Virtual Insanity Part 3: My Heart Will Go On to Tubthump at 3am (1997)

Part 1 (1994-1995) and Part 2 (1996).

1997 seems to contain a fair amount of one-hit wonders as well as the mother of all soundtrack listings.  It was also the first year that I watched Buffy and Daria, an excellent year for geek TV; I had a boy try to hold my hand at an all-night youth group thing (…seriously.) and nearly melted into a pile of awkward composed of equal parts mortification and concealer.  And thank all that is holy, it was also my last year with glasses.  Unfortunately, it was also the same year I discovered layering tank tops.  You can’t win ’em all.

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.  I took a metric ton of shit from my friends for downloading this song.  When I saw Titanic, I saw the first showing of the day at 11am because I had to get a ride based on my mom’s schedule and ended up seeing it for free because the cashier hadn’t opened the register yet.  I also knew a girl who saw Titanic sixteen–one-six, two times eight–times.  That says it all about Titanic-mania.

“Zoot Suit Riot” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies.  What came first: the Gap commercial or the musical resurgence of swing?

“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba.  It wasn’t until I went to London for the first time in 2002 that I took a drink of real cider.  Talk about a life-changer.  But in 1997 I couldn’t figure out why they were peeing all over the place.  The face of ignorance is so sad.

“MMMBop” by Hanson.  Did you know these guys are still touring?  Did you know they were actually biologically male?  Me either.

“All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo.  They played this song at every dance and as the last slow dance at my 8th grade social the following year, according to my journal at the time.  I wore a super-shiny silver shift dress, platform sandals, and went to an actual party afterward.  For a geek like me, this was the apotheosis of cool.

“I Do” by Lisa Loeb.  Lisa is my husband’s dream woman; the day after he proposed to me he heard Lisa doing a press interview where she stated that she was single again after 12 years of being in a relationship and Tom nearly drove off the road mourning his timing.  Anyhoo, this was my favorite released single off the Firecracker album.

“Mo Money Mo Problems” by Mase, Puff Daddy & Notorious B.I.G.  A simpler time were those halcyon days when Sean Combs was still Puff Daddy.  I love this video.  Whatever happened to Mase, anyway?

“3 A.M.” by Matchbox 20.  I swear to God, this song is played as much at the radio on certain stations now as it was in 1997.  VH1 in particular used to love it on their top video of the week countdowns.

“Building A Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan.  In the process of creating this playlist, I had to face some hard truths about the enormity of my Sarah McLachlan collection.  I have almost every single album.  But she and Surfacing in particular dragged my depressive, malcontent antisocial ass kicking and screaming through the weepiest rollercoaster of my teenage hormones, so for that I will be forever grateful.

“I Want You” by Savage Garden.  The playlist is in need of some cheerful bounce so I didn’t include “Truly Madly Deeply.”  But one of my favorite moments from junior high was seeing a really popular boy that I won’t name who I didn’t really like singing this song mournfully after an argument with his girlfriend.  Schadenfreude!

“All For You” by Sister Hazel.  Continuing the upbeat and perky here…whatever it says about me, this is still one of my favorite songs to bellow out in the car.

“Walkin’ On The Sun” by Smashmouth.  As inescapable as “All Star” but not nearly as annoying.

“Fly” by Sugar Ray.  This song is terrible, and really rather irritating.  But Mark McGrath was ALL OVER every teen magazine I ever read (and there were a ton), and I remember that at the time I kind of dug the tattoos.  I’m not proud of any of this, guys.

“How’s It Gonna Be” by Third Eye Blind.  This was used in some Kevin Williamson production or another; it might have been “Dawson’s Creek” but god knows there were a ton of his scripts flying around Hollywood and North Carolina in the late 90s.  (And you better believe that I snapped up all three Scream movies when they were on sale for $7 each at Walmart.)  Anyway, I like “Semi-Charmed Life” but this was a good song too, certainly better than “Jumper.”

“If You Could Only See” by Tonic.  I’ll say it: I owned Lemon Parade.  And all their songs sounded exactly the same.  In that regard they were a prototype for Nickelback.

“One Headlight” by The Wallflowers.  And furthermore, I’ll say this: I think Jakob Dylan should have had more of a career than he did.  Nepotism notwithstanding, I like his voice and I still love this song.  And he didn’t look bad in the video, as I recall.


Virtual Insanity Part 2: The Lovefool is Doin’ It With The Beautiful People in 1979 (1996)

Part 1: The Run-around On Bended Knee That You Oughta Know

For reasons known only to the people who coordinate schedules, I was in a sixth grade homeroom chock full of…interesting types.  It seemed to me that we had more than our fair share of behavioral problem cases and underachievers, but that could just be junior high in general.  In any case, I tried to impress a guy in homeroom with my knowledge of both hip hop and Smashing Pumpkins, failed miserably, and ended up a longtime fan as a result.  The rest was born out of the Top 40, my desire to seem cool, summer camp and sneaking MTV and VH1 videos after school, contained in a “featuring Dr. Dre” sandwich.

“No Diggity” by Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre. Um, obviously this was going to be on here.  No doubt.

“The Distance” by Cake. The first time I realized I could get a Portland alt-rock station (WCYY 94.3FM, a damn good station, too) in my bedroom, they played this song constantly, racing and pacing.

“Lovefool” by The Cardigans. Best known for it’s appearance in the Baz Lurhmann screamy angstfest version of Romeo and Juliet, it was also in the soundtrack of another seminal 90s classic: Cruel Intentions.  Anyone else like how Selma Blair was supposed to be, like, 13 or AT MOST 14 in that movie?  Felony funday!

“I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis. Heard this in the grocery store the other day and thought it sounded familiar; further research led me to recall watching the video and getting motion sick.  So…there’s that.

“Stupid Girl” by Garbage. Not going to lie, I kind of wanted to be Shirley.  She just seemed badass in every way that my bespectacled dorky self was not.

“Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai.  Does anyone else remember that brief big-hat period?  Was that at anyone else’s school?  Was that even at my school?  Weigh in, former classmates; the enormous hat may be causing me to hallucinate.

“Doin’ It” by LL Cool J. The first single to which I heard the phrase “that rap crap” applied to the musical genre by an elder adult of my acquaintance.  Naturally, I had to get it immediately.  On cassette, because I had no cash.

“Naked Eye” by Luscious Jackson. This had a fun beat to it.  Still does, actually.  Plus my husband does a nice falsetto of the chorus so the fun is built right in for me.

“The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. My parents weren’t conservative politically but they definitely had conservative standards for correct behavior and appropriate artistic content.  Ergo, I always marveled at kids who were not only allowed to listen to Manson but who wore Antichrist Superstar t-shirts to school.  I imagined they also got to eat brownies for breakfast to gear up for a hard day of mouthing off and killing puppies.

“Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” by Paula Cole.  Hey!  She says “beeeeeer.”  With a sneeeeeeer.  Poetry in motion, baby.  (Not really.)

“Peaches” by Presidents of the United States of America. I actually prefer the beat of “Lump” but I think this has a better sing-along quality.

“If I Run” by Semisonic. There was no way we were going to make it through this list without a mention of Semisonic so I decided to include their one song that I liked instead of “Closing Time.”  You forgot they HAD another song, didn’t you?

“Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin. My morning school bus route driver played the same radio station every morning, and at some point on the 45-minute ride “Sunny Came Home” would play.  If you think playing this song and subliminally suggesting “Strike a match go on and do it” to a bunch of junior high and high school kids riding to public school is a bad idea, you would be smarter than our bus driver.

“1979” by Smashing Pumpkins. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, I knew owned a copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  Incidentally, my 2002 high school yearbook quote was from “Tonight Tonight” and I walked down the aisle at my wedding to the instrumental intro to that album, so my Pumpkin love endured well into the aughts.

“What I Got” by Sublime. The other song that 94.3FM played constantly.  I wholeheartedly adored it then, though I like pretty much every other song of theirs better now.

“Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham. This one is on here just for the “Holy hell, I forgot all about this one” factor.

“California Love” by 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre. Remember that scenario with “Gangsta’s Paradise”?  Imagine that except with “California Love.”  It was no less absurd 8 years later when I went to a club while home for the summer and the house lost their minds to this song…in a hick bar in Rochester, New Hampshire.  Plum Crazy 4 Life, Y’all (omg, that review is so on the money).  Seriously, it was jealousy.  Why would you live in NH when you could live in California?  The only upside is the taxes and maybe getting all the jokes in Granite State of Mind.  (That last is totally worth it, actually.)

Virtual Insanity Part 1: The Run-Around On Bended Knee That You Oughta Know (1994-1995)

Confused? Read the administrative notes or try the introduction.

Got your Starter jackets on?  Good!  How about your wallet chains?  Eeeeexcellent.  On with the silliness.  These were the first years–fourth and fifth grade–that I was able to listen to my own radio choices and pay for my own music.  Burgeoning independence ahoy!  (ETA: Because my friend Sam is a pain in the ass, there are now YouTube links.  Should have been there before, but I was really tired. And I don’t embed them because my computer is old and frail and it takes me forever to load a page with embedded videos.  Breathe into a paper bag; you’ll live, we’ll get through this together.)

And a one-two-three-four!  Let’s roll.

“The Sign” by Ace of Base.  Strong start, eh? Actually my computer automatically alphabetized this list and I liked beginning with “The Sign”‘s distinctive sound, and by distinctive I mean “just like every other AoB song.” Whatevs. You know The Base when you hear it.

“I Swear” by All 4 One.  Since I am simple and ignorant, I had NO IDEA the country version came first.  A junior high slow-dance staple.

“Run-Around” by Blues Traveler.  Go go harmonica!

“On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men.  Boyz II Men was another dance staple, but I guess “I’ll Make Love To You” wasn’t going to clear the PTA.  Anyway, I think this fits early-teen angst.

“Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band.  Do you ever laugh at people who have DMB stickers on their cars and call them dumb?  *raises hand*

“When I Come Around” by Green Day. Dookie was one of my first albums, and this was my favorite at the time although I grew to love “Longview” quite a bit more.

“I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders. Will you?  Will you stand by me?  Even into my darkest hour, that hour when my banana clip clashes with my Airwalk sneakers?

“Another Night” by Real McCoy. This exemplifies, to me, the generic club beat sound of the early 90s.  La Bouche would have done fine here.  Be My Lovah!

“Creep” by TLC.  I prefer this to “Waterfalls” even though trying the rap would be fun in the car with a friend.  My friend Ann had the inspired suggestion to swap “Creep” for “Red Light Special” too.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette.  1995 is here, and it. Is. Pissed.  Forget the hype, forget the controversy over the graphic lyrics, forget the later abuse of the word “ironic” and forget the alleged Uncle Joey bullshit and just listen to the anger in the vocals.  Enjoyable stuff!

“Good” by Better Than Ezra. This song was nigh on unavoidable.

“I Believe” by Blessid Union of Souls.  Aha!  Social commentary!  This became a Sophie’s Choice between this, the better known of their songs, and the kitsch WTF value of “Hey Leonardo.”

“Closer To Free” by BoDeans.  The theme song to the most 90s Gen-X whiny suckfest show of all, “Party of Five.”

“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio.  Close your eyes.  Imagine several dozen junior high students from rural Maine dancing in the school gymnasium; varying in economic status from blue collar to upper-middle class but almost uniformly white and raised in the woods. Now imagine those kids singing, with glee and gusto, “Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye.”  Let THAT sink in a little.  That’s why I didn’t go with “1,2,3,4” here.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something.  Raise your hand if at the age of 12, you thought this was a nice brunch place.  Anyone?  Okay…cheese stands alone.

“Santa Monica” by Everclear.  My favorite of Everclear’s offerings.

“Til I Hear It From You” by Gin Blossoms.  This one is a cheat, actually; I didn’t think of it as quintessentially “90’s” until I was in high school and watched Empire Records eighty bazillion times.  But who knows where thoughts come from?  They just appear.

“Insensitive” by Jann Arden.  I stumbled upon this one accidentally by researching and I remember digging it for its Alanis-lite sound.

“You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel.  I recall thinking this song was very sweet and now think it’s a little pathetic, but I still feel sentimentally good toward it, much like my old Tiger Beat posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas.  JTT4eva!

“I Kissed A Girl” by Jill Sobule. Take notes, Katy Perry. THAT’S how you kiss a girl.

“Lightning Crashes” by Live.  Double-dog-dare you not to imagine the sound of placenta hitting the floor.  That’s what this song did to us.

“Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.  You have no idea how sad I was when I recorded myself singing “Fantasy” into my tape recorder and discovered that not only could I not sing, I might be inadvertently creating instruments of torture.

“Spiderwebs” by No Doubt.  The song that launched a thousand answering machine outgoing messages.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis. I only like a few Oasis songs, this being one of them, but damn those guys were entertaining…if you were 12. And I was.  Forgive!!

“Angry Johnny” by Poe.  You have to admire the thoroughness of her thought process, even if she’s scary as hell.

“Kissed By A Rose” by Seal. The summer of 1995: a time of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey devouring scenery, of Val Kilmer as Batman, and of Joel Schumacher nipple-izing the Batsuit, which I can never unsee.  Thanks, JOEL.

“Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow.  From all the songs on Tuesday Night Music Club, it was this or “Leaving Las Vegas”.  But the title of that song got me thinking about the movie of the same name, and would Nicolas Cage’s character actually be able to perform in his final act with Elisabeth Shue?  Probably not, right?  But I thought about it too much and came out of that depressive blackout a sleeve of Oreos heavier, and “Strong Enough” it was.

“I Wish” by Skee-lo.  True story: when my nephew was born we put him in a backwards cap and captioned the photo “I Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller, I Wish I Was A Baller” lolcats style.  It’s just a fun song to sing in the car.

“As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins.  This song was used in the soundtrack of my favorite movie at the time, Now and Then.  What the holy fuck happened to Gabby Hoffman’s eyebrows?

Virtual Insanity: The administrative hoo-ha

My opus, my masterwork, my rabbit hole down middle school memory lane is complete.  And with that statement, let’s usher in some administrative notes.  Subsequent posts will begin with a brief intro and then straight into the list, five posts in all.  Confused about this?  Try the intro with your veal. It’s delicious.

First, it isn’t complete at all.  There’s no way I can fully encompass six years of music in a playlist without it consuming the next several years of my life.  Which is why I say to those who would ask “But where’s [blank]?! How could you not include that? YOU FRAUD!” that I’m a full-time mommy and a half-hearted blogger, not a music critic. I say this with utmost seriousness: make your own list. Make it about what this time meant to you. And most importantly, come back and share it so we can all enjoy.

Second…how did I pick the songs?  When I used selection criteria–and I did so with capriciousness and a total lack of standards–they generally fell along these lines:

1. I liked it then.
2. I do or could enjoy it now.
—–Subset 2B. It made me say “Holy shit, I was ALL ABOUT that song and totally forgot it existed until two seconds ago.”
3. Does the band have a song I like that fits in 1994-99?

That explains why, even though “Macarena” was vomiting all over radio waves in 1996, it didn’t show up here.  I’m not going to lie, I Macarena’d myself all over my room in a robotic frenzy in 1996, but I hate that song now and it holds no entertainment potential.  However, [spoiler] “My Heart Will Go On” made the cut because I could totally see it’s inherent karaoke value on a road trip, thus enhancing its enjoyability.  It works for travel = in the list.

Conversely, if a band was HEE-YUGE in the 1990s but not represented here, it’s probably because my favorite song by that band was not released during the 1994-99 period.  File The Cranberries and Mighty Mighty Bosstones under that ruling.  BTW, I used the song release date as according to Wikipedia and/or iTunes, so my research is as good as theirs.  /grain of salt

Or…I just forgot to include one.  Or I just plain didn’t like the band.  Happens all the time, happens to me, leave it in the comments.

Third: This list owes a spiritual debt to 2birds1blog, who did their own list here. Many choices are overlap, likely because the Top 40 is the same in suburban Maryland as it is in rural Maine.  God bless the USA.  But they inspired this series and credit is due to them.

Now…let’s do this thing. Part 1: The Run-Around On Bended Knee That You Oughta Know (1994-1995) comes tomorrow.

Virtual Insanity: The Introduction

Three things happened in the last few weeks that brought me here, to this crumbling, twitchy, wide-leg jeans and baby doll tee-clad state.  One, I was asked to be in a wedding in Vermont this fall.  Two, my husband got me “Daria: The Complete Series” for Mother’s Day.  And three, 2birds1blog published her middle-school song hit list, effectively launching her readership into simultaneous squee-gasms and PTSD nightmares to 1997, +/-3 years in either direction.  Holy jumping Jesus, if you had Maced me square in the eyes with a bottle of original recipe Bath and Body Works Freesia Body Spray and used my twitching form as a model for layered spaghetti strap tanks and Jane makeup, you could not have landed me more firmly in the center of my own junior high flashback.  Memories rang with tones of Third Eye Blind and the monotone musings of Daria Morgendorffer with a background of Dawson Leery repeating “Soulmate. Soulmate. Soulmate.” on an endless loop.

Certainly, my husband has aged magnificently and gets handsomer and more confident by the year and I consider every year further away from being 13 in 1997 an achievement of Effexor and sheer repressed memory.  But the flight from Honolulu to Boston is a long one, compounded by hours in the car on the way to the wedding site in Vermont.  In the spirit of facing one’s fears head-on, I decided to make the ultimate immersion therapy playlist: The ’94-’99 Jncos ‘n Platform Shoes Time Machine: A Refreshing Blast of Clinique Happy with top notes of Jamiroquai; or, Virtual Insanity in Six Acts.

Not since college have I tackled a project with so much research.  I owned a few songs that I had downloaded here and there back on my college network, but I needed to go deeper.  What wasn’t I remembering?  What was lurking in the shadows?  I reviewed Billboard Top 100 lists.  I took it to Twitter, asking what songs brought the memory of 1994-1999?  I looked at the VH1 Top Songs of the Nineties; I found the liner notes to “Now That’s What I Call Music: VOLUME MOTHERFUCKING 1-4.”  (Emphasis mine.)

What I never expected was to become so thoroughly entrenched in that time period.  In fourth grade in 1994, I was just starting to become cognizant of music beyond the oldies my mom favored in the car.  In 1995, I used my Christmas and pocket money to buy my first CD/AM-FM boombox.  1999 was the end of the century and my freshman year of high school; it was the year I stopped using my cassette deck record button to tape songs off the radio to make mixes.  Not long after, I had the first version of Napster, plugging away at half-length song versions on a 56-baud dial-up modem accessing the internet through AOL Version 8.

Before that was a purer time, a time when I was just discovering what I liked, what made me happy.  It was Sunday nights spent listening to the radio after bedtime as Rick Dees ticked off the Weekly Top 40.  It was the rush of picking up a CD (or cassette if I didn’t have enough babysitting cash for a disc) with an “E” for Explicit Content, knowing it would be met with frowning stares and disapproval by the parents.  As an adult, I’m not what you would call a true music lover.  Tom is; Tom seeks out new music constantly and I coast along on his indie cred and listen to his suggestions, but usually I’m happy singing along with the radio.  Chris Rock says that whatever you were listening to when you got laid the first few times is the music you would love forever, and that’s certainly true (and explains my otherwise inexplicable love of country music–don’t ask) but for me it’s the music I chose for myself the first time I had the opportunity to choose, and I found myself enjoying the process even as I dug deeper into years that for many reasons I would rather not remember too closely.

But getting to that revelation was…a revelation.  The list got huge.  It got unwieldly.  It revealed massive gaps in my education.  How do you define six years of music?  Nigh on impossible, it is, especially when a song you think of as essential to your mix was made between 1990-93 (“Real Love,” any song I ever liked by The Cranberries) or even in the 80s and you had no damn idea because you’re dumb (“Jane Says”).

For me, it’s shockingly, appallingly, awesomely bad pop music that will put a smile in my heart and a spring in my step every damn time, so that’s what this list is.  I combed through some really awful songs in my collection (“Fly” by Sugar Ray) and meticulously sorted them by year.  I faced some very unpleasant truths about how many Sarah McLachlan and McLachlan-esque songs I had, not to mention my vast catalogue of Smashing Pumpkins.  I downloaded singles from NKOTB solo careers for this list and looked for old clips of “Say What Karaoke!” hosted by the long-suffering Matt Pinfield during MTV Spring Break 1999.  I thought about watching “TRL” with Carson Kressley, then realized I had confused Kressley with Carson Daly, and wasn’t that a surreal trip.

What followed is six years worth of some of the most incredible and incredibly awful music to have ever closed out a decade and a Proustian aural sledgehammer of memories: bullying, being bullied, starting junior high, first dances, first kisses, having a locker and a homeroom and no friends and then a lot of friends, of feeling grown up enough to conquer the world yet not possessing a driver’s license or even a permit just by singing along to the listener-selected Number 1 hit of the day, banana clip in hair and mini-backpack on my shoulders.

In summary: This is not just a traveling playlist.  This is my opus.

Starting next Monday, once I complete the downloads and arrange the tracks to my liking, I’ll be publishing each yearly segment with some commentary and how I selected the tracks (er, capriciously, for the most part).  Maybe it will take you to a desperately uncomfortable place (not like the back of a Volkswagen) or maybe it will make you smile fondly and recall what you were doing 15 years ago.  Maybe it will just make you think “Holy crackers, she has terrible taste in music.”  (And you’d be right!)

But really, I only hope it will make you smile…and keep you entertained between takeoff and touchdown.


Even though between Hawaii and Florida my life is essentially one endless summer, I still have a New Englander’s appreciation for the heat of late June.  Starting with a little homemade strawberry lemonade…

Add a little watermelon after an afternoon in the pool…

And since today was today was the summer solstice, taking a walk to find wild daisies to go with the basil and lavender from the herb plantings in the backyard…

And crowning my little lady the Bubble Queen of the Summer Solstice.

Happy first day of summer!  I hope it’s deliciously warm where you are.

Odds ‘n Ends

Things I am doing instead of folding three loads of cloth diapers (which desperately needs to be done) or taking a nap (which based on my thought-vomit, my Twitter friends can tell you I desperately need):

Plumbing the depths of my emotional commitment to this site, to wit: can I teach myself CSS? Should I get a better hosting provider? If the internet did not exist, what else could I get done? What will further updates cost in terms of consumed Diet Coke, Cheetos, and Chocovine?

Planning an itinerary for our month in Maine and planning an itinerary for our week in Seattle and Vancouver

Related to the prior: trying, and failing, to type “itinerary” correctly the first, second, or third times

Figuring out what the heck TBEX is and how I might become worthy enough to go in 2011

Researching the lead content of my child’s juice and deciding how best to furnish my frontier cabin in Montana, because that’s where this long rabbit hole of clean living will eventually take me

Creating the most epic of all late elementary school-early high school playlists, which I have tentatively titled: “The ’94-’99 Jnco Platform Time Machine to Mediocre Pop–A Refreshing Blast of Clinique Happy with top notes of Jamiroquai”

Realizing that even though I don’t write professionally in my iTunes, I still need an editor. That’s sad.

How to pack a daypack for a day with a baby

It’s the first post with the new domain!  And to celebrate, I’m going to bypass funny and deep and contemplative and instead, I shall pack a backpack.

Are you thrilled? Can you stand it?!

Backpacks are a matter of preference among travelers; I’ve had it beaten into my head that they are easier for thieves, heavy, blah blah.  But with a baby, especially if you’re using a carrier, an across-the-body contraption is just too much.  So use at your own risk, your mileage may vary, so on so on fishcakes.  Onward.

I have a basic day backpack, picked up on sale at Sports Authority.  It has two compartments and nice wide straps, which is good because I have the back of an 80-year old arthritic woman.

Next, the essentials.  We use cloth diapers, so that absolutely adds bulk to our pack.  For a 4-6 hour day, which is about all a small kid can realistically be expected to handle, three diapers ought to do it.  The purple is a wetbag for dirty diapers, and an extra outfit.  Since we’re always in warm climates, a singlet outfit is sufficient.  The wipes case has a spray bottle of California Baby Diaper Wash, powder, and diaper cream.  There’s also a changing pad and a single prefold cloth diaper, because you never know when you’ll need extra surface area.

After that, we have amusements.  Do not go unprepared; we have a couple of books, a flexible toy that can be twisted and summarily abused, and a container of dry trail mix.  In Maggie’s too-young-for-nuts case, it’s Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies and Graham Crackers and dried cranberries.

Ahhh, the emergency kit.  $16 travel toiletry case from Target with bandages, sunscreen and sunscreen stick, hand sanitizer, bug spray, all my assorted lip balm and contact lens stuff, and my favorite: the Leatherman Juice.  It is amazing how useful this contraption is; it’s also purple.  It’s one of my favorite things ever.

Zippered, it’s about the size of a large paperback.  Not bad.

And finally, my stuff.  Wallet, camera and a case, and since I’m a hipster-in-training not one but TWO graph-paper Moleskines.  I don’t know why, but I really prefer taking notes on graph paper instead of lined.  The larger one is kind of my catch-all; notes on crochet patterns and projects, shopping lists, to-dos, notes for story ideas, etc.  The smaller is where I take calendar notes for appointments and other projects and I enter it to Google Calendar later.  My phone (not shown because it lives in my hip pocket where Maggie can take it and chew on it) actually can do all that for me, but I really prefer a pen and paper.  There’s also a zip-top reusable shopping bag that folds into an ittybitty cube.  My big stash of reusable bags lives in my trunk, but this is handy for use at little shops or farmer’s markets while wandering around.  When I have a companion or a stroller, I carry my Canon 7D but if it’s just me, that’s a lot of weight and shuffling (though I love that camera with every fiber of my being).

All together, it looks really heavy but isn’t.  The cloth diapers make up a lot of bulk and there’s a fair amount of room left in the bag for…whatever.  I don’t know.  Life with a kid is weird, you run into all kinds of odd cargo.

And that’s that!  Easy enough, light on the back, and not covered in pastels or Disney characters.  You’re welcome.


We’ve been in Pinellas County for almost three months now, and my darling girl does love the water.  Here, Maggie models the latest in UPF 50 swimwear for the whitest-white-girl-that-ever-did-white set.  Wrist-to-ankles with zinc woven into the fabric, and worth every penny since sunscreen that won’t kill you or give you other cancers costs a mint and thus it makes sense to cover 90% of her body.

Today we went to Madeira Beach for about an hour, a departure from our usual Sunset Beach on Treasure Island.  Maggie has no respect whatsoever for the water–the soaked curls in the photo are a result of her crawling off toward the water’s edge while I was unfolding a chair and nearly getting swept off to Cuba before I caught up to her.  File under “Mothers, Negligent.”

There’s no good segue here: I can’t talk about the oil spill without crying.  I’ve been coming to this area to visit family since I was the same age that Maggie is in this photograph and there is nothing about this situation that doesn’t break my heart.  Parts of the Gulf Coast are going to be ruined for the remainder of my lifetime, possibly the rest of Maggie’s too.  It’s coming this way, I hear; the Panhandle has already been hit.  She’s too young to remember this trip; she may never know how this beach was before the oil.  Unemployment here is already terrible and if tourism takes the expected hit, it will only get worse.  My sister and brother-in-law had hoped to move here within the next few years, but he’s in tourism and truly, there’s nothing for him here if the oil ruins local tourism.  I’ve done what I can, donating enormous bottles of Dawn to cleanup organizations and encouraging others to do the same, but the sick, dropped-stomach helpless feeling persists.

But in the meantime, before the landscape changes, we’re enjoying the hell out of the area.  I’ve declared the remainder of this week and next “St. Pete Appreciation Week” and we’re going to  At least, we’re going to do it up as only as semi-single mother and her demanding almost-toddler can–in moderate doses with lots of sunscreen, hydration breaks, and frequent stops to air-conditioned places.  The Dali Museum, the Sunken Gardens, the fruit winery that makes a carrot Merlot that once sent Tom away gasping and clutching his tradtionalist metaphorical pearls in disgusted disbelief.  (Maggie can be my driver.)  I signed Maggie up for private at-home swim lessons in my parents’ pool so we can get the most out of our water time here and back at home.  We’re going to go all over her daddy’s former stomping grounds (he’s a Floridian born and bred, of course) and see what he saw when he was small.

If she can’t remember how it used to be, maybe Tom and I can remember enough for her.