Monday, July 29, 2013

Top concerts: Alabama Shakes

Last week, I experienced what I anticipate will be one of the best concerts of my lifetime: Alabama Shakes at the Orpheum in Vancouver.

Alabama Shakes and I have a relationship of sorts. About one year ago, when I was feeling at my worst during chemo - exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually - George told me to listen to a band he'd just heard on YouTube. It was Alabama Shakes' "Hold On". I was mesmerized.

Not only is Brittany Howard's voice, often described as a mash-up between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, phenomenally powerful, but the lyrics were exactly what I needed to hear at that point in my life. And today, there are still moments when I need someone to tell me to hold on.

I watched two more videos and googled Alabama Shakes. And I bought their CD, Boys and Girls.

Thank you lady luck

Then just this past spring I saw something online about Alabama Shakes moving their show to the Orpheum. "Say what?!" I thought. I had somehow missed that they were even coming. But a change to a larger venue. This meant more tickets would be sold - hallelujah!

I expected big things. And Alabama Shakes delivered.

Hurray for the Riff Raff

They started off with an excellent opening act, Hurray for the Riff Raff. Definitely a country flavour. Singer Alynda lee Segarra's voice reminded me of different people at different times, Stevie Nicks with a dash of Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), but mainly Yvette Narlock (solo artist formerly of Mollies Revenge, Yve Adam).

I bought their CD Look Out Mama after their set. I was pleasantly surprised when the singer announced she'd be at the merch table. In fact, the entire band was there and I got my CD signed. I spoke briefly with one of them about Alabama Shakes and how I first heard them when I was going through a challenging time in my life. "Yep, doctors should prescribe it. Music is the best medicine," he said.

Time for a dose

Indeed, Alabama Shakes proved to be a the kind of medicine that doesn't just make you feel passable, but uplifts you without a comedown and lasts, possibly for a lifetime.

At one point, Howard wondered out loud why she bothered doing her hair before shows. After rocking out considerably, her do was undone, but the audience didn't care. In fact, the fact that she rocked that hard made us love her that much more. If we wanted done up, we'd have shelled out for one of those lipsync "artists" wearing a headset mic.

Alabama Shakes made me do one thing I've never done at a show (and I've mocked others for doing). I cried. Not once, not twice, but three times. The first time, obviously, during "Hold On". The second because of Howard's lovely intro to "Boys and Girls" during which she talked about her best childhood friend and how eventually they were told they shouldn't be friends any more. It made me think of my son and some of his very good friends who happen to be girls.

The third set of tears, I have to admit I can't remember which song inspired it. What I do remember was it was a sweet release.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Be one with the waves

Ready to embark but a tad nervous. ©kittelberg writes

I hadn't paddled since the year before my breast cancer surgery. For someone who was a dragonboat paddler for several years and enjoyed kayaking at least once every summer, it made me sad.

With the kid in daycamp, I figured last week was the week to do it. It took minutes from the time I updated my Facebook status to, "Anyone want to go sea kayaking this week?" to find a kindred spirit in my friend Ceci.

Ecomarine has a 2-for-1 special on Tuesdays. Ceci had family visiting from Vernon. My range of motion isn't 100% in my left shoulder due to the axillary dissection, so I wanted to kayak tandem. Turned out Ceci's daughter, Alex, had to paddle with an adult so I got an enthusiastic partner (who's as tall as me and a strong paddler). And the planets aligned.

No reason to panic

We headed out into the wind so that the trip back to Jericho Beach would be easier. Ceci's sister and nephew were also in a tandem kayak, and Ceci went solo. I was happy to note that the effort felt equal in both shoulders.

I steered so that we would go into the waves, rather than risk having them tip us. I felt capable but cautious. We spotted whitecaps, so decided it was time to turn. Then Ceci's kayak tipped. She was fine, so we chilled out in the waves as she got back into her kayak.

I remembered how to relax as the waves rocked us from the side. It felt like the kayak was simply an appendage. On our way back to the beach, I played more with the steering to hit the sweet spots in the waves. "Look!" said Alex, and I tilted my head up to see an eagle fly above us. A true movie moment!

We got back to the shore, tired but happy. I plan to kayak again (and again) before the end of summer. The lure of the waves is powerful.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beating the Blerch

Sharon, Melissa, me and Lynn at the Resolution Run.
©kittelberg writes

On Sunday, I did my first long run in two weeks. I had been away visiting family and friends in Ontario and while I managed to work in two runs per week (including one hill training session), the humidity and the fact that I was running solo made long runs unappealing.

So one day after my return, I hit the Seawall and one of the Stanley Park trails with Melissa to run 13k. Yes, 13k. After hovering near the 10k mark for months, it was time to up the ante.

In September, the Superstars are taking part in the inaugural Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon.

The running resolution

Back on December 31, 2012, I went to a New Year's Eve party where there was a giant piece of paper? Bristol board? I can't remember exactly, but the point is, it was a space where guests could jot down their resolutions for 2013.

I decided putting it in writing made it that much more of a commitment. I wrote, "Run a half marathon". The next day, I made good on working towards that goal by starting the new year with the Resolution Run.

I've kept running since then. But I have to say that Sunday was the first time I saw a hill and nearly burst into tears. I think I said something along the lines of "I don't know if I can do this hill" to Melissa. She told me I could and suggested slowing down. Another reason I love running with friends!

Clearly, it didn't kill me as I'm writing this post. I did feel like vomiting at the end of the run, but it went away after cooling down.

Enter the Blerch

Some of the non-runners I know think I'm nuts for doing it. Heck, I thought runners were nuts when I wasn't a runner. And at the point that Sunday's hill nearly had me dissolve in tears? I had a serious WTF moment.

Today, my friend Gord shared a link to the Oatmeal's The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances. It pretty much sums up my feelings. It puts a name to the little devil on my shoulder who tells me I can't: the Blerch.

On Sunday, I silenced the Blerch. I imagine I'll do so every Sunday for the rest of the summer, and possibly multiple times on the day of my first half marathon.