Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 132: La Tavola Date Night

On Day 132, I had plans to go out on a first date with a guy I met at a friend's engagement party. I guess the entire evening with this new person was the thing I've never done before, but in the spirit of not making this a dating blog, I'm not going to delve into the details of him, or the date necessarily. I also am not in the business of making people a part of this blog without their permission, so like Mountain Man, I asked my friend Emily to name this new guy for me. Emily named this gentleman (and he was a gentleman), "Masters" because he golfs and he's from Augusta.

When it was settled that we would go out on Saturday, Masters politely asked for my help in choosing a place for us to go to dinner, which I appreciated and dreaded all at the same time. Nice that he wanted me to choose, but daunting because what if I chose a restaurant that he hated or was too expensive?

I'm not looking to drain anyone's bank account on a first date, but I've mistakenly led guys to believe that I'm super low maintenance and laid back, waiting too long before telling them that I really do like nice dinners at expensive restaurants.

Better, I figure, to reveal my true personality up front. Not all the crazy stuff, but at least the part that likes good Italian.

Plus, I thought, it's a date and I wanted it to feel that way, so I threw out three suggestions of nice and moderately priced restaurants and threw it back to him to choose where we went (tricky, huh?). Lucky for me and for the blog, Masters chose La Tavola, making dining there Day 132's thing I've never done before.

La Tavola is an Italian restaurant in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta. The restaurant came highly recommended for good reason. The food and atmosphere are awesome, in an unpretentious but super classy way. The place is small and intimate, which I liked, but since there isn't much of a waiting area, and we didn't get seated right away, we had to do the awkward "not-sure-where-to stand" dance around each other and around the tables of other people.

That dance was a small price to pay for the evening, though, because once we we escorted to our table and had a place to sit down, the awkwardness subsided, the conversation flowed and our meal was fabulous. And that's all you get. I told you this isn't a dating blog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 131: Just Dance

I got back from Mansfield late Friday night, just in time for an enormous snow storm that dumped a foot of snow over most of Ohio. Most of my friends back in Georgia had already made plans and I was sort of down upon my arrival. Airports bum me out for some reason.

I talked to my friends Emily and Lauren. They, along with their husbands, invited me to dinner and then to play with one of Emily's Valentine's Day presents from Scott. Wha? First of all, while I appreciated Emily's wanting to include me in her weekend plans, playing with her Valentine's Day present from her husband had creepy written all over it. And secondly, Valentine's Day wasn't for another week. I was confused.

I resisted my urge to go home and sit on my couch and went to Emily and Scott's instead where I learned about this present. Scott was apparently so excited about one of his presents to Emily that he didn't want to wait until Valentine's Day for her to open it. He wanted her to have it right then. That’s how strongly he felt about this gift. His present turned out to be a gift for us all, so I'm glad he jumped the gun. It also became Day 131's thing I’ve never done before: Play “Just Dance” on Wii.

If you think “Just Dance” sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen their commercials featuring home videos of different families all shaking their money makers for the camera. The ads are hysterical.

I have accidentally been caught on camera dancing at weddings and I’m always mortified. Watching myself in these scenarios always gives me huge amounts of anxiety. The thought that someone would willingly set up a video camera to record themselves dancing is both foreign and hilarious to me.

On the other hand, I love to dance. I was a trained and competitive dancer for years, so I should have no problem with this game. Maybe the world is ready to see my moves. So for the sake of the blog I allowed Scott to film us playing it, also something I’ve never done before.

The game is a lot of fun. There is a digital figure on the screen that does a dance and your job is to mirror what the digital figure is doing. The movements aren’t difficult, and they repeat a lot, so by the end there is potential for knowing the entire routine.

Because you’re holding the Wii “controller” in your hand, the game scores you based on your ability to closely mirror the digital figure’s moves.

Piece of cake, right? Only it’s not. I was winded, embarrassingly so, while dancing and some of the moves didn’t come naturally to me.

Not to mention, I've watched these videos that I'm about to post and I'm not as good of a dancer as I thought I was. True, I had never played this game before and new things are always a challenge, but the overall performance is lacking. I was, and am, a little concerned about my dance abilities after watching these videos. I need to get back in the studio in a big way.

Scott started by shooting the videos from the back. My dancing doesn't look attractive from any angle, but especially not from a rear view. Emily and I demanded him to reposition himself in front of us if the videos were going to be blog-worthy. I think you'll agree the videos tell the story far better than I ever could, complete with Scott's commentary and Donald's toe-tapping.

Watch the confusion on our faces and witness the hilarity. And Just Dance everybody!

Day 130: Mansfield or Bust

On Day 130 I flew to Mansfield, Ohio for work. I know, not exactly the most exciting assignment I could've been given, but Mansfield was a place that I had never been before, so the blog possibilities were boundless.

Day 130's thing I've never done before was to cruise Mansfield, in the snow, in a rented PT Cruiser (this picture is obviously not from this visit).

I have a lot of family who live in cities all over Ohio, and sadly this is the only time I've been to Ohio and didn't make contact with any of them. Not because I wanted it that way, but because my hectic schedule didn't really allow for any free time.

Mansfield is located right in the center of Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, I flew into Columbus and flew out of Cleveland the next day because of inclement weather.

Among the things I did that I'd never done before while in Mansfield included: visit a General Motors Plant, go to a City Council Meeting, attend a business meeting at an Applebee's.

Some fun facts about Mansfield:

-Luke Perry was born here

-Shawshank Redemption was filmed here

Those are all of the fun facts that I know right now, but I'll work on getting more. I'm going to be spending a lot of time in this city over the next year, so if you have any ideas for fun stuff to do in airports (or Mansfield), send them my way.

Day 129: Walk that Mall, Girl

My friend Amanda at work told me a story recently about meeting her mom at the mall to run some errands ahead of her upcoming wedding. Their plan was to meet right at 10am, when the stores opened. Amanda said she was surprised to find out that the mall was opened well before 10am and that there were people actually there exercising.

I laughed. I had heard of senior citizens walking the mall but I didn't realize they came out in such high numbers, and I assumed they walked the mall during regular business hours. I didn't know the mall opened early to accommodate this need.

Amanda joked, "We should walk the mall for your blog!"

Hell yes we should.

She sent me an Outlook Meeting Maker titled, "Walk that Mall, Girl," and I quickly accepted it.

On Wednesday morning, I drove up to Phipps Plaza in Buckhead. It was sunny outside, but pretty chilly, so I was certainly glad we were going to be taking our exercise indoors. I was really hoping that we would be among the masses of seniors who woke up early to walk, but there was only one other older lady there. Too bad.

So we walked. And we talked. We solved all of the world's problems, which is what I always tend to do when I exercise with a friend.

I really think she wanted to get me all to her self so she could ask me about my dating prospects on, but I really didn't have much to say then and I don't have much to say about it now either.

Amanda logged on to the Phipps Plaza website and it has a little blurb specifically for mall walkers. One lap around Level 1 and one lap around Level 2 is one mile. We were up and down on both levels so many times I lost count but we were there for about 45 minutes.

I forgot my camera, but had my work Blackberry in my pocket, so we asked a couple of custodians to take our picture. They agreed.

"Ah...sure," one of them said as he took my Blackberry. "Y'all ladies gettin' y'all's fitness on?"

Indeed we were.

Well, if I'm being completely truthful, I'm not sure we reached extraordinary levels of fitness that day, but it was a great opportunity to catch up with Amanda and do some window shopping before the stores opened. Having the mall all to ourselves was somewhat eery, but fun and if they'd let us shop, I know we could've done some serious damage.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 128: Three Dudes, One Gal, and a Groundhog

"It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life." --Groundhog Day

Day 128 was one of the country's most anticipated days of the year: Groundhog Day. My friends in the northeast and DC had suffered numerous snow storms that seemed to have no end, but perhaps, we were all hoping, the groundhog had good news of an early spring.

I sincerely wanted to go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where the real deal groundhog Punxsutawney Phil comes out of hiding to either give us six more weeks of winter, or an early spring. I googled flights to Pittsburgh and looked into renting a car that would take us to Punxsutawney. Convincing someone, anyone, to come along on such an adventure proved to be a challenge, however. Even the most enthusiastic blog supporters weren't interested in flying to Pittsburgh on a Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Groundhog celebration fascinates me and though I couldn't make it happen as a part of Project 29 to 30, it remains on my bucket list.

Lucky for me, Georgia has its own groundhog, who also makes a weather prediction every February 2nd.

Day 128's thing I've never done before was to pay a visit to General Beauregard Lee at the Yellow River Game Ranch to hear what the little rodent had to say.

I sent the following email at 1:58pm on Monday (the day before Groundhog Day) to several friends at work:

Alright…I didn’t make it to Pennsylvania to see Punxsutawney Phil, but who wants to go see General Beauregard Lee tomorrow in Lilburn?!

By 2:09pm, Mo, (Hunting) John, and Justin were all on board. Other friends wanted to be on board, but couldn't because of various work and personal commitments.

John made the final plans and shared them with the group.

Meet at my house at 6:45AM.

Go to Game Ranch & be there by 7:15.

Depart game ranch and eat breakfast at Matthews Cafeteria in Tucker.

Report to work at regular times after that.


Cool? Yes, John, this is more than cool. I was overwhelmed at the response and thought to myself, "I'm a really lucky girl to have been able to convince not one, but three fabulous gentlemen to accompany me on this trip." Maybe 2010 isn't so bad, after all.

Tuesday morning was cold and rainy. It was still dark out when I checked my Blackberry and saw that John had emailed the crew:

Still on in the rain?

As if a little rain was going to keep me from watching a groundhog that predicts the weather? I knew General Lee was coming out rain or shine and I'll be damned if I'm not there to see it. Besides, Justin and Mo were already on their way. Still not sure what we were getting ourselves into, we arrived at John's, piled into his truck and headed out.

When we got to the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia, I was surprised that all the parking spaces were already taken. There are other people actually interested in this enough to be here in person? There was a television satellite truck, which I expected. Local news exists for events like this. Despite the crappy weather, I could feel the excitement in the air, and in a strange way, I was nervous. Nervous because I wasn't really sure where we were supposed to go and a little afraid that we were late and that we might miss it.

The moment I stepped out of the car, I could hear roosters crowing. They were loud. I assumed they were far away perhaps in a barn where most roosters live, but when Justin instructed me to look up, I saw that they were hanging out in a tree. Can roosters fly? How did they get up there? This place was bizarre.

In order to get to General Lee, we had to walk through the front door of a cabin full of cheap wildlife knick knacks and out the back door onto a wooden walkway that led to rest of the ranch. On the wooden walkway was a deer, with its antlers cut off, walking towards us like it was a dog. A big gross dog with knobs on its head.

I stopped suddenly at the site of this deer, completely freaked out.

Deer shouldn't be milling about people in this way. I prefer deer that get spooked in the woods and run away from humans. I prefer deer that I have to be completely silent around. I prefer deer that live in the woods that John likes to kill.

Speaking of John, I looked at him, sure he was wishing he had a weapon to take care of this deer right then and there. His eyes lit up at the sight of the animal, but not in a, “I want to shoot you and eat you for dinner” kind of way. Instead, he went up to the deer and started petting it like they were old friends. Apparently when killing them is not an option, John is quite fond of domesticated deer.

Are we at a petting zoo, I wondered? Was I going to have an opportunity to pet General Beauregard Lee?

I ran behind Mo and Justin, wanting to put distance, and people, between the deer and me. I’m not sure why I was so freaked out. The whole thing felt unnatural, creepy. Deer are not pets and they should not act like it.

Just like a dude at a bar that can’t take a hint, this deer followed me around for the rest of the morning, even though I had made it very clear to the deer, and to everyone, that I didn’t like it. Every time I turned around, it was there, getting fed popcorn by little kids, or just rooting its little nose into circles of visitors.

What kind of a weird-ass place was this? What goes on here? I honestly don’t know. I spent the morning there and I still don't know.

We arrived at General Lee’s house, which was a dollhouse sized antebellum home surrounded by a metal fence. How very southern of Beauregard.

There was a local news reporter treating this event as if as if she were breaking the biggest scoop in Atlanta that day. She was wearing a rain coat with fur on the hood and multi-colored boots, which were both over the top. But what annoyed me the most about her was her decision to stand directly in front of the house, obstructing my view and the views of several small children standing behind her. With a lot of self-importance, she pulled out her Blackberry and starting messaging someone furiously. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and ask her if she understood where she was, and to find out if she was typing eye-witness accounts of the groundhog’s movements.

I managed to lose the deer for a while, only to gain another pest, this one of the mascot variety. I think it was the mascot for the Atlanta Braves minor league baseball team. This "hilarious" bear would stand right beside me, hug me, dance around and put his hand in front of every picture I tried to take. My temperamental camera was not prepared to deal with this clown/bear/annoyance and like the deer, I did my best to dodge it for the rest of the morning.

The crowd was small, but spirited, as an older gentleman with a microphone welcomed everyone to the ranch and gave a little background on the history of General Beauregard Lee. Then he started a chant in an effort to coax General Lee out of his mansion. The crowd happily obliged.

One side yelled “Go!” and then the other side yelled, “Beau!”


I felt like I was at a pep rally. For a groundhog. The cheering made me laugh. In fact, I’m quite certain I’ve never laughed this much before 10am in my life. I found the whole experience, the chanting, the roosters, the people, hysterical.

General Lee still refused to come out of his house when some poor dude was chosen to open the fence, walk inside, and place a bowl of food in front of General Lee’s door. It wasn’t long before the front door opened, and out walked Beauregard. He stayed on the porch for a little bit while the crowd snapped photos wildly. According to the commentator, General Lee did not see his shadow and spring is on the way! I’m not sure how he was able to make such an assessment because I’m quite certain that all General Lee was able to see was camera flashes and the cheesy grins on the faces of the people in the front row. He ran from the house and into the bushes next to the fence.

And that was it.

Groundhog Day was a few weeks ago, and I can say with confidence that General Lee was wrong. Really wrong. Spring has not come early to Atlanta, or to any other city that I know of.

I was determined to get a group picture before we left, so I turned around and found a young guy with long brown hair slouching behind me.

“Would you mind taking our picture,” I asked him, as I handed him my camera, assuming he would say yes.
The guy took the camera from me by he took a step back like he was completely weirded out and scared. I considered that he may just be weirded out by the Yellow Game River Ranch, because I was too, but I soon realized this guy may have been a little “off.”
We all smiled for the picture, but my less than reliable camera completely crapped out and went to black.

Long haired dude, who I’m convinced is either the Unabomber or a child molester got even weirder as he handed me back my camera, and stammered, “Uh…uh…I’m really bad with technology.”

I grabbed Mo’s iPhone to get Unabomber/Child Molester to try again, but before I could hand it to him, he turned around and bolted out of there, presumably to get back into his white van with tinted windows. So bizarre. We couldn't get anyone to take a picture of the four of us, so Justin offered to take one of Mo, John and me.

We left the Yellow Game River Ranch by way of the gift store/cabin where we entered. There were a plethora groundhog stuffed animals and other outdoorsy souvenirs that would’ve gone great in John’s hunting cabin, but we left without purchasing any.

Instead, we went to Matthews Cafeteria in Tucker, an old-fashioned cafeteria that felt like a step back in time. We loaded up on unhealthy breakfast food and called it a day.

Only it wasn’t even close to being the end of the day. It wasn’t even 9am and we all still had to go to work after watching a groundhog incorrectly predict the weather, running from a domesticated deer and "interacting" with a founding member of the Geek Squad.

Happy Groundhog Day to me.

Day 127: Lucky Star

Day 127 had arrived and like many Mondays, I had no idea what the blog activity was going to be. I cut it close. Truthfully, I was in full-on planning mode for Day 128’s thing I’ve never done before, that I forgot about Day 127.

Just before 7pm, Justin came through with the winning suggestion. “Why don’t you name a star?”

I like the idea of owning a piece of the constellations, but I can’t really name a star after myself.

The only star that I want named after me will be the one on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after I star in the Lifetime original movie, Project 29 to 30, (co-starring Meredith Baxter Birney, who will dye her hair brown and play my mother).

So, I decided to buy this star for someone else. But who was worthy of such an "out-of-this-world" gift?

My friends would appreciate it, but likely just for five minutes and only as a joke. My parents would chastise me spending my money on something so ridiculous.

And then it became clear. My 7-year old "niece," Karson. Karson is my childhood best friend Danielle's daughter. She's not really my niece, but I love her as if she was and she's the only person I can think of that would appreciate it this as much as I did.

Karson will always be special to me because I was in and out of the hospital room when she was born and she's a redhead despite her parents both being brunettes (like me). And she's hilarious. And she adores me. Because I'm her aunt and not her mom, I let her do whatever she wants, but since she has the same hair color as me, when the three of us are together, people assume she's mine and that I'm a bad mother.

I logged on to the site, where I quickly realized there are several levels to star naming. For $19.95, you can name the star, register the star’s name, and launch the star’s name and message into orbit. For $39.95 you can do all of that and get a cuddly teddy bear. What? Karson has plenty of teddy bears and I found these two things to be completely unrelated and just another way to charge me more money. I think $19.95 is plenty.

The fact that I was even on this site was a big step, because I really hate everything that has to do with space. I realize this is completely un-American of me, but I feel better just getting it out in the open. I know that there is value to NASA, I just don't know what it is and when anything involving shuttle launches, landings, the International Space Station comes on the news, my eyes glaze over and I check out.

I named the star Karson, and said, "I'm so proud of the sweet, funny, smart girl you are. You're a star!"

And she is.

I texted her mom, and said, "You're never going to believe what I just did. I bought Karson a star!"

Danielle loved it and thought it was sweet. I hope she doesn't think it's less sweet because now I'm writing about it on the blog. She called me when Karson opened it and said she's not sure if she really gets it. But she said Karson collapsed on her bed in surprise when Danielle told her what it was. I'll take that as a success. A success that was captured on video, but for reasons far beyond our comprehension (like space), unfortunately cannot be sent from Danielle's phone.

If I had an unlimited amount of money and didn't have to go to work, I would make this blog about doing nice things and buying unexpected gifts for people, because there is truly no better feeling than surprising others with random acts of kindness. It's somewhat selfish, actually, because I'm sure that $20 star probably gave me more joy than it gave Karson. And I hate space!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 126: Couples Skate

Once again, my friend Lisa took one for the blog team on Day 126 when I begged her to go ice skating with me. I begged a lot of people. She was the only one who agreed.

For that, I felt badly.

I felt extra badly since she had just returned from a week in St. Maarten. She went from sipping fruity cocktails on a white sandy beach to dodging snotty nose kids on an ice-skating rink.

Actually, that’s exactly the reason why I don’t feel sorry for her. She went to a tropical island and I didn’t get to go. She should suffer.

When I told Lisa I wanted to go to Centennial Olympic Park to skate, she said, “You’ve never ice-skated?”

And again, the answer is, “No.” Not that I can remember anyway.

I’m from South Carolina. The only skating we ever did was at roller skating birthday parties at Carolina Skateland. I tagged along for a couple of Friday night skating outings with my friend Danielle, who was a regular, but I must confess, there was little skating going on and a lot more other questionable behavior.

My brother and I vaguely remember driving to Charlotte, North Carolina with our neighbors to ice skate once, but I don’t remember much about it. So we’ll make Day 126’s thing I’ve never done before to ice skate as an adult.

We met downtown and walked over to the rink on a cold, but sunny Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if my socks weren’t thick enough, or if I have bad circulation in general, but my feet were numb before we even put our skates on. The skates were rentals, obviously, and not in the best condition, as demonstrated by this photograph. Think Fisher-Price, "My First Ice-Skates."

The place was a disaster, full of kids of all ages; some clutching their parents’ hands or pants’ legs, others whizzing by me turning quickly and sharply. Shocking to me, and Lisa too, I’m sure, I managed to stay on my feet and didn’t fall once. Unfortunately, though, I never was able to get going either. I just sort of shuffled my feet along the rink and through the ice shavings.

“Life is a highway,” by Tom Cochrane was blasting on the stereo and I was getting lapped by Lisa and all of the other kiddos. So much for a triple salchow or other fancy tricks, I just needed speed.

Lisa said the rink was in terrible condition (again, first she’s an expert on goats at the Christmas Tree farm, now ice-skating rinks). She said it needed the attention of a Zamboni. Her suggestion made us both think that we need to find someone with connections to a Zamboni that would let me go for a ride as something I’ve never done before.

I considered asking Lisa to give me a little push so that I could get going, Olympic Couples Skate style, but that was a line that neither she nor I wanted to cross. So she skated and I shuffled. The entire experience from start to finish lasted about an hour.

Once “Barbie Girl,” started playing...that was our cue to get the hell out of there. From the music, to the kids, to the multiple wipeouts going on all around me, I couldn’t help but be taken back to the old days of Carolina Skateland, minus the social awkwardness, questionable behavior and feeling unsure of myself. Wait, all of those things were present this time around as well.

Good times.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 125: Cabbagetown Crawl

The Guinness, and all the drinks that came before and after made for a very lazy Saturday. But I refused to let the sun go down on Day 125 without doing something that I had never done before.

So when my friend Maribeth called me to see if I wanted to go to dinner, I suggested Carroll Street Cafe in Cabbagetown, a small neighborhood east of downtown Atlanta. Going to Carroll Street Cafe was not the thing I've never done before, since I've been there several times. But what about a Cabbagetown Pub Crawl for Day 125's thing I'd never done before, I suggested to Maribeth while we were sitting at the bar. Maribeth was in.

The trouble with a pub crawl in Cabbagetown is that there are only like five bars there, and most of them are restaurants that had already closed before we were done with dinner. So while we attempted the pub crawl, we really only made it to one other place, Milltown Arms Tavern, a cool, laid back spot. The only other bar that I knew of that was open was around the corner and not within walking distance.

I know the attempt is what this blog is all about, but failing at a pub crawl is failing in life, I think.

Day 124: A Lovely Day for a Guinness

Day 124's thing I've never done before was to drink a Guinness. A full Guinness. I've had sips of Guinness, sips of Black and Tans before, but this time I was drinking it for real. No more sissy sips.

I didn't exactly tell my friend Andrew that I needed his help in completing this task when we made plans to hang out. I met him over at his friend Beau's house and I assumed I'd be able to talk them into joining me for Day 124's blog adventure. I didn't have to go to an Irish bar to pull this off, after all, I just needed to get to a bar with Guinness on tap.

After we sat at Beau's for a couple hours, Andrew tried to talk me out of going out for a Guinness and into taking a shot of high-end tequila as the thing I've never done before, but I think that was so we didn't have to go out in the cold.

There are times, and this is a prime example, when the blog becomes a drag and I just don't feel like doing anything I've never done before. I had to push through.

Luckily Beau was a little stir crazy too and we headed The Elbow Room, bellied up to the bar so I could order my Guinness.

Right when the bartender poured it, I wished I was drinking liquor drinks like Beau and Andrew. Despite skipping dinner, the beer looked like a meal in a glass. And it was.

The liquid meal tasted good, but I honestly don't know how people drink more than one. I didn't even eat dinner that night and I was full after just one.

Andrew tried to up the ante by ordering the bear fight I almost did back on Day 13. A bear fight is a jager bomb followed by an Irish car bomb. I told him I refused to do it, after my friend Vic said it was the worst decision he had ever made.

When the bartender brought the drinks, Beau helped me out and drank the jager bomb (red bull and jager). I stuck with the Guinness and drank the Irish car bomb (a shot of Bailey's dropped into a Guinness). Not bad.

It was a Lovely Day for a Guinness (or two), indeed.

Day 123: Online (I'm Really Doing This?) Dating, Part Two

This is Part Two of what I fear may be a recurring post in this blog. Not because I want it that way, but because there are some firsts that require more than one day to complete. Back on Day 121, the thing I've never done before was to let my friend Amanda create a profile for me on the dating site,

The reaction to this decision has been overwhelming, in a way I hadn't really expected. I had a lot of friends call me, text me, and leave comments ranging from "Good for you!" and "Go for it. I met my fiance this way!" to "Stephanie, no, please don't do this!"

I laughed them all off, not at all confident that I'm actually going to meet anyone this way, or that this was anything more than just another exercise for the blog. But for the thousands of others that sign up on these sites daily, it's a huge step. The anxiety for me, and I would imagine for many, is that by joining, I am now admitting to the world that I do want someone to share my life with. A companion. A buddy. I realize this can, and has, translated to, "I want to get married. Right now. To anyone. Immediately."

And that's simply not the case.

I mean, I do want to get married. But not right this minute. And only to the right person. And not at the expense of the things that are already important to me.

So sites like,, are all full of people admitting to the world that they don't want to spend their time alone. Does that make them crazy? No, not necessarily. Did all of the crazy ones on find me immediately? Yep.

The plan was to put the profile out there and let it marinate for a few hours (or a couple of days) before going searching myself. But thanks to Amanda's amazing work, there wasn't much need to go on my own search. I had several responses waiting on me when I logged back in. Day 123's thing I've never done before was to respond to them.

I was honestly overwhelmed, and flattered, at the number of responses that came in. And then I remembered that Amanda wrote my profile, so they were likely responding to her charming personality, not mine.
She made me promise that I had to leave the profile up until I actually went out on a date with one of the guys I met on the site. So I made her log into my account to help me sort through all of the emails.

And here's where the entertainment that my other friend Erin had talked about really started. Where, I have to know, do these people come from?

It's no different than going to a bar, I suppose. I just don't talk to every single person at a bar in one night, so I don't get to experience the high volume of crazy that's out there. It's not in my face, all at once, disguised as unopened envelopes in my Plenty of Fish inbox like it was here.

I should say, I don't know if any of these people are crazy. Maybe they're perfectly nice, normal individuals who express themselves via creepy emails. Maybe they're not crazy, perhaps it's just the questionable pictures they choose to post on their profiles that make them appear that way.

Amanda helped me sort through the generic responses that were likely just general bios cut and pasted into an email. The bios have ranged from the standard, "This is me, this is what I do, this is what I like," to the downright bizarre and sad, "I just moved back to Atlanta because my dad has a terminal disease." Whoa. Heavy for an email introduction.

About half of the generic bios comment on how they've never done anything like this, and they're not sure about what to say before diving right in to a description of themselves that indicates that a.) they have done this before and b.) they knew exactly what they wanted to say.

I guess they figure that cyber-dating is a lot like sales. The more you put it out there, the more likely someone (anyone) is going to take a bite and email back. I get it, but I'd like to exercise a little more selectivity, and I'd hope that whoever wants to hang out with me would do the same. Funny enough, a lot of these guys have emailed me more than once with the exact same email, proving that they don't even know who they are sending their emails to.

There were an array of pictures to accompany the profiles. No surprise there were a lot of head shots, a lot of action/adventure pictures that scream, "I do cool stuff and take cool trips!" But for every normal photo, there were pictures of guys funneling beers, posing in pictures with girls in bikinis, and my favorite, pictures of them with their shirts off in their bathroom mirror, taken by them with a cell phone.

One guy included what I can only imagine is his prom picture, circa 1976, complete with an oversized bow tie and an overgrown porn stache. His email read, "I'm new to Atlanta." Yes, and by the looks of this photograph, it also appears you're new to the 21st century. Welcome.

A guy with the screen name, "Web Surfing Ninja" sent me a suggestive email that said, "Some things are better the 2nd time." Agreed. But likely not with someone whose screen name is "Web Surfing Ninja."

Dude #1
Subject: You look so beautiful...
Email: I'd love to meet you sometime

Hearing that I'm beautiful is weird for me, especially from a complete stranger. This was a little forward in this context.

Dude #2:
Subject: Damn...
Email: U R Hot
Seriously? Is this all you have to say? Thanks for saying I'm hot, though!

Dude #3:
Subject: You can see me, but not try me
Email: Lol!

In general, I have a problem with guys who use emoticons or general instant messaging language. Are you a man? Or a 13-year old girl? Plus the subject weirded me out. What does that even mean?

Dude #4:
Subject: Are you?
Email: Do you by any chance go to LA fitness? I think you are the serious girl from my gym :)Cheers!

I do not go to LA Fitness, but I wondered if this is was a version of the, "You look familiar to me, do I know you from somewhere," pick up line. He didn't have a picture on his profile, so I moved on. Let me show you something new... I love a woman who wears good shoes.

Dude #5
Subject: Hi there...
Email: I might be a little old for your tastes, but if you don't want to date, please check out my sailboats on Lake Lanier.

I appreciate his honesty about how old he is, and he did appear to be older than my dad. However it was the fact that he was married with grown children that concerned me more than his age. On the other hand, his sailboats looked pretty cool and I do want to learn how to sail, so maybe I should give old dude a chance. I hope his wife doesn't mind.

Dude #6
Subject: Hey
Email: Do you enjoy kissing?

Who doesn't? You are a creep.

With Amanda's help, I narrowed it down to Dude #7 and Dude #8 that I would return emails to. I would've gone with more, just for the experience, but Amanda explained that by doing that, I'd be opening myself up to far more crazy than I could handle. I'm a beginner, better to start small and focus just on 2-3 at a time.

Dude #6 was cute, but we both think he's stupid. He used "your" when he should've used "you're" (which I've definitely messed up before, probably on this blog, but all he wrote was "Your cute. What's your name?" He should've gotten that right.) The conversations we've had since have been short and far from stimulating.

Dude #7 looked like Ben Stiller in Zoolander. I emailed him back and he explained he was new to Atlanta and looking for all of the hot spots. I never emailed him back after that. If there are hot spots in this city, I'm sure I don't know where they are. Plus, I came across a picture on his profile where he had a sweater tied around his shoulders and I was done.

Later that evening, a response came through from a guy who was good-looking, and had a lot of my same interests. He commented on my profile and how I recently tried espresso for the first time, and he shared a story about a time when he accidentally tried espresso. It was humorous, he was cute, so he became the third person I wrote back. We have since engaged in several email exchanges, discovering that we have a great deal in common, including our music tastes and love of traveling.

"So has he talked about hanging out?" Amanda asked me, obviously unsatisfied with my new email friend.

"Nope," I responded, convinced that in addition to dating in real-life, I also suck at dating via the Internet. Gah!

She suggested ways of prompting him to move things along, but I refused. If he wants to hang out, he'll ask me. I obsess about plenty, I'm not obsessing about some dude I met on the Internet.

And then, as if he knew we were talking about it, in the next email I got from him, he actually explained that's he's been out of the country on business and won't be back in Atlanta for another month, and that's why he hasn't asked me out. "I realize no one gets on these sites to meet a pen pal," he wrote.

That made me laugh, so while no date has been set, I would like to assume we'd hang out if and when he ever gets back. I'm also more cynical now than ever, so I'm also assuming that he could be a fictional person also created by Amanda just for fun. Out of the country on business? I've heard it all!

If it's true and Dude #9 really does exist, I wish he would hurry back so I could complete the one date minimum required by Amanda and close out my profile. I'm trying to be open-minded, but I'm not sure this dating online stuff is for me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 122: My Not-So Moment of Zen

Day 122's thing I've never done before is I've taken a Bikram yoga class at Decatur Hot Yoga. Bikram is a practice that does the same 26 poses in sequence in a room heated to about 105 degrees. I've taken "hot" yoga classes before, but not specifically Bikram.

I prefer active exercise that’s more active and gets my heart rate up, but I do believe in the benefits of yoga and the mind/body connection. I also know I need to focus on making that connection now more than ever, as my mind seems to always be racing twice the speed of my body. A class like this should be good for me. Plus, with the heat cranked to 105 degrees, I was certainly going to sweat out all of my body's toxins just like I would if I was running.

I'm always intimidated in any exercise class that I've never participated in and this time I was on my own. No seasoned veteran to tell me what to do or how to act. I chose a spot as close to the side and as far back as possible.

I sized up the class and immediately spotted an older gentleman without his shirt on. I immediately thought of my dad. Not because my dad would ever take his shirt off in a yoga class (at least I hope he wouldn't), but because he had recently started taking yoga (or YO-gah as he calls it).

Once the class got started I realized No Shirt guy was also a very heavy breather. Some of the postures called for audible breaths, but he seemed to take it a little far. I, again, thought of my dad and the last (and only) time I ever went to the gym with him. He was working out with a personal trainer at that time. Every time she would instruct him to do something, my dad would moan and carry on like she was torturing him and putting him through excruciating pain. I think he was just doing it to be funny and to put on a little show for his trainer and me, but I was still embarrassed. I wondered if he did this in his YO-gah classes.

My dad eventually hurt his back, pretty badly during YO-gah classes. Pretty awful, since the entire reason he starting taking YO-gah was so that he could improve his flexibility and alleviate back pain he was already having. Now he is taking Pilates (PilaTaze, as he likes to say). Hopefully that will work out better for him.

Why am I telling you this weird story about my dad's workouts? Because this is how my mind works in classes like these. Besides every yoga instructor’s reminders to leave all of life’s distractions at the door and come in a commit to the practice, I can't seem to do it. I should let the silence and peace relax my mind and body, but instead, my mind fills up with all of the things I made myself forget about. The mind/body connection is lost on me.

"Stop it, Stephanie," I told myself. I forced myself to focus on my Bikram instructor and engage myself in the practice. I was going to find my Zen if it killed me. My instructor was visibly pregnant and she could do all of the poses far better than I could, even with what looked like a basketball under her shirt. I wondered if this extreme heat was good for her and the baby.

Although, I'd argue hard that the room was not the promised 105 degrees.

Again, not exactly making the mind/body connection. I went on to wonder about all of the yogis around me and how often they come to class. I thought about what I was going to eat for lunch that day, and how I was going to write about this on the blog.

Because the same 26 poses are used in Bikram, the instructor allowed us to do each 2-3 times, which I liked. I've taken yoga classes where I don't ever have the opportunity to master a pose before we move on to the next one. I was able to gain stability where I needed it most before we went to the next series. On the other hand, I paid $16 for this class and the room was nearly hot enough and we didn't do Downward Facing Dog pose once. Whattha?

The greatest part of the class, at all of the classes at Decatur Hot Yoga, is the end when we get to lie on our mats in the dark and spend several minutes just breathing and relaxing. The instructor comes around and places a cold wet washcloth that smells like Eucalyptus on our foreheads. A perfect end to the class, if only I could've relished in its peace.

I blame myself for this class being a bit of bust. I have got to find a way to turn my brain off from the distractions in my life and focus on practicing yoga. I have the other 22.5 hours the day to think about all of the other things going on in my life. I should let that hour and a half be just about me and making the mind/body connection.

Is relaxing something I can learn? Can someone teach me?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 121: Online (Kill Me) Dating, Part One

During a work meeting a few weeks ago, a male colleague turned to me in conversation and referred to my blog casually as my, "life as a single girl living in the city."

I immediately became defensive.

"Well, actually, that's not really what my blog is about," I retorted. "I mean, I am single, but the blog is about me doing stuff that I've never done before."

My colleague nodded and smiled indicating he understood what I was saying. But I was not convinced that he believed me.

Long after this exchange ended, I analyzed his comment further (because that's what I do). I went back and read some of the entries I had written trying to figure out how he had come to this conclusion about the blog. Did he just assume that's what it's about, or am I coming across as a lonely, depressed girl seeking love and companionship in Atlanta? Perception is reality, so what is the impression that I'm giving?

Let me make it clear to everyone that this blog is not about my quest for love or the ups and downs of my relationships. I've left a lot of that stuff out, as a matter of fact. My being single is just one element of my personality, but I don't think that it's the most interesting thing about me.

Besides, I think someone already wrote a book about being single in the city. You've probably heard of it.

On the other hand, if I was married, or in a relationship, I wouldn't have the opportunity to participate in many of the things that I have. So at the risk of making this blog about my love life, or lack thereof, Day 121's thing I've never done before to sign up for online dating.

My friend Amanda at work, who reads the blog regularly, made me promise that when this day came, that I would consult her. She moved to Atlanta by way of several cities, one of which was New York, where she did a lot of dating online.

I dreaded this day, because I'm completely weirded out by online dating. The whole act seems so dorky, so desperate. But I considered the apprehension I felt to joining Facebook and Twitter and I wondered if making an online dating profile would be the same. Maybe it would be difficult to admit to doing it, but once joining, I'd probably realize that a lot of people have accepted this way of meeting new people. We lead busy lives; this is the way of the future.

My adventures so far this year have proved a lot of my preconceptions wrong, so maybe online dating would be different, better than what I thought. After all, I used to assume that there had to be something wrong with any woman who was 30 and not married. Now that I'm about to be one of those women, I'm changing my tune on that too.

Another friend, Erin, said online dating is by far one of the most entertaining things she's ever done. The responses, the crazies, the potential for blog-worthy material is high.

So, time to throw out all of my preconceptions about online dating and sign up.

Or, as this case may be, let Amanda sign me up.

We decided, after a brief discussion about which site to join (there are several out there), that was the site for me. is one of the few (maybe the only) online dating services that doesn't charge you anything to join. Perhaps that's why it's completely superficial. There's no personality test, no deep soul searching, just answer a few questions, upload some pictures, and that's it. In fact, the information profile that I filled out (actually Amanda filled it out for me) didn't take very long at all.

Plenty of Fish feels like the MySpace of online dating. I'm not sure they don't exist on the paying sites, but because this site is free, I got the feeling instantly that there are a lot of creepers looking for love or other weird stuff.

I thought choosing pictures would be the hardest part, but thanks to having a Facebook account, I already had an arsenal of photos to choose from.

I sent Amanda a picture and she approved. But she said I'd also need a full body photo. This sounded creepy to me, but she explained that it's pretty well known in the online dating world that if you only upload pictures that only show your face, guys will assume you're fat. Wow, I had so much to learn.

I gave her two pictures and she chose another two. Nothing fancy. I went with flattering pictures that actually looked like me, but indicated my interests as well. Music, check. Travel, check.

"Now we need a screen name," Amanda said, now standing by my desk, I was thinking, "Easy Like Sunday Morning?"

Great song, sure, and I'd like to think I'm "easy," though not in the way that some guys would like me to be. We sat there, staring at each other. Why is a screen name so hard? Well because it's one name, one chance to tell potential suitors something about myself. What about just my name? Amanda said definitely not. I only should give my name to people that I wanted to.

Amanda continued on the music route and eventually returned to her desk to search Phish songs. I thought this was funny, because I do like the band, but I'm not sure any of their song titles would be appropriate. And I'm a fan, not a SUPER fan.

Waste? Probably not.

Meat Stick? Yeah, no.

Drifting? I certainly am a drifter, more now than ever, but drifting also says, "flaky."

Finally, we abandoned that idea and went with: DayOneTwentyOne, since that's the day I went online dating as the thing I've never done before.

After some of these big decisions were made, Amanda got to work writing my profile. She sent it to me before she submitted it to the online dating masses:

DayOneTwentyOne: Trying Something New Everyday

I am Seeking a: Man
Yes, a man is what I'm seeking. I've dated too many dudes lately, I need a man!

For: Friends
Because saying "husband"or "someone to adore me and make all of my dreams come true," just seemed like it was a little too much.

Do you drink?: Socially
She could've said, "Every chance I get," but that might've attracted the wrong kind of man.

Marital Status: Single
Yep. What else would I be? Isn't everyone on this site single? No, I learned in Part Two of this little experiment, they are not.

Profession: News Junkie
Vague, but accurate.

Smarts: Bachelors degree

Do you want children? Undecided/Open
I laughed out loud at this because I wondered what some of the other options were: "YES! PLEASE! RIGHT NOW! MY CLOCK IS TICKING!" or "HELL NO! KIDS ARE THE DEVIL."

Do you do drugs? No
Not out in the open, anyway.

Do you have children? No

Do you have a car? Yes
What? We really just went from questions about children and drugs to "Do you have a car?" Such random line of questioning.

Interests: concerts, traveling, running, road trips
I have a lot of interests, but this is a good overview, I suppose. Plus, I find it's better to wait until date #3 to reveal my insatiable interest in jeans and reality TV.

After the general questions, I had to fill out a biography. Amanda said she would do that too.

"You should always have someone else write your profile," she said. I like this challenge. So far, all I had done was tell her how tall I am and when my birthday is.

This is what she sent:

About Me:
I like music and getting drinks with my friends... But who doesn't? What you really want to know about me is that I laugh a tremendous amount, and it's infectious. I answer the phone constantly at work and I can hear the people on the other end smile when I say hello. I wear great shoes. I love the south but don't think it defines me. I never like to do the same thing twice. I'm a great adventurer, not because I recently tried espresso for the first time or that I'm trying to never wear the same outfit twice, but because life is much better lived doing something new. The entertainment, education and spontaneity of life keeps me going every day. You must have the same drive or else we’ll fall flat.

I do like music, I do like getting drinks with my friends and I do laugh a tremendous amount. I never knew that my laugh was infectious and I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone on the other end of the phone smile when I've said hello, but it's definitely nice to think about. Last sentence is my favorite. Amanda and I have never talked about it, but she nailed my feelings about the south. I'm happy that I was raised here, but it's not necessarily what I'm all about, and if the right opportunity came along, I would move, and I'd take my southernness with me.

Actually I do like to do the same things twice, three, even four times, if they're fun things. She's obviously referring to the blog on this one. Trying espresso, yes, that's true, though I'm not sure trying new things makes me a great adventurer. As for the outfits thing, that's all Amanda. She never wears the same outfit twice, which I find both fascinating and awesome. I tried not wearing the same outfit twice for one month, and succeeded, but I'm done with that. I wouldn't have ever said it, or written them in my online profile, but I agree with the last two sentences. Life constantly surprises me and a guy with drive is a must.

First Date:
Impress me with your musical prowess and introduce me to a band I've never heard. Take me to a bar I've never been to, or order me a drink I've never tasted. Talk with me, not at me. Don't wear tapered jeans and leave your man purse at home.

Again, she kept the blog in mind here, with the things I've never done before. A guy that has bad taste in music is a huge turnoff for me. I've never dated a guy who wore tapered jeans or a man purse, so I don't have strong feelings about either. Actually I do, but I think this makes it sound like I've been on tons of dates with dudes who dress badly, which I have not.

Bottom line on this whole online dating thing: Amanda was right when she said you should always have someone else write your profile. She made me sound cool. After reading what she wrote, I wanted to date me.

I wonder if any of the other fishes will want to date me too. We shall see...Part Two is only days away.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 120: Psycho Analysis

When I started this blog project, I called it a gift to myself. By me, for me. If others happen to read and enjoy it, great. If not, who cares? I’m writing for me! I promised myself I would not obsess about what other people think about it.

I totally lied.

Since starting, I have become virtually consumed by whether or not people are reading it and if they like it. Up until Day 120, the only way I could tell was if there were comments left behind.

Checking comments on the blog has replaced checking my phone for a text message from a guy that I like. Instead of kicking that crazy, unfulfilling habit altogether, I've just replaced it with a different psycho behavior. That's healthy, right? Only when a boy doesn't text message me, I can safely assume he doesn't like me. When no one comments on the blog, a whole list of assumptions abound. Was the entry poorly written? Not funny? Stupid? Or worse, offensive? Sometimes I'll log into my email just to make sure there isn't a message waiting for me from my mom or dad saying, "You've really crossed the line with this one."

I can usually assume which entries are going to incite a reaction from readers. When I am most reflective and most transparent about my feelings (during the Polar Bear Plunge and Changing Relationship), readers usually relate, share their own stories and extend their sympathy and well wishes.

The downright ridiculous ones always get a large response too, which is completely understandable. Who doesn’t like to see me make a fool of myself Dating in the Dark, Slap 100 strangers high-five or learn how to Play the Banjo?

Other times, though, the entries that garnered heavy response seem completely random. When I made gingerbread and dropped it off at the fire station on Days 71-72 , I wasn't expecting a conversation about whether or not the fireman who answered the door was Jewish.

Likewise, electing health insurance seemed like a pretty lame Day 45 to me, but people really wanted to talk about their own health insurance and FSA's.

And though I definitely didn't expect it, I was pleased when the Pro-Gmail brigade came out in high numbers commenting on the blog (and on Facebook) on Day 27 when I succumbed to the pressure and changed email addresses. Thanks for proving my point and your loserness, Gmailers. Well done.

There are several that didn’t get the response that I expected or wanted. At. All. The Haunted House, for example. By far one of the most emotionally draining experiences, not to mention some of my best writing. Only two responses? Weird.

So, as if the emotional turmoil of checking the blog comments wasn’t enough, my friend Carrie (of the Wedding Crash and Crossfit challenges), mentioned something called Google Analytics. “You must install this on your blog if you haven’t already,” she said, shortly after I began my journey.

Obviously, at that point, I had not. I was still reading “Blogging for Dummies.” Google Analytics? Come again?
Google Analytics is a tracking tool that can be installed on a blog and used, I presume, if someone wanted to show potential advertisers how much traffic their site is getting. Carrie passed along explicit instructions on how to install Google Analytics on Project 29 to 30. Four months and five tries later, with the help of my friend Emily, on Day 120, I finally installed it correctly as the thing I've never done before.

The lapse in time that it took from her telling me about the tracking system and me successfully installing it turned out to be a blessing, because now, thanks to Google Analytics, in addition to obsessing myself with writing the blog, checking the comments on the blog, I've kicked my obsession with this project into another gear.

At midnight every night, the site updates my report and lets me know how many total page views the blog has had that day, which pages were most read, and what cities and states are reading it the most.

I can also see how much time visitors are spending on the site, how many of the visitors are new ones, and the Bounce Rate.

If I was a site seeking revenue from advertisers, the Bounce Rate would matter (that's the length of time someone stays on the page versus "bouncing" to another), but I just want people to log on to it and read it. In big numbers. From every country.

Is that to much to ask?

The map with a country, state, and city breakdown is my favorite. I like maps in general, but the Google Analytics map allows me to see where the page views are coming from.

As of Wednesday, February 17th, Georgia is leading the state count, with 1,030 page views since January 25. South Carolina is in second place with 588 page views. No big surprise with either of these since I live in Georgia and I grew up in South Carolina.

Rounding out the top five are Florida, New York, and California (I think California would've been ahead of New York, but Elizabeth is out of the country this week). I was aware, I thought, of who was reading my blog and where they were from, but I'm fascinated that people in states and countries where I thought I knew no one (Montana, Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, Pakistan) have visited Project 29 to 30.

That's right, someone in Pakistan read it. Once. Well, there is a good chance they clicked on it accidentally, but Pakistan is shaded on my Google Analytics, which thrills me in ways I am embarrassed to admit.

Shout out to all of my other international friends in the UK, Spain, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, France, Costa Rica, South Korea, Phillipines, Hong Kong and Sweden. Keep on reading and pass along the good news to everyone you know.

Most of referrals to my site have come from Facebook or Google (people Google me!). Other blog friends have sent traffic from their blogs to mine, so I feel it only appropriate to return the favor. Lindsey (77 referrals), Nicole (36 referrals), Emily (30 referrals)

There are so many things that Google Analytics can do and tell you about who is looking at your blog, but I think I've probably demonstrated the level of psychoness that I have gone, so I'll stop.
If you would like to install it on your blog, I can put you in touch with my friend Emily because let's be honest, I have no idea how to do it. I have set a goal to try and get 1000 page views per week. I'm averaging about 103 page views per day (usually 120 on the weekdays, 60 on the weekends), so I need to get around 50 more views per day to achieve that goal.

I'd also like to be able to shade every state on the map, so if you know anyone in Maine, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Indiana, Minnesota, North or South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas or Oklahoma, help a girl out.

"Tweet this mother out," as my friend Lauren always says.

In all honesty, I am truly humbled and flattered that anyone would take 5 minutes out of their day to support me in this quest to do something I've never done before and help me navigate my year from age 29 to 30.

At the end of the day, I did do this project for myself and if all of you stopped reading it, I'd like to think I'd still do it anyway. Regardless of when you joined me on this journey, I want you to recognize that I've tried to make the blog as entertaining and inclusive as possible, even referencing and linking to past blogs so that there is always proper context on the more recent challenges and all the characters in my life.

Yeah right, get serious, it is also the most shameless and obvious ploy to get page views and if you’re still reading, I sincerely apologize (but not really) for subjecting you to it.

I just want people to like me!!! And I want more page views!!! And comments!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 119: Google This

For a few months, there was a large billboard on Interstate 75/85 Northbound in Atlanta that read, "Google this Puppy Mills."

The billboard confused me and several others and sparked a conversation at work.

Mo said he refused to follow the billboard's instructions, on principle alone.

On Day 119, I followed the advice of a billboard and I Googled puppy mills as the thing I've never done before.

Part of me expected a puppy to drop into my lap from the sky after googling these words. But no such luck.

Instead, the search brought up lists full of websites dedicated to explaining how awful puppy mills are. I'm not sure I needed all of these different sites to tell me this. I thought they were bad all along. I don't think I needed to read literature on the Internet to fully understand it.

The billboard clearly worked, though, which made me think, what would I put on my own billboard if I had one? I'm ashamed to say it wouldn't be something as high-minded as bringing awareness the cruelty of puppy mills.

Mine would probably say, "Google Project 29 to 30." What would yours say?

Day 118: A Walk Among the Dead

Everyday on my way into work, I pass Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery, a massive burial ground that has been a part of the city's landscape since 1850.

Since I've lived in Atlanta, whenever I have passengers in my car and I pass the cemetery, I say almost the same thing, every time, "That's Oakland Cemetery. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, is buried there. So are several Civil War soldiers."

I don't know who told me these fun facts about the cemetery, or why I feel the need to point them out every single time I drive by. Perhaps I do so to draw guests' attention to the cemetery and away from the crazies that tend to congregate on Memorial Drive. Regardless, I've said that statement to so many times, I believe that what I'm saying is true, even though until Day 118, I'd never actually been there.

On Day 118's thing I've never done before was to visit Atlanta's Historic Oakland Cemetery.

I've been pretty open about 2010 not being the best year for me so far. I'm not sure why, under the circumstances, I thought hanging out in a cemetery, alone, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon was a wise move. Perhaps I'm a masochist?

Does anyone have any ins with the circus? Or the parade people at Disney World? These are activities I should be participating in. Enough of all this depressing shit.

I digress.

Oakland Cemetery was cool, though, and I was right! Margaret Mitchell was buried there.

There are a lot of people buried there, in fact. This cemetery is huge. I took my time walking up and down the rows of headstones, actually using this experience as my work out opportunity for the day. I'm still not sure I was able to see all of it.

Oakland Cemetery's website says that many of daily distinctions in life were maintained in death. White people were buried separately from African-Americans and Jewish people separately from Christians.

Besides Margaret Mitchell, there are other notable figures buried at Oakland Cemetery, including golf great Robert (Bobby) Jones, whose grave site is covered with golf balls left by visitors. Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first African-American mayor, was buried there, as have several of Georgia governors.

I'm not sure if it was because I just saw Who's Bad the night before or what, but I had to fight a significant and real urge to bust out the Thriller dance while walking through. I reigned in my desire, though and showed respect for the dead.

There were rows upon rows of Civil War veterans' headstones. I learned later that during the Civil War, the city, with the help of the Confederate government, bought more land expanding the cemetery's six acres to 48.

There is so much history in this cemetery, so many interesting stories I later read on Oakland's website. If you live in Atlanta and haven't been, go! And if you ever visit the city, put this on your list of things to see. I'm told that they give a Haunted Tour during Halloween. I had planned on doing that for the blog, but it was sold out, hence the horrible Haunted House on Day 31.

No, hanging out in a burial ground certainly isn't the most uplifting activity I could've chosen for this day, but I'm glad I have finally seen the Oakland cemetery that I've been talking so much about.

If I decide that Day 199's thing I've never done before should be "play in rush-hour traffic," please someone intervene.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 117: Who's Bad? Not These Guys!

I have a love/hate relationship with cover bands.

Don’t they, after all, represent what’s wrong with music today? No originality? No creativity? The music snob in me wants to yell at these cover artists, "Be different!" or “Do your own thing!” I should hate cover bands and their willingness to use any musical talent they may possess in playing someone else's songs.

Except I don't hate them. I secretly, or not so secretly, love them.

I mean, some cover bands are terrible and completely ridiculous. But I've danced the night away at enough weddings and seen enough Yacht Rock and Dark Star Orchestra to know that cover bands aren't always a bad thing. Sometimes they can be really awesome.

Day 117 feeling better and much more rested, I decided to go see a Michael Jackson cover band, Who's Bad.

I know what you're thinking, and I can’t say I disagree. Who has the audacity to cover Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson is, was, and always will be, an original. There is no way anyone could sing like him, dance like him, or perform the way he did.

But I assumed, that in reaction to Michael Jackson's sudden death over the summer, this band came together in an effort to try and do just that. I was surprised to learn that Who's Bad has actually been touring for six years all over the world.

When the band took the stage, I was expecting a huge production of lights, video possibly pyrotechnics. I mean, if you’re going to cover Michael Jackson, don’t half-ass it. Unfortunately, though, the set was rather lame. Just a black curtain.

Once the performers were doing their thing, I forgot all about that. They were very lively and entertaining. The horn players doubled as back up dancers to the young, energetic Michael Jackson impersonator, who I was having a difficult time getting used to, despite the fact that he was a pretty good dancer and singer.

I was just adjusting to the Michael Jackson impersonator when he left the stage for what I thought was a costume change. While he was gone, another impersonator, this one older, came out and started singing another song. He could sing, but as my friend John said, “He’d lost more than a few steps on the dance floor and I’m pretty sure he was using the mic stand as a crutch.”

One Michael Jackson impersonator is difficult to take. Two Michael Jackson impersonators, one of whom is clearly aging and unable to dance? That’s just confusing, and sad.

Perhaps the greatest thing about this band had nothing to do with them at all, but the songs that they are covering and the crowd they were playing too. They mixed it up with new and old songs that everyone was singing and dancing too. I realized that there is just something about Michael's music that excites me, regardless of who's singing it.

During a break in the music, Day 117 turned out to also be the first time I've ever been hit on using a magic trick. I've heard a lot of pick up lines over the years, but this was a new, fresh approach. I'll admit I was skeptical when this guy pulled a deck of cards out of his pants pocket, and the whole routine was borderline cheesy, but the trick was cool. I thought the guy was too, until he insisted that my friend John was my boyfriend and regardless of how many times I told him he was not, Magician boy would not believe me.

I did appreciate that the Michael Jackson impersonators (both of them), were both well aware they are not Michael Jackson, they just sing his music. I've seen other cover bands and wanted to nudge the lead singer and say, “You do know that you’re not Dave Matthews, right? Dave Matthews and his band are still alive!" These guys thanked Michael, and commented about how much they missed him.

I also appreciated the parents who came out on a Friday night and brought their young kids, dressed up as Michael Jackson during various stages of his career. One of the kids even got on stage to show everyone his moves.

I’m always interested in the moment that musicians and performers decide to spend their career imitating someone else's sound instead of creating their own. But, I'm not sure that it even matters. In the case of Who's Bad, these performers have set out to keep the music of Michael Jackson alive and well. And they're not bad at all. They're actually pretty good at it.