WBN 2014: Magic (and hope) in the moment

May 31st, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

When I step in to the morning class to make my announcement, there’s a buzz in the classroom. But it’s from people talking amongst themselves, as if the morning instructor, who guides a student through an algebra problem on the whiteboard, is in a separate room.

“How many you would like to win something free?” I ask.  A few heads pop up.  A few, but not all.

“I love to read so much, and believe so deeply in the value of reading, that I’ve been selected by an organization called World Book Night to pass out a whole box of free books to you guys. A fiction novel, to read just for fun!” I tell them they have to give an honest answer to these questions — “What was the last good book you read? When was it?” – to be eligible. That’s all they have to do. That and to show up in class tomorrow.

“Must be present to win” is an important addition, since this adult education center tends to be a place where, from one day to the next, the population of students in the classroom is never the same.

“What book is it?” one student asks.

Before I can answer, Sonja pipes in: “Is true story? I love true story. This my favorite kind of movie.” She says this with a dramatic, admission-of-sin eyeroll, as she often does when she talks about how much she loves coffee and chocolate.

“Remember?” I say with a smile, trying to be gentle. “Fiction means not true.” I don’t correct her (or other students’) grammar, not unless it’s on paper. (And even then it’s hard to know where to start.)

The students are all working toward the goal of completing a high school equivalency diploma at the center where I teach in Davenport, Iowa — a location which might conjure images of tractors and cornfields, but which is also a place where students are frequently residents of halfway houses or domestic-abuse refuges. Their chances are hindered by the plethora of immediate pressures in their lives: issues with transportation and child care; the need to work and pay bills.

And I stand in front of them declaring the virtues of reading for fun.

Sonja, who originally came to the U.S. as a Bosnian refugee, has four children, two of whom have special needs. And yet, in the three years since I began teaching here – working with everyone from beginning readers to English Language Learners to GED candidates seemingly bright enough to have been at the tops of their classes — she has been my most consistently attending student.

I want more than anything to not only give Sonja a copy of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette, but more importantly, for her to read it and understand it someday. I want to share laughs with her over the snarky comments made by the titular anti-heroine.

I want to know and believe for sure that if she keeps working at this center, keeps plugging away at the English language, she’ll get there.

I need to believe that she will, and that the other students in this room — black and white and Hispanic adults ranging from their early twenties to retirement age — will actually take advantage of this opportunity. That they’ll dig in and laugh aloud at this story, despite their usual admissions that they’ve never finished a book, that they hate to read, or that they would actually like to read but just can’t — house full of kids, third shift job, dyslexia, ADHD.

I give a little teaser about Bernadette, talking up its comedic value, its central mystery, its connection (via the author and her writing credits) to popular TV shows they may have heard of.

One young guy has his head down and texts through my entire mini-presentation.

From helping them draft essays about their future goals, I have learned that most of the male students want to get hired as welders or manufacturers for John Deere, or at the nearby Alcoa metals plant. A majority of the females plan to become CNAs. And if they say they plan to go on to school after the GED, they mean for cosmetology, not to study the humanities.

But I make this attempt at spreading the love of reading, person to person because books still hold magic for me. More specifically, books that fell into my hands at certain times have made small but magical changes to my life. This book I’ll hand to a student could be the very one they need at just that time.

These books could ignite a spark.

Maybe. Just maybe.

The night before the giveaway, I dream that I’ve gathered all the students in the building, telling them to head outside for a book giveaway. But it’s raining, and they stand in the rain for five, 10, and then 20 minutes while I search in vain for my Giver Box – which I then realize I’ve left at home.

The big day is nothing I should be anxious about. It is, after all, surely one of the most no-strings-attached, low-commitment volunteer obligations in existence.

There is no requirement for readers to report back, to indicate they’ve read the book.

The variety and quality of the book choices at sign-up time is remarkable. But I worry about the appropriateness of my choice.

Previously – I’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen three years in a row – I’ve given books with obvious societal, moral, inspirational “messages”: Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Classics that I was required to read, and was moved by, in high school and college.

But with Fahrenheit, I worried: can any of these students grasp the vocabulary, the density of the prose on even the first page?

My first year, with Caged Bird, I worried about the fact that several of the recipients had tested at second-grade reading level or below. (But, I reasoned, isn’t there power for them in having something so lofty to aspire to?)

This year, I worry that the book I requested is less of a “message” book. But, maybe, I think, it could still be simply a reminder that books can be about modern times and people and be just sheer fun to read.

And yet, just as there is no requirement for recipients to report back, there is no guarantee that they’ll read it, either.


The morning of April 23, I tap on the first classroom door.

I’m saddened to discover that Sonja’s not there. (Later, she’ll stop by in a uniform to tell me she’s gotten a job.)

I get to hand out copies to other regulars like Pamela, the grandmother in her late 60s, and Curtis, who wants so badly to get a diploma and a job, but is struggling to read at the level required by the equivalency tests.

The sheer idealism of WBN is so great that it’s almost too much for a passionate literature-lover, English teacher, and writer like me. So I force myself to see it as scattering seeds and hoping the garden grows. A kind of faith that, even if the recipient doesn’t pick it up and read it, someone in their family or household will – and that it will have fallen into their hands at just the right time, just like magic.


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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Sunset

May 31st, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

I snapped this recently with my iPad on the drive home from my parents’ house/ my childhood home (in Hancock County, IL) back to Iowa. The entire 2+hour drive was a wonder of dramatic colors and clouds.

I decided not to put any Instagram filters or do any kind of editing on this and just let it be.

-


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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Hey baby, care for a night cap?

March 26th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

When I found one in the store, I knew right away I’d be nervous wearing this thing to bed.

I’ve always been a bit self-conscious.

So I thought I’d save face , (or, um, entire head), by choosing the “sassy” zebra-striped one instead of the pale-pink one.

(If only I were talking about a bustier.)

Later that night, at home, after I donned the new item, my poor husband couldn’t look at me without emitting a pained laugh — and then a sincere shudder. “Can you please take that thing off? You look like a lunch-lady.”

I believe there were also phrases thrown around the budoir that night like “surgical nurse” …”mushroom-head… ” You get the idea.

“Seriously,” he said, turning out the light. “You gotta take that thing off.”

“I can’t!” I cried, suddenly turning 80 years old. “I’ll ruin my curls!”

photo of a slumber cap

Available at your local Wally World, NOT at Vicky’s Secrets

You see, I simply had to try this new tactic.

It had been almost a full year since I’d started attempting to follow the Curly Girl Method, (which instructs naturally-curly heads to shampoo less often, use gentler shampoos, and stop straightening their hair.)

I’d been following the program to the letter, or so I thought.

But despite the web and magazine promises that I could jump out of bed in the morning and simply “scrunch and go,” I’d wake to find my curls matted and tangled and Medusa-like.

So I decided to take desperate measures and follow through on another oft-recommended piece of advice: protect your curls by sleeping in a night cap.

I subjected my  husband to sleeping with the Lunch Lady, all for the sake of vanity. (And for laziness. I really, really, wanted to just “scrunch and go.”)

The next morning, after sleeping in the cap, I woke up excited for the reveal…

….but I yanked it off and was dismayed to see what appeared to be a new genre of Hair Problem: something that looked like a lacy blond doily stretched over my head. My curls were matted down and stuck to my scalp like a close-fitting knit cap.

I cursed and cried a little.

But then I fluffed it out a bit and it did loosen up. The curls I’d created the night before were still there, just not bouncy or full-looking.

And so, on a 1 to 10 scale of effectiveness, I guess I’d give the Night Cap Approach a 4.5. (And if there are any fellow curly-heads reading this, it might work better for you if you don’t have paper-thin hair like me.)

But, on 1 to 10 scale of how probable it is that your husband or partner will even want to touch you once you get into bed…um, 0.0. Probably better to go with a new bustier.

Do you also follow the Curly Girl method?How do you get it to work for you? Leave me a comment, click Like or Share on this post, and/or follow me on The Twitterz!


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

One Response to “Hey baby, care for a night cap?”

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‘Nebraska’ coulda been filmed in my Illinois hometown (or someplace even smaller)

March 13th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

You know you’re from a small town when . . . the place to go out for dinner is the same bar/restaurant where old men sing karaoke.

But how often do you get to see that level of  honest-to-goodness representation of small-town life reflected in pop culture, let alone in a Hollywood film?

I finally got to see Nebraska thanks to Amazon’s instant streaming. As I watched this touching film — about father and son, about family, about family dynamics, and the various ways we do or don’t communicate and express our love — I marveled at how the scenes appeared to be shot in actual, rural-Midwestern dots on the map rather than on a Hollywood set.

I kept thinking, “This could have been filmed in Ferris. Or Good Hope.” Or Blandinsville or Adair or Sciota. You get the idea.

photo of Village Pub

The Village Pub in Industry, IL. The kind of place where a man might be serenading your dinner with a little karaoke.

All of this is just another way of saying that director Alexander Payne has cemented himself as one of my artistic heroes. I was already a huge fan of his previous movies (Sideways, Election, and others). This movie, and the fact that he dedicated it (in a way) to the rural Midwest and to small-town people, impresses me even more.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Nebraska after I finished it. I had to know who much, if at all, the movie was a reflection of Payne’s own upbringing. So I listened to his Fresh Air interview, which was filled with interesting tidbits: about his approach to filmmaking, his use of “regular” Midwestern people (like the old man and woman in the “air compressor scene” in Nebraska and a DQ server in About Schmidt), his decision to cast former SNL cast member Will Forte, his relationship with his own father.

movie poster for "Nebraska"

And yet I’ve also been thinking a lot about the fact that Payne and the amazing cast aren’t the the only ones who deserve credit.

Ever since I watched this movie called Tales from the Script, I’ve become more aware of the fact that behind every celebrated director or lauded film is an unknown and barely acknowledged script-writer.

So, after I listened to the interview with Payne, I found myself Googling “Nebraska movie writer.”

It turns out the story was written by a guy named Bob Nelson who, at age 57, has his first Academy Award nomination — and Nebraska was his first script. I also learned that more than a decade passed between the time Nelson wrote the script and when it was actually made. A gentle and healthy reminder for the writer in me who seeks a instant sense of  gratification!


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

One Response to “‘Nebraska’ coulda been filmed in my Illinois hometown (or someplace even smaller)”

  1. Geraldine Hendrix-Sloan says:

    Loved your commentary and the movie! I suggested it to one of my fellow faculty members for use in her gerontology courses, as it deals beautifully with the issues of aging and the reversal of the parent/child relationship. Keep writing Alison!

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AW(P), poor me

February 27th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

Everyone who’s anyone is at the AWP writing conference right now.

Don’t know what AWP stands for? You best go look it up, dahhling, if you want to be anybody who’s anybody.

One of my best friends is there right now with her husband.

And this year’s conference just happens to be held in Seattle, the city I’ve dreamed of moving to since my first visit there in sixth grade. (I have family there, but my more immediate family remains in the Midwest, and therefor so do I.)

But that doesn’t matter, really, because I was also jealous and feeling left-out the year the conference was in Chicago, which, despite being a manageable drive from where I live, is still a city I love and that is no less exotic to me (a former farm girl).

I have to swear off my Twitter feed for this entire week every year, as every writer, literary journal and actual-human-friend I follow is Tweeting with the conference-related hashtags. It’s like I’m back in junior high and the other girls are all talking about the slumber party I didn’t happen to get invited to. Waaaah,  nobody likes me. I guess I’ll go eat worms.

cartoon of a baby crying

image credit:
ADDROX

So why don’t I just go to the damn thing?

Well, for one, I don’t have a book to promote, and I don’t work or study in an associated writing program.

In fact, I teach in a program that often involves working with students who are not actually literate.

Also, when I read and hear about everyone who’s attending, I think, “How do they pay for all this?” And I remember many of them probably have grants of other professional development funds sending them on their way.

And, more importantly, what matters more than all of this, is that it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. If I’m really a writer, if I really have a story to tell and something to say, I’ll sit my ass down in the chair and write it, and the existence of the AWP conference will have absolutely nothing to do with this happening or not happening.

Ever since I read The War of Art, I’ve tried to become more aware of those moments when I’m worrying more about the externally driven, shallow or surface desires rather than the internally driven, honorable urge to Create Art.

Feeling jealous of people who are “somebody” enough to be at AWP could not be a better example of the former.

But still, I will sulk internally for at least a few minutes this week as I think about everyone else being at the party. (Many of them there because, of course, they sat their asses down in the chair and wrote!)


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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What I Couldn’t Tell My Mother: An Anthology

February 18th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

I’m excited to be able to say that my short true story, titled “Library,” is featured in a recently published anthology: What I Couldn’t Tell My Mother.

The collection is a result of an international writing competition sponsored by a group based in Australia called Melaleuca Blue.

When I saw the call for entries last fall, I was instantly inspired by the contest prompt. I started drafting a story about something I don’t think I’d have even remembered, really, if it hadn’t been for that prompt. For the first time in years, I remembered a “secret” I’d kept from my mother, one that, despite its silliness and insignificance, felt weighty and shameful at the time: the fact that I already knew the “facts of life.”

I can’t remember the last time I felt this excited to have something arrive in the mail. And I definitely can’t remember a time I got something with this postmark!

photo of a package

You can see the book posted on Goodreads

I’ve ordered a copy for my mom… (shh, don’t tell her.)

 

 

 


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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Outing myself to a sixth grader (and to the world)

January 22nd, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

When I got my first letter from my new pen pal, I was charmed. When was the last time I’d received a good old-fashioned piece of paper (that wasn’t a bill) in the mail.?

I was delighted to answer her questions. Where do you work? she wanted to know. Are you married?

And then the next (entirely natural) question:

Do you have any kids?

A simple question. But I had to think carefully about how to answer.

The Younger, Hipper Adult Pen Pal

A colleague of mine had published several Facebook posts asking for volunteers to write to students at a local public school. She works for a nonprofit that serves retired people, and part of her job is to help them find meaningful volunteer opportunities.  She didn’t seem to be getting many takers, so finally I asked if the pen pals had to be retired.  Maybe I could help out.

I remembered, from my own school days, having a pen pal in Japan (second grade), and then, (in fourth grade) one who was a resident of the county nursing home just down the street from my school. I’d loved being her pen pal and learning about her life in the “olden days.” But then, at Christmas time, our teacher took us  to the home to visit our senior pals, and I ended up being scared of mine. I hadn’t noticed I’d been nervously crinkling my plastic juice cup until she barked, “Stop doing that.” 

I wrote letters from the time I could hold a pencil. I wrote to my grandfather in Florida until he died when I was in sixth grade, and continued writing to my grandmother, until she got a computer in her 80s and we switched over to emailing. I wrote letters to friends (if we had to be separated for, like, a whole week during summer vacations). And of course I wrote to crushes — even though I was writing under the guise of “just being a friend.”)

Eventually I stopped all of this when email and Facebook finally took over. As much as I love social media, I feel nostalgic for the process of letter-writing, the way I would plan ahead mentally about what I was going to say and how I’d say it. The way the whole thing had an intent that was something akin to a journal entry, a snapshot of life, maybe even a tiny little work of art. If you wanted to be funny, you had do it in a way that worked without the help of an emoticon or an LOL.

photo of letters

My first exchange with new pen pal

(find me on Instagram)

So I thought it was a cool idea to help encourage kids of today to be part of this fading tradition. And, okay, maybe a teeny part of me thought “All the other volunteers for this project are gonna be old people.”

The kid who got paired with me? She’d be excited that I’m young enough to ask questions about pop culture, like if she like Lady Gaga. She’d be impressed that I could even name-drop some favorite things from my own youth that still happen to be part of pop culture now, like My Little Ponies and The Smurfs.

 The Reveal

When I wrote back to my new pen pal and addressed the basic questions she’d asked me, I gave her the written version of what I say to all the innocuous conversational questions I get from coworkers and others: I said that while no, my husband and I (who’ve only been married 2 years, despite being in our 30s) don’t have kids, we do have nephews, and that I love being their Auntie more than anything in the world. I talk about how important my nephews are to me, and leave it at that. It’s an honest answer, too.

And, as always, I hoped that this answer –and its subtext– sp0ke for itself.

After all, how do you tell a little kid — especially a little girl, who’s probably been given Disney Princess movies and baby dolls her whole life — that you don’t want any little kids?

Sure, I could have written the truth: “Actually, yes, I am married, but my husband and I don’t have kids because we purposefully choose not to.”

In a kids’ mind, that’s probably like hearing “We think Santa Claus doesn’t exist and that parents shouldn’t lie to their kids about the existence of a Tooth Fairy.”

Or maybe even more like “We believe the Tooth Fairy is evil and deserves to die.”

Aunties Are People, Too (Auntiez R Ppl 2), Right?

It’s not like my own friends and family — and even my little nephews — haven’t asked me if and when I’m going to have kids.

But it’s hard for me to answer. It’s something I’ve been coming to terms with for the past decade or more: that I’m basically happy with who I am, and don’t have an inner longing to give birth or to parent.

But it’s not like I don’t wrestle with it. I see it as thee biggest decision a human being faces in his or her lifetime, and it baffles me when others don’t seem to take it on with the same degree of heft.

Yet, as strongly as I feel that it’s just not my desire to procreate, I still think every day about what this means for my parents, for husband’s parents, for my husband and I in old age.

And even as I’ve finally come to the honest conclusion within myself, I’m still afraid to “out myself” to others, for fear of their judgments  – (about my selfish character); their warnings (about my bleak future as a ward of the county nursing home, ending up just like my crabby old fourth- grade pen pal); their comments (about what a mistake I’m making).

So I try to politely skirt the issue as much as possible, and not draw attention to it (despite the fact that, uh, I’m blogging about it here.)

I didn’t think about the degree to which sixth graders read into subtext.

So you can imagine my reaction  – something like a chuckle with a tone of resignation– when I got my new pal’s next letter.

photo of a letter

boom: the question

“Dear Alison, how are you? …If you did have kids, what would you want to have, and what would you name them (for a girl, and a for a boy?”)

Anybody out there who can relate? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook! You can follow me on Facebook, too, or on Twitter or G+ or any damn place you please.  Like, share, let me here ya out there!

 

elleroy was here

About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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Twisted Mixtape: Fave Songs from a Mixed-Up Year

January 15th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

One of the very few awesome things about getting older is that you learn to like what you like and not give a flying’ you-know-what about what other people think of your tastes.

Maybe some of you have always been like that. I, however, was never blessed with such inner self-confidence when I was an adolescent music fan. Nowadays, however, I’ll readily admit whenever I love a song, regardless of its origin. Case in point? I think I’ve got at least two songs on my list that are by people who won contests on TV shows. See me not caring what you think about this?

In response to the Twisted Mixtape call for “Best Songs that Were New to You in 2013,” I give you the songs that stuck with me most last year, regardless of how well or poorly they represent a reflection of all that was really released. I know there are oceans of amazing music I never even heard.

But here’s what I did hear (*even if some of it might have technically come out the year before or more) and liked  a lot:

Top Favorite Songs from *2013

  • “Merry Go Round,” Kacey Musgraves. So simple and smartly written, you kind of hate her at first for thinking it’s cheesy, and then you sing it over and over and realize it’s brilliant songwriting.
  • “Closer,” Tegan And Sara. There was some press this year about these two going super poppy, and how that was a big change or maybe kind of even a risky sell-out-ish move. Who cares? Play this song and you will not.
  • “I Love It,” Icona Pop. It’s just so damn fun. I happened to catch about three minutes of their performance at Lou Fest this past August in St. Louis, and they made me want to jump and dance around even though I was already soaked in sweat from standing still in the humidity.
  • “The Wire,” Haim. It turns out the Haim sisters (who are apparently named in a way that rhymes with “rhyme,” not “hame,” like Corey Haim, as I’d previously thought, a fact I learned from their SNL performance. I wasn’t 100 percent blown away by them on that show. But I’ve listened to them more and more since then and this song sticks in my head. And as I sing along to their sisterly vocals, I ask myself this life-changing question:  Are the Haim sisters the post-millennial version of Wilson-Phillips? And if so, is that a bad thing? My answer: Hell no. I still love me some “Hold On.”
  • Trying to Be Cool” and “Entertainment” by Phoenix. Asinine lyrics, as far as I can tell, but inescapably catchy tunes, which I played over and over and over.
  • “I Sat by the Ocean,” Queens of the Stone Age. Seems like all the props for the most recent QOTSA record continue to  go to “If I Had a Tail,” (which rocks, too), but this is the one I keep singing in my head.
  • “Safe and Sound,” Capital Cities. Catchy. Still love it even though it’s now in a car commercial. 
  • “Home,” Philip Phillips. I have a lot to say about this one. Working on a separate, full post to explain. (Not that the liking of this one needs explanation. It’s a great song.)
  • “Amidinine,” Bombino. I heard about his guy on Sound Opinions and read a blurb in Rolling Stone that made me curious enough to check him out — he’s, like, a nomad in Africa or something, for heck’s sake —  but his recent album was produced by one of the guys from The Black Keys. This song is so cool.
  • “Electric Lady,” Janelle Monae. Planning to add to my treadmill mix ASAP.

Special Categories:

Best song by someone I thought I hated:

“Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Drake. I’ve not understood all the hype about Drake (who, to be fair, I’ve judged solely from his SNL performance). But whenever I hear this song on the car radio I’m in love with how 80s is sounds. I don’t know how to explain, exactly, that it’s an inherently 80s song — there are no sax solos or guest vocals by George Michaels. But seriously this song is as 80s as a pair of legwarmers, and in my personal taste, that’s a beautiful thing.

Best show from a soapy prime time drama:

Cover of The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” by the Stella sisters, those little girls on the show Nashville. I dare you to find me something prettier than those gals’ harmonies.

Best songs of the year that are not technically “new” to me because they’re from continually favorite artists (but, to be honest) : My Top 3 Favorite Songs of the Year:

3. “Night Still Comes,” and
2. “Man,” Neko Case. This was hard to narrow down, because that entire album is amazing.  But these two songs might be the best.
1 . “Charmer,” Aimee Mann. Genius songwriting from one of the living masters, and so fun to try to sing along to.

As Eddie-Murphy-as-Buckwheat might say, take a wisten! And then let me see yours!

You can listen to my list right here!


Feel free to Like, share, comment about YOUR favorite songs, pretty please!My Skewed View

 


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

3 Responses to “Twisted Mixtape: Fave Songs from a Mixed-Up Year”

  1. Dream says:

    From the ones I already know on this list, its fantastic. Now, to go look up all the rest (since I don’t do Spotify).

  2. Love you list (aside from Phillip Phillips…I have an allergy to him). Big high five for QOTSA and Haim* who both made my top albums of 2013 list, but you have a ton of solid stuff on here!
    *I too just learned the corrected pronunciation. I think we were right and they were wrong. So what if it’s their name!

  3. Great List!
    I had never heard that version of Ho Hey, amazing!
    Safe and Sound was going to be on my list if it was a list of my songs. But I don’t think the husband has that on his iPod :-)

    This was great, thank you so much for playing again!

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He’s with the brand

January 13th, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

I stood in the shampoo aisle at Wally World and consulted my list.

“Luxurious Head & Shoulders,” my husband had written. The one thing he needed.

I searched the shelves from top to bottom.

There was Head & Shoulders “Green Apple” variety, H&S Two-in-One (with conditioner), H&S “Everyday Clean,” etc. etc., but no “Luxurious.

I searched again, to no avail; I even looked for the tag on the shelf where the “Luxurious” kind had been sold out. Nothing. I searched up and down again, then from side to side. I was in the way of two families with screaming kids and kept having to move my cart.

So I decided to take a risk and go with “Everyday Clean,” hoping that, even if it wasn’t “Luxurious” scent, my husband at least be glad I’d bought the brand name. ( I do, after all, like to tally up a system of “wife points.” See, honey? I wanted to buy generic, but I got you the real deal instead. Wife point!)

But right there in front of me, right next to “Everyday Clean,” there was a cheaper bottle of the same product.

I admit, I was tempted. I moved my cart again to make way for an old lady in a hairnet and battled with myself.

But then I saw the word he’d included on the list, staring up at me a little accusingly: “Luxurious.” So I knew I better spend the extra buck.

I should explain here that my husband is not someone obsessed with surface details. He wears the same two t-shirts practically every other day. But he IS weirdly brand-conscious.

When we first got married, I battled my JIF-loving husband over the silliness of paying full-price for brand-name peanut butter – - which he insists tastes better and believes is inherently better than the generic, but which I insist is the identical product inside the jar but which simply has pretty packaging.

photo of a generic can

 

Which is funny, because when I was a kid, I was a total brat about this same issue. Had my mom brought home Circular-Shaped Wheat Cereal rather than Cheerios, you can bet I’d have called her on it and complained. I remember once refusing to eat homemade mac n’ cheese at my babysitter’s because it didn’t come out of a blue box.

But now that I’m an adult, you can better your bottom (dollar) that I buy generic whenever possible. Sure, I still buy tons of brand-name stuff, too, if I think it’s truly better tasting or somehow truly un-swappable-for generic.

So, to compromise with my husband: I still buy generic groceries and other products like I always do, but I’ll relent and buy the brand-name stuff only on what he hollers the loudest about. For example, brand-name razors – - even though the kind he likes costs practically half a paycheck.  I figure if he specifies on the shopping list that he wants Gillett MachIII Something-Something Six More Descriptive Words-brand razors, that’s a signal that it’s probably not okay for me to get the Wally-brand ones. I’ve learned to respect that he likes that one certain kind for a reason. Just like there’s a reason I’ll only use a crazy-expensive curly-hair-specific shampoo from ULTA Beauty. I gotta not be a total hypocrite in this relationship.)

So I put that generic Wally-knockoff of Head & Shoulders back on the shelf and picked up a Head n’ Shoulders “Classic.” Hmm. “Classic,” but not “Luxurious.” It would have to do.

When I got home and was unpacking the shopping bags, we were chatting about some other mundane domestic matter when I remembered my conundrum from the store. “Oh, by the way, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find the Head n’ Shoulders ‘Luxurious,’” I called out to him from the kitchen. “They had Green Apple and other kinds, but no Luxurious. I double checked. Sorry. ”

“Huh?” he called back from the living room. “Oh, I just wrote that in there as a joke.”

I stopped unpacking. “Are you kidding me? What are you talking about?”

“You know, because I have such ‘luxurious’ hair. I just wrote that on there to be funny.”

Next time, he’s getting the most cheap-ass generic-looking label I can find!


If you liked this post, I wouldn’t mind if you Liked or shared it on Facebook! Or Twitter or what-have-you.

I linked this post up to this blog hop and if you’re a blogger, you can, too!

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

 


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

3 Responses to “He’s with the brand”

  1. Oh my god. I’d have killed him. LOL I asked my husband to pick up some “Hello” grapefruit flavored toothpaste. He came home empty handed asking what the hell that was. But you can get it now at the grocery store and it’s so good! But oh man, the amount of time that can be wasted looking through the vast array of products with specific attributes. This cracked me up!

  2. Barbra Jules says:

    omg, men are sometimes so special!

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My ‘worst concert’ story is featured in Paste!

January 2nd, 2014 by Alison McGaughey

What’s YOUR worst concert experience?

Paste magazine wants to know.

I’ve actually got several in my arsenal that could fight for the title of “worst,” but, in keeping with the annoying-fan theme that other contributors have going, I submitted this true tale of a time that a friend and I, shall I say, “suffered from exposure.” You can read the full story, in all its cheeky detail, here: Built to Spill (Out of Your Pants), or by clicking on the image below.

Enjoy! And share your worst concert experiences with me here, or send your own to Paste!

worst-concert

(And yes, this story is mine for those most observant among you; 10 points for noticing they misspelled my name.)


About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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