know why this is an Airborne tribute.  Get back to your artistic love feels.  If you don’t, then I hope you enjoy my lovely water ladies because I think they’re pretty cool.

mermaid2 copy


She’s my favorite.

mermaids copy


Which is your preference?  Blond or brunette?  Or are you pissed there are no red heads?  Ariel kinda killed it for the red heads.  Sorry ladies.  Go ahead, tell me what you think?

Firing and Brimstone

The TATE world has been turned upside down in the last three days.  (For all of you who don’t know the acronym, it stands for The Airborne Toxic Event.”)  I think it’s safe to say it’s been “blowin’ up” after an uncomfortable interview ended with a thirty second conversation confirming the beloved bassist Noah Harmon would not be returning.  This was confirmed by Mr. Harmon on his Instagram with the note “I got fired.  7 years. 0 regrets.”

There has been much speculation around the interwebs about the why.  If you’re interested in the gory details (aka rampant speculation) Google it.  I’m sure you’ll find something.  If you want an informed, rational response from a die hard fan, go here.  If you want my take, which is based only on my opinion and sometime flawed thinking, stick around.

I was drawn to the question of why it was such a big deal.  It’s no secret I’m a fan of the band and was quite smittened by the bassist the last time I saw them live.  There was an “awwww” moment when I heard and then I went along my merry way.  No tears, no emotional pleas begging for the answers, no freak outs.  I had the brief thought they could’ve told their fans in another way and maybe even before selling tickets to their fall tour.  But meh, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Or so I thought.  Then I watched other fans.  They’ve been distraught.  Fan friends turning on fan friends.  Lines have been drawn.  Team TATE/Team Harmon.  The shit got realz.

I think it’s because we don’t want to see this music world as a job.  That’s right, it’s a J-O-B.  People get paid to show up and produce a product.  If they can’t, then a replacement needs to be found.   Just because they rock some jeggings like nobody’s business, smile a million dollar set of choppers, and can create music to make your insides melt doesn’t mean they are immune to the job’s requirements.

Sure it’s not romantic.  Who wants to believe artists are doing it for the money?  If it’s a product made from passion how can they be driven by marketing plans, selling projections, and strategies to increase their fan base?  Because if they want to keep doing it, they have to be worried about how to pay for the gas in the tour bus.  Our attention spans are limited these days.  If something new doesn’t come out to grab our fleeting attention and fickle $7.99 on Itunes, they can be yesterday’s news before they know it.

The lead singer Mikel doesn’t help matters by being the poster boy for smokin’ hot, tortured writer.  He romanticizes his process about locking himself in a room for days to write away like it’s a sickness he has to work through.  His bachelor status only compounds he’s giving everything for his art instead of allowing himself a real lady-friend relationship.  He doesn’t release details about being a calculated and driven business man with hit records on his mind.  He keeps up the appearance he gives it his all because he loves the fans and a great rock show.  And that may true.  He may feel the way of the artist down to his very soul.  However, he may also be the savvy business man who understands the best profit margin is touring to sell merchandise.

In Seattle, while in a lemon drop induced state, I asked Daren if they talked with their fans after shows as a marketing tool.  Yanno, was there some agreement about putting in face-time because it created loyal fans?  He looked a little annoyed with the question and said*, “No.  We just didn’t want to be rock star assholes.”  I don’t disagree they feel that way, but I also think the bigger picture has to be taken into consideration.  Social media and the traditional music industry decline requires musicians to be more participatory in their rock n’ roll job.  It’s not about showing up for gigs, hittin’ it with groupies, and hiding back on the tour bus to repeat it the next day.  We fans want more.  We want a piece of them.  We demand it.  As witnessed by our entitlement to the band break up details.

I’ve been on both sides of the firing fence.  It’s not fun from either view.  I’ve given blood, sweat, and tears for a job who let me go because I was no longer a good fit.  I’ve also said good-bye to good people who couldn’t grow where my company was going.  I’ve lost some great friendships and found better parts of me because of the process.  It sucks.  We hurt.  Then Heal.  And we move on.

In the end, even though being the bassist has deep meaning to us as fans, it’s not a hobby for Mr. Harmon or any other musician.  They have the same pressures as we do in our jobs, to deliver a certain performance or run the risk of their company (or band) outgrowing them.  Although they dance around stage looking cool while I chill behind a cubicle wall trying to make a difference to my customers, we have the same responsibilities.  We choose to work our job knowing it pays the bills to support the life we want to live.  When the job starts to take more than we can give, someone is going to get hurt.

*Always take my quotes with a grain of salt from shows.  I’m never sober.

Breakthrough: Still Broken

This breakthrough post comes at a difficult time for me.  Last year on this weekend, I was living it up at my annual writers’ conference.  I met amazing people, got excited for my writing project, I felt unstoppable.  Until I returned home.  Twenty minutes after I walked in the door and finally stopped gushing about the unbelievably good time I had in Portland, Hubs broke the news his mother committed suicide.

It’s hard to describe moments where your life turns upside down.  Luckily our minds shut away pain to avoid reliving its intensity.  I remember not being able to breathe.  Barely hearing as Hubs went through the events from the weekend and how he’d found out earlier in the morning when two detectives arrived at our home.  I replayed the day before I left for my trip when I worked out the details in my mother-in-law’s living room.  She was picking up my children from daycare in the early afternoon to spend the afternoon with them.  It was that thought that snapped my mind back to the present.  My children.

Hubs hadn’t told them.  They were squealing behind my closed bedroom door asking me if we were done so we could play together.  My heart cracked so deeply my chest physically hurt.  Hubs and I agreed to wait until morning to tell them.  We plastered on fake smiles and walked out to crush them with hugs.  Their happiness only hurt me more because I knew I was going to take it away in less than ten hours.  We put them to bed.  I called my bestie, my mom, and my sister and sobbed out the words.  They were all aware how difficult the previous year had been after my father-in-law died from his battle with COPD.

I didn’t sleep.  Neither did Hubs.  We laid in silence until we heard the kids wake up.  We knew it was time.  Telling your children someone they saw every day and loved deeply is dead is very difficult.  We’d done it the year before with their grandfather.  Having to explain suicide is something that makes you sick.  And for everyone who is about to be judgmental in asking why we had to tell the specifics, they’re not stupid.  They spent a lot of time with her.  They knew she was very healthy physically.  They knew she was mentally hurting.  They asked us how she died and we didn’t lie.

Mental illness was something my mother-in-law battled her entire life.  It’s no different from other diseases which have no cure.  You work every day to fight the infection and sometimes ask for medication to help.  It’s exhausting.  You need a reason to choose to fight every day.  My mother-in-law couldn’t fight anymore, which is something that haunts the living.

There are so many facets to this kind of story.  I’d never stop typing if I tried to explain all of them.  It’s the reason why a year later I still have not healed.  I didn’t go to the conference this year.  I haven’t been writing.  I chose to stay home with my family.  I cry almost every time I think of her.  I knew I would think of her often this weekend.

My mother-in-law used to talk about the amazing sunrises in Oregon when she was trying to convince us to move here.  “They’re so beautiful, it’s biblical,” she said.  She could appreciate such an innocent beauty even when her mind was edged with darkness.  It’s one of the things I appreciated about her.  It’s the thing I try to remember as I put myself back together.sky

It only takes a daily acquaintance to tell you she has a terminal disease to make you snap out of your pity party about writing insecurity and turning 40.  Instantly, you cycle through all the wonderful things you’ve done, places you’ve seen, and people you’ve loved.  You thank everything in the cosmos for giving you the time to do it and you start to beg for even more.

After the shock and sadness wear off, you again give thanks for all you’ve been given.  And then you start to list through all the things you want to do.  Instead of whining and wishing for them to come, you start working on them because you’re the lucky schlep who hasn’t gotten a life time limit…yet.  You don’t want to let an opportunity pass you up because no one knows what’s around the next corner.

A couple weeks ago, a co-worker received a not-too-hopeful prognosis which jump-started me to move out of my stagnant state.  Sure, I’d been filling time with busy-stuff at the 8-5 job, baking things, and riding my new bike.  And these are all worthy things I want to keep doing.  But they aren’t the things that fill my heart with accomplishment.

It really hit me when I watched Walter Mitty for the second time.  (It’s one of those movies that reminds you to stop wishing and start living.)  After Walter lost his job, he sat in a coffee shop to write his resume.  He doesn’t talk about his decades in photograph handling which paid all the bills.  Instead he highlights his recent adventures.  Each line tears me up until I’m a sobbing mess because I feel him.  I am him.  I want to list through incredible things.  And if I do, I better get to work.

For weeks, I’ve been saying how I’m going to have my own one hour radio show for a small town station.  Finally, I made a move.  I learned the equipment, got a show name (shamelessly stolen from The Airborne Toxic Event and thought up by a writer friend), and met up with the station manager to go over rules.

I started producing it.  The first show took more hours than I thought it would.  Thinking up something interesting to say was harder than I anticipated.  The pressure after I hit the record button had me stumbling over words.  Record was followed by delete.  More recording.  More deleting.  When I started to get frustrated I remembered this was for fun.  This was about doing one of those things I always wanted to do.  I was filling a dream I never thought I would.  I repeated the mantra “The journey, not the destination.”

I wish it wasn’t something tragic to kick myself in the ass.  The reality is I hope this is the corner I needed to turn at this year’s half-mark.  I want to do more.  I want to feel alive again by taking my one step at a time in the direction I want to go.  Because “wishing” never gets me anywhere.  “Hoping” only reminds me I’m not moving.  And “doing” is the only thing that truly makes me happy.



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