Phish - 10 years later...


Last night was like an out of body, dejavu type experience.

Jay and I found ourselves in a situation that was very familiar to us, but also made us feel like martians in a strange land. Yup, we were at a Phish show.

In the mid-to-late nineties, we used to see Phish all of the time, often traveling from one city to the next, planning our vacations around tour dates. It was such a good time; we both have so many great memories of certain shows, travel experiences, meeting up with friends in random places, and the music! Like all Phish fans, we were so bummed when in late 2000, they announced that they were taking a hiatus. What does "hiatus" mean? What would we do with our vacation time? Where would we travel to? I distinctly remember feeling so sad, because it was never just about the music; it was about the friendships made along the way and the experience of being part of something larger than oneself. Some look to religion for this feeling; we looked to Phish. So, without them, what were we supposed to do?

I guess the shortest answer is that we moved on; we diversified our musical tastes. But, two years later in 2002 when Phish announced they would end their hiatus with a New Years show at Madison Square Garden, Jay and I were there. Imagine it, after two years of leaving us hanging, our band was back and we were ready to pick up where we all left off; we were poised for some mind-blowing reunion.

Not so much. Phish came back with a phizzle rather than the bang we were expecting, and it was disappointing. But still, we chalked it up to a bad show, the pressure, and anything that could help us to reconcile our disappointment. It wasn't a tragic show, but it was certainly not where we left off either. We continued to see them a few more times, each show being slightly disappointing and leaving me generally unsatisfied. I felt like they never should have come back from their hiatus, because Phish of the early 2000's (is that even a phrase?) was not my beloved Phish, and I was slowly but surely turning into a sour-puss fan. They were fine, but I don't plan vacations around "fine"; I plan vacations around extraordinary. By the time they finally decided to end things for real and retire "Phish" in 2004, I was over it, grateful for all the good times, and wished them well in their pursuits as individual musicians.

Well here we are in 2009 and they are back yet again. I had no strong urge to see them, as I haven't been listening to their music in recent years at all, but last week when a friend called saying that he had two extra tickets, my curiosity got the best of me and Jay & I decided to seize the opportunity and go.

It was really strange, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Here we were, back doing what we used to do, yet by virtue of time and age, we are no longer who we used to be. Seeing them last night helped me to understand what happened (in terms of my reaction) when Phish came back from their hiatus in 2002; maybe it wasn't that they sucked, but maybe I had moved on and had a new appreciation for different music.

Last night, funky and tight Phish from 1997 showed up and put on a stellar performance, and I am grateful. I loved every minute; so many memories came flooding back with each song played and it was like seeing an old friend after years of separation. And if I were Jen from 1997, or 1999, or even 2002, I would be planning how I could score tickets to tomorrow's show or to the New Years run, but I am not; I am 2009 Jen and have other musicians to see, foods to taste, places to see, and experiences to be had. I am so grateful for everything that Phish has meant to me, both past and present, and I hope to see them again, but last night confirmed for me that although I love some live, '97-style Phish, I have indeed moved on. Some parts of the show fit into me like a puzzle-piece; some didn't fit at all. But all of it was truly bizarre, and great. I have to say that the crowd sucked though; many drunk, ignorant folks on their iphones. That is definitely a difference from the late '90's.

All in all, I am so glad we went. They are the same Phish that I loved ten years ago and it was great to see them and re-live some excellent times. But seeing them in the same spot made me grateful to be in a different spot. It's like going back to your home town: it's lovely to see your old town and reminisce with old high school friends, but at the end of the day, it's even better to move on...

I got "banged"!


After months of waffling back and forth between deciding to get bangs or not, I finally did it. I went to the hairdresser, sat down and was like, "I think I want bangs-- no, I don't think I want real bangs, maybe I just want like 'training wheel bangs', ya know, like short angles or something?" I made it clear that I needed a low-maintenance look but wanted one that was cute. The woman told me she'd give me short angles that i could either wear as bangs or that I could tuck behind my ears if I didn't like it. "Perfect", I thought!

So a few chops later and I had training wheel bangs. They were definitely cute, but once i got home I knew I wanted more of a bang, and knew I was ready to commit, so I got out my scissors and finished the job:

It's definitely the change I've been seeking, although it feels so weird to have hair tickling my forehead. What do you guys think? I like it because unlike my non-bang look, I have options with bangs; to the side, full frontal, clipped back, etc. And the best is that they are super low-maintenance! It was either bangs or bald, and I think I made a good choice :)

Post Keynote Analysis


I think it's important to start from the beginning, from when this gig first landed in my lap. It was about a month or so ago. I was at my internship (a dynamic non-profit seniors advocacy organization called C.A.R.I.E.) one day chatting with another intern, Ellen. She was going through her mail and opened an invitation to attend a training/conference on advocacy issues and energy resources for seniors. Ellen gave it a quick glance and handed it to me to see if I wanted to go. I read the invite pretty thoroughly... "Advocacy, Energy and the Elderly, November 18th 1:30 - 4:30, PCA, N. Broad St., panels of speakers and experts in the fields of advocacy and energy resources, blah blah blah, keynote speaker: Jennifer C. (my last name) from C.A.R.I.E., blah blah blah"...


With jaw near the floor and eyes totally bugged out, I looked at Ellen, who clearly did not know my last name. "What?", she asked? "Uhhhhhhhhhhh, I AM Jennifer C. (my last name)", I said as I pointed to the name in bold on the invite. She looked back at me like there must have been a mistake. I agreed. Even though there only 15 employees at C.A.R.I.E., and I knew them all, I seriously thought that there may have been another employee who I haven't met named Jennifer C. There is no way that somebody would have signed me (ME!) up to do this. No way in hell. Ellen and I laughed it off to a zany coincidence and went on with our days. My field instructor (internship boss) was not in that day, so I just left the invite on her chair, with a sticky note that said, "what the hell did you sign me up for - LOL!" I totally thought this was a snafu.

Not so much. My field instructor did indeed sign me up for this speech, although to her credit, she did not know that it was the "keynote address" at a major conference; she thought it was just a regular presentation like a community outreach, which is much more normal and more appropriate for an intern to do. I don't know how that miscommunication happened, but it did, and now I was stuck doing this speech that I was already signed up for. Oh my GOD!

My task was to speak for 15 - 20 minutes about advocacy strategies. The length and topic were not what worried me, it was my audience that worried me. I felt like I had no credibility in the face of 200 professionals.

But, it was what it was and I had to suck up my anxieties and just do it. In the days leading up to the conference, I had so many papers and exams due at school that I had little time to devote to writing a speech, and I literally put it off until the night before (at 11:00), and finished it up while sitting in class the morning of the conference. Procrastination station! I was in a nice pocket of zen leading up to the event, but once I parked and started walking towards the building, I started seeing the crowds and started to feel consumed by anxiety. There were tons of people; very professional looking people!

Long story a little less long, I was introduced and stepped up to the podium to deliver my address. It was totally nerve-wracking, but I connected with a handful of audience members who were nodding along with what I had to say and who emanated a warmth and kindness that comforted me in that stressful situation, so I locked eyes with them when I needed to. It was important to me to be authentic and natural rather than be perfect and stick to the script, and I think that worked despite the occasional ADD moments. Before I knew it, I was done and was walking back to my seat amongst applause and smiles. Phhhewwwwww.......

Soon after I sat down, someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that KYW (the news) wanted to interview me, so I walked to back of the auditorium and gave an interview. That was exhilarating while also being intimidating, because I'm learning about the the power that the media has in terms of spinning whatever you say in whatever way suits their agenda, so I was trying to speak the truth while also being conscious of the soundbite they would isolate and use.

After the news bit, I ran into some people I knew, both from school and from professional functions. I got some much-needed positive feedback about my speech and started to slowly but surely release some of the tension and anxiety that had filled my heart and mind prior to the speech. But - as soon as the conference ended, I had to race back to school to finish writing a paper, so I couldn't totally exhale and relax until later that night. And truthfully, I haven't been able to fully relax until right now. And damn does it feel good!

So, on my life-list of things to do, I can officially check off "deliver a keynote address". Check!

Sundays = the end of fun days


Sunday nights are so awkward.

One on hand I'm super-relaxed and full of goodness from a great weekend, but on the other hand, that is all behind me and I'm looking straight ahead into a super-stressful week full of deadlines, exams and public speaking. No more sitting around in my "elegant body wrap" (snuggie) drinking cocktails and planning adventures out west. Nope. It's time to buckle down and prepare for the long days ahead. It's time to write that paper that I've been putting off all weekend. Oh wait, did I say "that paper"?, oops, meant to say "those papers". Geed. It's time to study for those exams. It's time to prepare my speech for Wednesday, when I'll officially be able to cross "be a keynote speaker" off my list of things to do before I die. That's right, it's offical: I'm offical.

In an ironic twist of fate, er, awkward fate, I (a social work student) have been designated as the offical keynote speaker at a conference for professional social workers. So, I get to stand in front of a room full of 200 people with MSW degrees and tell them how to be an MSW. Is that not the most backwards situation you can think of?? My topic is advocacy strategies, so I think that's broad enough to where I can sound legit, but still, this tops the list of potentially awkward moments in my life. Stay tuned for some post-keynote analysis on Wednesday night.

So anyway, I'm just trying to enjoy some few last moments of calm before the storm. Unfortunately, the more I indulge in the calm, the worse the storm will be, so I better get to those papers and batten down the hatches for the work week ahead. Ugh.

Denver --> Vegas

Ok so the boat idea didn't work out because all in all it was just too damn expensive. But in the process of trying to make it work, and trust me, I tried to make it work from every single angle, a great idea was revealed to me. For instance, I was doing everything in my power to make an amazing rafting trip through "Cataract Canyon" happen. This trip started in Moab, Utah on the Colorado River. When I saw how pricey it was to fly directly into Moab, Utah, I thought, "Hmm, it might be cool to fly into Denver and rent a car and road-trip it through the Rockies to Utah". And once I made that a possibility, I fell in love with the idea. But then I realized that you can't do a one-way rental with the car rental companies that exist in Moab; we would have had to rent a car in Denver, drop it off in Grand Junction, CO and then take a $250 shuttle to Moab. Everytime I tried to "make it work", as Tim Gunn would say, the costs just kept increasing. And, we wouldn't want to go all the way out there without seeing some National Parks, especially Arches and CanyonLands, since they're right by Moab.

So I stepped back and analyzed the situation. As much as I loved the rafting plan, there were some serious downfalls with it:
1. the cost - we would be spending money that we didn't actually have just to make a 4-day raft adenture happen.
2. the limitations - we would only get to experience the river and not the surrounding areas.

And when I stepped back, I saw how much more we could do without the rafting trip, and I liked it. We could cover so much ground; we could cover so many parks, four states, mountains, desert, the quiet and desolation of southern Utah and the bling bling of Vegas, and we could have an amazing road trip, to boot. SOLD!

So the rough plan includes the following elements:
Fly to Denver, see some family and friends in Denver for a quick minute
Drive through the Rockies to Moab, Utah. Find hot springs along the way.
Visit Arches NP, possibly CanyonLands, possibly go horseback riding, possible take a day trip down the river, explore Moab.
Leave Moab and take scenic byways down to Bryce Canyon NP.
From Bryce, continue down to Zion NP
From Zion, head down to the Grand Canyon
From G.C. head to Vegas, possibly win money!

This is alot to do in ten days, so if you have any helpful bits of advice on how to make it work, please share. Our rough route is here, although this does not show the proper scenic route we'll be taking through the middle of Utah.

We are both so excited for this adventure, and it feels like exactly what I was seeking: a transformative adventure that will stir my soul. Yay!

Where to???


Even though graduation is a good six or seven months away, I'm already deep into plan-mode for a post-grad getaway. Originally I was thinking Caribbean, or something beachy and chill, but the thought of that, while great, does not satisfy my deeper urge to have a transformative experience. After six years of trudging through the ho-hum and routine of academia, I am hungry not just for a vacation or a trip to the beach, but for an experience that will awaken me and stir my soul. The experience of education has been a transformative experience itself, and I'm looking for something to commemorate that while also celebrating what I predict will feel like a re-birth! Or at least a brand new chapter.

So, where to? Jay and I have talked about it and both agree that we want to explore the west/southwest. We want to experience the desert, the Grand Canyon, the mountains, Vegas, natural hot springs, etc. The first thought that came to mind was taking a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. What a great way to experience the Canyon! Plus, the trip originates in Vegas, so we could kill two birds with one stone, BUT, it's super expensive and not really a reality with our travel budget. For a three day rafting trip it would cost $1300 EACH, and that's not including airfare or hotel in Vegas, so it may prove to be too expensive at this point in time.

So now I'm trying to figure out how to have an amazing, transformative experience on the cheap, relatively speaking. Ideally this experience would include some nature/National Parks, some road tripping, some Vegas, and some thrilling adventure!

Now accepting ideas...

The Status of our Updates


It's no surprise that I love to write. In fact, despite all of my schooling in social work and all of the energy I've devoted to it, deep down inside I know that I'm a writer. And I have a hunch that the most satisfying and gratifying work I will accomplish in this world will be a fusion of the two. How they will come together and fuse is yet to be determined... but it will happen.

I used to write with great regularity, but haven't been doing so lately for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I don't have the time it takes to sit down and engage in the process of writing, but... I also think that there has been a shift in how we write, specifically in terms of how we write as a way to update and engage each other. A few years ago, blogs were the latest and greatest way to weave social media with personal narrative as a way to connect with friends and share parts of yourself with the world. These days, who has time to write, or read an entire blog? Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of social networking sites, we have learned how to share "what we're up to", or "what's on our mind" in a limited amount of characters. While this is fun, easily accessible and totally acceptable in 2009, it feels cheap. By knowing what 200 of our nearest and dearest are up to in any given moment, we are losing something; we are giving up quality for quantity.

Don't get me wrong, I love status updates! I have learned more interesting things about people from my past and present vis-a-vis the ubiquitious "what's on your mind" update, BUT, I do miss learning about and getting to know people through their words. And I don't mean through their 140 characters; I mean through their stories, narratives and shared experiences. I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I am an avid consumer of and participant in the world of snippet socialaztion, I miss the olden days of people sharing who they are, how they feel and what they think in a more contextual way. Simply put, I miss blogs.

That being said, I'm going to try to take a more balanced approach to how I update my status. I'd like to still share snippets on Facebook, but I'd also like to maintain a space where I can share stories, thoughts and observations more in-depth. For me, there is great value in writing blogs; facebook offers the social element and journaling offers the self-reflection stuff, but a blog is where those two worlds can intersect, and connect people on a deeper level.

So that's what I'm going to do. I hope you'll join me.

Now if only I could figure out what the intersection of social work and writing is :)

Stay tuned...