**Xena Convention 2013: The Final Journey II**

Xena & GabbyA few weeks ago, I headed West to go to the Xena Convention to meet one of my teenage idols, Lucy Lawless herself.  First of all, I was pretty nervous meeting her, and I had been on a major diet/fitness plan to make sure my picture was jusssst right!  All in all, I lost 10 lbs and felt great, so I was REALLY ready.  The plan was to fly to Burbank, CA on Saturday.  Tasha and Rachel would meet me later that night, so I had the entire day to myself to be at the Xena Convention and experience it alone.  I was a little bummed out that I missed Friday since most of my favorite people were there that day (i.e Ted Raimi as Joxer, Hudson Leick as Callisto, and then Charles Measure who was on the V Reboot and Xena… yum!)  When I landed in California, I was a bit disappointed with the weather.  Unfortunately, L.A. was having a major cold spell and it was around 35 degrees.  (When I had left Indianapolis, it was 65 degrees….. so not fair!).

Xena Convention 2013When I arrived at the hotel (after getting into a fight with a cabbie because I’m that awesome) I went into the Convention Center to see the big party.  I really had no idea what to expect.  Xena has been off the air since 2001, so I didn’t know what kind of vendors would be there.  I was hoping to snag an Official Xena Convention t-shirt and a poster.  Well, when I got to the convention center, there was nobody around.  Nobody!  Granted, I got into L.A. around 10:30 AM, so the convention hadn’t started yet.  There were a few vendors selling photos (for the actors signatures at the meet and greets) and a few jewelry places along with DVDs of earlier conventions.  No t-shirts or posters, which I was pretty sad about.  Actually, they had posters for sale, but they were seriously the same posters I had in my bedroom in high school.  It was kind of eerie.  Apparently, I was really early so I went back to my room and tried to sleep.  After about an hour nap, I headed back over to try to meet people.  I knew there would be a big lesbian population, but I didn’t realize the age of most women.  I’m talking women my mother’s age.  I was pretty bummed out because NOBODY WOULD TALK TO ME.  I tried having conversations with the people I was sitting by, but I had no luck.  There was a younger guy there eyeing me at one point, but he was running about with everyone else and other young kids.  Basically, I later found out that Xena Conventions are like Family Reunions.  This was the 18th Convention, so, I was a true stranger in a strange land.  Sigh.

The first panel had Willa O’Neill who played Gabrielle’s sister.  Willa was on both Hercules and Xena, and she hadn’t been to a convention in a really long time.  Since she was the first panel for me to see, I was pretty excited to get things going.  However, this is what I saw.  WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?  Flying babies?  I mean?  What?  Apparently Willa discovered the magic of narcotics or something.  I was pretty disappointed to be honest.  I don’t usually panic, but I called Matt multiple times and exclaimed, “was this a mistake?  Ahhh!”  On top of all that stress, I was also battling the tail end of the flu.  Luckily I had gotten a Z-Pak a few days before going, so I was trying to contain my horrible cough.  Another thing about Xena Conventions that I learned:  when nobody will talk to you and everyone is a lesbian: it is a true fact that you should probably get as drunk as everyone else around you.  Again, since I was trying to feel better, alcohol was just not on my mind.

Adrienne Wilkinson & William Gregory LeeAlti and Original XenaWell, everyone else around was pretty hammered and asking some INSANE questions to the panelists.  “What’s you favorite sexual position?  What color is your underwear?  Have you seen your character on the new Xena XXX movie?”  (I mean, REALLY?)  I was pretty excited to see Adrienne Wilkinson (beautiful!) and William Gregory Lee (still hot!) who played Livia and Virgil.  That panel was probably one of my favorites.  It was actually interesting watching these people talk about their lives after Xena.  Most of them aren’t really “working” per se, and William Gregory Lee even mentioned that he felt like a rock star once a year going to these Xena conventions.  The other panels on Saturday got rowdier and rowdier as the day went on.  Victoria Pratt was super rowdy and sexy, (and man, she wasn’t afraid to flirt with all the lesbians and be crazy) and Jennifer Sky (who played annoying Amarice and was on Cleopatra 2525) is now a professor.  Her life sounded interesting.  The big finale of the day was Claire Stansfield, who was awesome and inventive.  She actually had a good set.  For those that never watched Xena, she played Alti, who was an evil shamaness who lead Xena towards her dark side to become the Destroyer of Nations.  Basically, Alti was a stone cold badass.  She came on stage with her Alti voice (gravelly and sexy) and had some woman tied up in a sack.  Nobody knew who this woman was, but it was Vanessa Angel.  For those that aren’t a know-it-all in the Xena-verse, Vanessa Angel was the actress originally cast as Xena.  She went through Xena training with swords and horse back riding and all of that.  She had a sad turn of events that took her away from the part of a lifetime.  She got really sick and her doctor put her on bed rest and told her she couldn’t travel to New Zealand for the show.  So the producers cast Lucy Lawless as Xena because she was a New Zealand local and was available, and that’s how the cookie crumbles.  I thought that panel might stray to awkward land because all of us were at a Xena convention waiting for Lucy Lawless, and not this woman.  Someone even asked her how she felt being at the Convention since this could have been her life.  (shudder).  Overall, Vanessa Angel had a great response.  “Everything happens for a reason.  Lucy met her husband on the show, and they have a family.  It happened like it was supposed to.”  What a classy lady.  As Saturday narrowed down, I was a bit sad that nobody had yet spoken to me (other than one of the writers on the show because his dog was smelling and somewhat humping my leg).  I even went to the bar and tried to socialize while watching the Broncos play the Ravens.  I learned something that day which I will never forget.  If lesbians aren’t talking to you at a lesbian filled Xena convention, don’t try to talk to them during a football game either.  Those bitches are mean!

Rachel and TashaThankfully as the day ended, it was time for Rachel and Tasha to pick me up at the hotel.  I love these girls so so so so much!  They are so fun, adventurous, and just great girls to be around.  Rachel lives in Silver Lake, so we explored one of her favorite places, which was called Sage Organic.  I really didn’t know what to expect because I have never had only all organic vegan food, but DAMN, it was good (other than the little bug walking on my plate, but I guess that made it authentic).  Don’t get me wrong, I love eating healthy, but I also love meat.  I had these brocoli stuffed pierogies over a bed of kale.  I am still to this day dreaming about that meal.  So so so good.  After dinner, we went back to Rachel’s place and I went straight to sleep.  It had been a really long day for me.  I felt bad because I kept coughing all night, but I eventually passed out.  I had to be well rested to meet Lucy Lawless!  On Sunday, we put on our “Sunday Best” aka feathers, fur, and stiletto heels to meet the one, the only, LUCY LAWLESS.  I was feeling a lot better after sleeping so much.  We headed out to Sunset Junction for a great breakfast.  I had thought for weeks on what to wear, and I wanted to look good, ya know?  I mean, what the heck do you wear when you meet one of your idols?  So I bought some really nice tailored pants (size 10– finally!) an animal print tank top (I mean, it’s Cali, right) and my gladiator stiletto shoes that I love.

Rachel Tasha Me HollywoodAll the Since I didn’t enjoy the convention from Saturday, we decided to play during the day in Los Angeles and go to the Convention closer to 4 pm when Lucy Lawless was going to appear.  It was still pretty cold outside, so we didn’t go to Santa Monica or Malibu to see some of the famous sights.  We went and grabbed Caroline after brunch for a fun adventure.  Instead, we headed to Griffith Observatory where they filmed Rebel Without A Cause.  Funny enough, we went through one of the most famous tunnels in my imagination, aka the tunnel from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Back to the Future movies.  When we were riding in the mini cruising through, I knew we were finally in HOLLYWOOD!  We trekked up to the Observatory and got a picture with the Hollywood sign far in the back ground.  It was a nice day to go to the top of the world and just clear your lungs a bit.  I hadn’t seen the girls, i.e. babies since Farmer’s surprise 30th birthday party last year, so it was a nice reunion.  Rachel and Caroline are just so nice and giving women.  I had a good time talking to them.  I love really inviting women, and again, this weekend jaunt was a trek for sistahood!  After our little trek, we dropped off Caroline and headed back to Sage for some of their famous vegan milkshakes.  I was really intrigued to see how these would taste because there would be no milk or dairy at all.  Surprisingly, they were delicious (although the did inspire some crazy things in my body, but yeah, that’s what vegan food does, right?)

Zach and MeRachel and TIGERI know I complained about my experience on Saturday, but man, Sunday was a completely different day.  First of all, I was dressed to the nine’s.  Tasha wore my bird collar, and Rachel was channeling Jackie O.  When we walked into the hotel, it was like a light switch had been turned on.  The kid who was looking at me on Saturday was sitting in the bar, and he exclaimed, “Are you girls here for the Xena convention?”  We looked at him in unison and said, “Yes” and he went bananas.  “Hot girls never come to a Xena convention… omg!”  So we met Zach, and basically we were then thrust into the world of Xena-ites.  He introduced us to TIGER, who was this small woman with a walker, Xena shirt, and apparently her body was covered in Xena tattoos.  Basically, Tiger was legit, and the most fierce woman I had ever met.  Also there was a lesbian wedding taking place after the convention, so I met Penny and her bride/bridegroom/whatever you call the other person.  I’m not going to lie, it was pretty strange having an 18-year-old boy be my sherpa of all things Xena.  (Considering he was a child when Xena ended… a child!)  Apparently this was his fifth convention, and he explained to me how it all worked.  I am a die-hard fan, and I think it is interesting that people still like to quiz on geekdom.  Last year there was a huge backlash for female geeks/comic book readers/cosplayers, so I still find it interesting that even though I flew halfway across the country, people still don’t know if I’m a real fan.  Tasha and Rachel got pretty drunk, and I had a beer to take the edge off a bit.  I mean, I had to look PERFECT for meeting Lucy, right?  One of the highlights of my entire trip was when Tiger totally flat-out scolded Rachel and Tasha.  They wanted to get a beer before the Lucy session, and Tiger literally stood up in the aisle, all Gandalf style and told them, “Lucy Lawless is coming on stage in seconds… YOU SHALL NOT PASS.”  Omg, I almost peed my pants.  If you look at the picture above, you can see Rachel cringing and Tiger is the older lady in the background.  That is the ONLY picture I got of her.

Jen and Fake XenaRachel Tasha and Fake XenaThen it was finally time for Lucy Lawless to appear!  I can’t even describe how excited I was.  I didn’t know what to expect because every panel was different.  Most of the people talking were raising money for a project they were working on and such, but in past years Lucy would have a skit with Renee O’Connor to complete the weekend.  Unfortunately, Renee was only there Saturday (and for a brief time at that) so there was no skit.  Instead, there was a question and answer session.  Lucy was giving free stuff away (and Tasha screamed that she was from France to try to win something… hahaha).  Here was my moment of truth!!  I have fantasized about asking Lucy Lawless a question MY ENTIRE LIFE!!  Here was my chance!  I ran up to the line and had to come up with something to ask.  When Lucy got on stage, she mentioned a few things that had happened to her since her last visit at the 2012 convention.  She had been arrested for protesting on a Shell drill ship, she went back to school, and she had a few miscellaneous projects like her new stint on Parks & Recreation (which I’ve only seen one episode).

I was in the middle of the line, and I figured I’d ask her about her further education endeavors since I work for the world’s largest book publisher/learning company.  Unfortunately, someone ahead of me asked this question.  Then I planned to ask her about her appearances on Parks and Recreation, but then thought “No, I can’t ask her about her involvement of a show I don’t even watch!  She could have been killed off or something!  No No No!”  At this point, I started to fucking panic.  My turn was coming up, and I was behind 3 precocious girls all dressed in fairy tale dresses that would most likely ask something sweet and adorable.  I had to ASK SOMETHING.  At that moment, it was like my entire life flashed before my eyes.  All those times in high school when I did the Xena yell in the cafeteria like a freak, all the times I gave speeches about feminist icons, Greek Mythology with clips from the show, I MEAN, THIS IS REAL.  I couldn’t screw it up!  Then, the muses above called to me and helped me out (thanks Muses.)  As I was approaching the microphone, I saw Rob Tapert, i.e. the Executive Producer of both Hercules and Xena and Lucy’s husband) along with Marissa Janet Winokour (random celebrity, but cool I guess).  For Christmas, Matt’s sister got me the Kevin Sorbo autobiography, which I read on the plane before arriving.  In the book, Kevin Sorbo lashed out about his relationship with Mr. Tapert, and Eureka, a perfect question for Lucy Lawless.  Had she ever considered writing her own personal memoir?  (I did have a split second thought go through my head to even ask this because who knows if they read Kevin Sorbo’s book?  I don’t want to bring up negativity?)

As a typical Mid-westerner, I had to first thank her for coming to the convention, and then I asked the question.  Tasha recorded the question and most of the answer (thanks girl!) and then screamed her head off.  I LOVE THIS VIDEO.  THIS IS AMAZING.  IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY SEEING IT EVERY TIME.  You can witness it here.  It was truly thrilling.  People were cheering, and as I was walking back to my seat, people grabbed me and told me I asked a great question that NOBODY had asked her before.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you.

jen and xenaSo after the panel, I stood in line with about 500 other people for my big Meet and Greet with Lucy.  Tasha and Rachel went back to the bar (without Tiger shaming them, haha).  Again, I was getting really nervous especially when I got into the room.  There was a huge table where you could put your purse and stuff.  I was standing with a really nice man from California, and we were having a fun time chatting about the Indianapolis 500.  I was about 4 people away when my damn cough started violently coming.  At this point, I did fucking panic.  I CAN’T BE COUGHING.  The nice guy behind me just patted my back and was like, “don’t be nervous, you’ll be fine,” and seriously, it was as if he fixed me.  So I swallowed my flu, and boom, it was my turn.  It went so fast.  She said, “Oh hello again Darling!” and literally grabbed me… I MEAN XENA GRABBED ME AND LIKE TOTALLY BEAR HUGGED ME.  As you can see from the picture, I had a lot going on in my brain.  I was wearing 4 inch stiletto heels so we were the same size.  We were CHEEK TO CHEEK.  I stuck my boobs out, moved my chin down, kept my eyes opened, smiled, and didn’t cough in her face.  Mission accomplished!!  When she grabbed me, I didn’t know what to do with my left arm, so I just kind of went limp, lol.  When it was over, she clutched my hand and said she had thought about my question (really??!!!) and then she thanked me for coming to the convention.  I almost burst into tears and said, “ohhhkkkkkk thanks Lucy Lawless” and then ambled towards the door.  As I left the room, I saw Rachel and Tasha on “congratulations control” to talk to everyone as they left.  So yes, I met Lucy Lawless, and it was amazing.  She was truly stunning in person.  She didn’t even have to wear any make-up.  Just a wonderful experience.  I loved every second of it!

Me and Tasha at the GroveJen and MacaronsOn Monday, Tasha and I spent the day together touring some of her favorite places in L.A.  Unfortunately, Rachel had to work, so it was us in the Mini driving around L.A.  I knew I wanted to go see the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and see the Walk of Fame.  I didn’t have any interest in going to Rodeo Drive since it was still pretty cold.  Our first stop was The Grove, which was a lot of fun.  We actually saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s car since he was filming something for EXTRA, which films at The Grove.  We walked around and window shopped after having a great breakfast.  I really wish Tasha and I lived closer.  She is an amazing person, and I love spending time with her.  Even though we haven’t known each other for a long time, we just really hit it off.  It amazes me that I have made such great and deep friendships with people I haven’t known very long.  Life is interesting in that way, wouldn’t you say?  After The Grove, we headed to West L.A. for a fun French bistro with amazing macarons!  I am obsessed with macarons, and there aren’t that many places where I can get them in Indianapolis.  Well heck, The Little Next Door is my new favorite places!  I ordered two of everything (and these came home with me too).  My favorite macaron to date has to be their passion fruit one.  I mean, WOW.  I’m still dreaming about that macaron.

Jen and BondDon't put Tasha in the cornerI convinced Tasha to go to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum too.  She was a bit sketched out, but she then started liking it.  I mean, wax statues are so weird, but they are a lot of fun.  I still have fun memories of going to the one in Vegas.  It was awesome seeing all the big Hollywood star ones like Charlton Heston, the Marvel ones— holy smokes Hugh Jackman and Chris Helmsworth (drool!) but my favorite had to be the one of Daniel Craig dressed as Bond.  I told Tasha that I had a dream a day before going to L.A. that Daniel Craig was helping me make a decision, and boom, it was fate.  “Jennifer, you’re a wolf.”  Indeed, Daniel.  Indeed.  Tasha is so photogenic, so it was fun seeing her with all of these kooky statues.  We have some amazing pictures, which I swore I wouldn’t share on the internet.  All I gotta say is that Farmer is one lucky dude, hahaha.

Rachel and Tasha Magic!Tasha and Me Magic!After our fun day out, we picked Rachel up and got ready for the huge finale!  A few weeks ago at our NSM, I talked with my co-worker in crime, Micah, and apparently she has magic connections.  I don’t know much about L.A., but there’s this amazing place called The Magic Castle, which is a huge mansion looking place in the middle of town.  It’s an exclusive club where you have to know somebody to get an invitation!  I mean, this was insane.  Micah told me she’d hook us up, and wow, the girls were excited.  Tasha and Rachel were stoked.  So we had to wear glamorous clothing and be gorgeous.  I put on some crazy fake eyelashes and a new dress, and boom!  I invited another work co-worker, Christine, to meet us since she wanted to go too.  I tell you, I live a very fun and amazing life.  I’m glad I know so many people everywhere I go!

The Magic CastleNow, the Magic Castle is amazing.  I had never experienced anything like it before.  We got in, and Micah was waiting for us at the bar looking chic as ever.  She showed us around to show us the mansion, and we watched the first sleight of hand show.  We had a few drinks (and the drinks were AMAZING!) and headed to the Chris Corn show.  Now, I don’t know if it was because we were a little tipsy, but I had a vision of  Rachel and Chris Corn getting married and having a zillion babies.  She was called on stage to help him, and they had this chemistry!!!  One of the tricks involved her writing her name on a dollar bill, and he did an awesome trick with it involving a lime.  When the show was over, I kept the magical dollar and took it back to Indianapolis.  I still haven’t spent it, but I vowed to buy something truly magical with this dollar.  Micah didn’t stay very long, and I was a bit bummed out I didn’t get a picture with her — but man, it was so awesome!!!  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so the only one I got was of us gals in front of the Magic Castle before going inside.  We definitely color-coordinated without meaning too.  Christine is so freaking adorable!!  I just love her!!!  I’m so glad I got to spend some time with her.  The end of the night took us to el Ropo, who did amazing tricks with, you guessed it, ropes.  Overall, I had to say The Magic Castle was a huge hit, and I’m so glad we got to experience everything together.  I wish I could see magic shows around here.  And I am still holding out hope that Rachel and Chris Corn will make a love connection one day.

We ended the night going on a Taco Zone run (in about 20 degree temperature…. oh yeah) and pigging out before sleeping shortly since I needed to get to the airport by 5:30 AM.  Overall, it was an amazing trip filled with teenage wistfulness realized, high lesbian drama, friendships and sistahood, and of course, magic!!  Hopefully I can see the babies sooner rather than  later!  Matt and I are getting our finances in order and hope to make it West at some point this year.  We do plan to go to Virginia Beach this summer.

Want to see more pictures?  Check ’em out here.

And as Xena would say, “i yi yi yi yi yi!” And no, I am never going to another convention again, lol.

Meeting Loni, My Pen Pal of 16 Years

Do you remember when you were 13 years old?  What made you happy back then?  What influenced you?  Who did you want to be by the time you were 30?  Can you remember?  I can only speak for myself, but I do remember being at that important age of pre-womanhood going through the motions of middle school and eventual high school drama.  Most girls will say that middle school was the worst time of their life (and I guess I can agree with that) since girls are not usually the nicest in that time.  Can you blame them though?  Girls go from complete childhood fantasy and whimsy to pre-pubescent overdrive in a way of months sometimes.  I’m glad to say I was a late bloomer and even then I did things my way.

In the summer of 1993, my parents took me to San Francisco for my mom’s college reunion.  In the airport, I picked up my first comic book ever, X-men #23 to be exact.  I had watched a few episodes of the new X-men: The Animated Series and kind of fell in love.  This comic book made absolutely no sense to me when I read it (especially since this was the issue that Mr. Sinister foreshadowed an illegitimate sibling to Cyclops in a harsh Alaskan winter) but I was hooked. Luckily for me, my neighbor (who happened to be Filipino and the son of my mom’s best friend at the time) was also a comic book reader, so I was taken to the Comic Book Carnival in Broad Ripple.  (Now it is located by Sakura).  Needless to say, I became a regular comic-book reader after that.  In January of 1994, the huge Jean Grey and Scott Summers wedding issue came out.  Since Jean Grey was my favorite character, I just had to write a letter to the editor staff to tell them my opinions on this landmark issue.  What possessed me to do that?  I still to this day have no idea, but I can remember getting out a pencil and paper and writing my thoughts down and sending it to The House of Ideas.

Here is my letter to the editor:

“Dear X-Pressions,

What can I say?  X-men #30 was marvelous, spectacular, and awesome!!!  I’ve only recently become a comics collector, and this issue is definitely a great issue to have started with!  The reason I started collecting X-men was because this book has women!  I’m not saying that women are totally overlooked in today’s society but, in your books, women are some of the main characters!

I loved when Rogue flew up and caught the bouquet, and I thought it was great when Jean telekinetically lifted Professor X up and danced with him in the air!  It’s wonderful that Jean and Scott finally got married – even though Scott seems like such a papa’s boy to me (and his father died such a long time ago).  

If you ask me, I think Jean should have married Wolverine!  I know for certain that Logan would protect his woman!  Well, I gotta go.  But, before I do, one question – who’s Lila Cheney?

A few months later, my mom took me to the comic store to get my monthly allowance worth of comics, and I shuffled through my new X-men #33 to the back of the issue to see if my letter had been published.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Back in those days, I’m sure Marvel had so many letters to the editors, so I was pretty cocky in assuming my letter would be published.  Sure enough, my letter was published (along with my full name and address) with only a few editor changes (which includes the bit about Cyclops’ dad being dead.  Duh, I knew that).  I thought that was pretty impressive that my letter didn’t have to go through major editing.  I guess my 12-year-old sass was enough for the editors to choose me.  And I have never once admitted this before, but my name was published as “Jennifer” and the editor addressed me as “Jen” so from there on, I was going to be called Jen.  Lame, I know, but oh so true!  As months passed, I would get various letters from people in response to my opinions.  Do you remember how awesome it was to get mail back in those days?  I would run home from the bus and have stacks of letters sometimes.  You’ve gotta remember that I was only 12 when this published and my age was not verified.  I got A LOT of letters from men in jail.  I’ll never forget reading one letter and asking my dad what one sentence meant.  Needless to say, I was never allowed to open a letter from jail ever again.  (gross sick weirdos!)

However, I did get a letter from a girl my age named Clare who lived in Van Nuys, CA.  We wrote often, and I was able to meet her in the summer of 1995 when I went to UCLA for a softball camp.  Before I went to the camp, I met up with her and we went to Disneyland together.  A few years later while I was in high school, her father took her and her two brothers cross-country in an RV, and they stayed with us for a few days.  We went and saw Mulan.

Although I already had an instant pen pal, I got one last letter a year after the publishing date.  It was from a girl in Louisiana who was a year older than me.  I had never met anyone from the South, so I was entranced.  Look at this righteous piece of history:

May 16, 1995

Dear Jennifer,

Hello!  You don’t know me, but I saw your letter in X-men #33 and decided to write to you.  I hope I don’t annoy you too much!  If I don’t, I’m lookin’ for someone to start a penpalship with, so maybe you could write me back or something.

I guess I should tell you my name and stuff, huh?  Okay, my name is Loni, and I’m gonna be starting high school next year.  I’m thirteen and have been collecting comic books for about a year now.  My first book was X-men #33, but I was hesitant to write to you.  I like to draw, write, listen to music, and of course collect comics.  My two favorite characters are Gambit and Rogue.

Okay, I hope that’s enough to get started with.  I know you’ve probably received tons of letters from other people already, and I’m sorry for not writing to you earlier, but I would be appreciative if you would try to write me back.  Bye!



So that is where it all began.  The thing about pen pals is that sometimes life just gets in the way.  Clare and I still wrote to each other, but Loni and I became fast and instant best friends.  She would write me a letter almost every week, so we had more correspondence.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing to Clare too, but it was very fresh to meet someone else living in a different world.  Another huge difference between Loni and Clare was that Loni put a lot of effort in to every letter.  She would draw beautiful images of X-men characters on the envelopes or in the letter itself.  We would take Polaroids of  ourselves and send them to each other.  I used to have a wall devoted to all of our past pictures.  I would talk to her not only about comics but boys as well.  It was wonderful having a hidden ally who would listen to you and give you confidence without seeing each other.  We had a long and fruitful correspondence from 1995 to around 1998 when Loni started applying for colleges.  At this time, I still had two years until my graduation and I was working hard to get a softball scholarship.  (To the left you can see a sample of her letter envelopes along with the box where I would store all of her letters.)  Yup, I still have each one!  Eventually, Loni and I stopped writing to each other once she went to LSU for college.  After that, I went to Purdue, and life got in the way.  (At the same time, Clare was at Mt. Holyoke and we would occasionally send each other postcards).  My address would always change and I think her parents moved.  Thanks to Facebook, I was able to re-connect with both pen pals later on down the line.

A few weeks ago, I talked to my friend Mary about her 30th birthday party.  We worked out the details, and I was going to see her in Salt Lake City!  (I will post more of that in a separate post soon!)  Ironically, Loni had moved to SLC a few years ago after getting married.  Her husband is now looking for a permanent position in genetics.  (Seriously, they are destined to be together since he is like Professor X but with lots of hair and charm, haha!)  They had their son, Colin, two years ago.  So when I knew I was going to SLC, I had to meet her finally.  After a lot of crazy Facebook messages and texts, we finally arranged a time and place to meet.

I was so flippin’ excited, I’m not gonna lie.  Everyone has a bucket list and meeting Loni was definitely on there.  I talked to my mom a few days before going out West, and she was like, “How is she going to recognize you since you’ve gained so much weight?”  *sigh.  “Mom, this is the first time we’ve ever met so she has never seen me in person before.”  She paused.  “Well, I hope she doesn’t think you’ve been lying to her.  You used to be so thin.”  Lord, I swear my mom thought I met up with her on Match.com or something ridiculous.  Haha.  Anyway, with a pep talk like that, how can you be nervous, ya know?

On Thursday (the day I arrived), Mary and I met Loni at Desert Edge, which is a bar close to her house.  Mary and I got there first and I wore my special Tokidoki Rogue shirt in her honor.  When we spotted each other, it was like electricity.  We ran up and hugged (and I’m not much of a hugger but it was truly electric!) and it seemed like the planets aligned.  We grabbed a table and talked for a very long time.  It was wonderful.  Loni and I would occasionally talk on the phone when she was at her grandparents house if memory serves, so I already knew her voice.  Her Louisiana Southern drawl was still there but not nearly as much as before.  I brought along a few presents for her like the new X-men: First Class Blu-ray along with a Cars 2 sticker book for little Colin.  She was so adorable.  I’m so glad she had a Blu-ray player!  I also brought a few extra treats from the letter box.  At one point, I got out the first letter she had ever written to me.  It was hand written with amazing penmanship.  The pencil is very faded, but there it was.  She thought it was a hoot!  Apparently her parents moved and threw all of my letters away.  Since I am my mother’s daughter, I keep everything that has ever been important to me.  Yes, I still have all the letters I sent to her since I saved them on a floppy disk.  (**Sidenote, Matt and I tried to retrieve my letters from the disk when I got home.  We tried to open it on my college PC, but the disks wouldn’t open.  Sadness envelopes me.  Does anyone know how to open them?  Stupid technology becoming obsolete.  Sigh.)

It was also funny to go back in time and talk about the past.  She mentioned that she thought my high school boyfriend was a major jerk but she never wanted to tell me so (haha, boy, I should have listened to her).  I did include a picture of her major high school crush (whom I nicknamed “The Dippery”) to surprise her and make her laugh.  It is very interesting to re-live high school memories with someone who you didn’t actually go to high school with.  At this point, I had two beers and was feeling pretty good.  Loni invited Mary and me to visit her cute little house a few blocks up.  We went in and met her husband and adorable son.  He was so cute.  I just wanted to pinch his little cheeks.  We then went downstairs and had a few glasses of wine while talking some more.  Eventually we got into talking about wigs somehow and Loni gave me a long pink wig that she hadn’t used for Halloween or her birthday.

I can’t even express how happy I was that night.  Meeting someone special that you have waited for melts your heart a little, ya know?  As we left, Loni and I embraced one last time, and I told her I’d write soon.  I mean to keep that promise even if it’s a Facebook message or an actual letter like the old days.  Now that her husband is looking for a new place to work, hopefully I can visit her again sometime down the line.  As we left, Mary asked me if I thought she would be how I expected her to be.  I replied, “absolutely!”  It’s funny since when I was 13 years old, I always wanted to have a fun and fashionable life.  I wanted to do something with English and Writing since I enjoy it (I work in publishing so this counts); I wanted to wear interesting clothes (nothing beats a red faux-leather jacket and muck luck hat with pink wig) and just be the same person I was back then.  I really haven’t changed.  Other than the fact I was a bit drunk after the beers and wine.  I went straight to sleep and had wonderful dreams.

When I woke up on Friday, I was still wearing my Rogue shirt with the pink wig on top and my muck-luck hat.  I’d say it was a perfect and proper Jen moment.  I love you, Loni and can’t wait to see you again!

Ask Not!

Since I have been traveling so much, I really haven’t had much time to just relax and get back into the groove.  Yes, I am a little behind on doing things because I am lazy.  Our Christmas tree is still up.  I completely forgot about it.  I’ll admit it; I’m lazy.  Our weather has been up and down.  One day it was in the 30s and the next day it is snowing.  We got 4 inches today.  Work has been slow, so we have been blessed with a week of half days.  Have I mentioned today how much I love my job?  Love it!  Today I came home and cleaned a bit of the kitchen, played with Whiskey, and then watched some DVR.  Even though I am a woman approaching 30, I have never been an Oprah watching zealot.  Every girl knows at least one Oprah zealot no matter how old you are.  I can remember being in high school and walking to my friend Liz’s house.  Every day I would arrive between 4 and 4:30 and she would be eating a banana watching Oprah.  I have taped Oprah only once when Lady GaGa was on it last year.  One time in over 25 years of being on the air?  Those aren’t good odds.

So needless to say, I don’t get much news from Oprah.  I did look at the shows on her new OWN network and gave her show called “Master Class” a try.  It showcases a celebrity and talks about their background and passion behind their success.  I’ll be honest, I watched the Jay-Z episode because I love Beyoncé.  I know Jay-Z is talented and powerful, but he is just too egotistical for me to enjoy him.  Today I watched the episode on Diane Sawyer.  I’ve got to admit, she has always been my favorite newscaster ever since Peter Jennings passed away.  She asks great questions and won’t look away.  Plus she is from the Midwest!  After watching her show, I then remembered a New Year’s Resolution that I haven’t followed up with.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand how important social media is when it comes to communication.  I get a lot of breaking news (important global affairs as well as geeky comic book gossip) by what other people post.  However, I couldn’t remember the last time I actually sat down to watch the news.  Growing up, the only program on during dinner was always the news.  So I decided to begin taping Diane Sawyer’s show on ABC so I can watch the news every day like a normal human being.  Do people my age sit at dinner and then watch the news once they are finished?  Well, it seems like most people no longer care what is happening in the world.  They only seem to care about the new trends in viral videos and what kind of stupid videos are posted of cats on the toilet.  (And these people are breeding so be afraid.)

I was delighted by today’s newscast.  The largest Mafia sting in history took place today.  A kidnapped girl found her family after 23 years.  The weather sucks everywhere so I am not alone in misery.  Then the coolest factoid of all stories aired.  On this day fifty years ago, January 20th, 1961 to be exact, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated.  His iconic and beloved speech was heard all around the country and gave hope to a new generation.  I have always loved hearing this speech and reading about it.  My grandpa lived in a trailer in Noblesville, and he had a wooden wall picture that had Kennedy’s face on it with the words “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You; Ask What You Can Do For Your Country.”  I would always read it when visiting him.  When he passed away, I snuck in the room it was hanging in and stole it.  The leather strap that hung it on the nail ripped, so I have it saved in my memory chest.  I really should get that fixed and hang it up.  It is my most favorite thing that reminds me of my grandpa.

So ask yourself faithful Americans…. what can your country do for you?  And what can you do for your country?

“If You Call, I Will Answer” aka The Day I Met Steven Page

Wasn’t I a dish?  The picture to the left is of me on October 20, 1997.  I am waiting for Bryan to pick me up for our Telecommunication class.  We were assigned to filming the football game for Announcements.  I don’t know what is more scary in this picture.  The brown hair?  Braces?  The backwards cap?  (When did I wear a HAT?)  Actually, I’d say the high-water jeans probably kill me the most.  I never understood why people would ask me if I was waiting for the flood, but yeah, now I get it.   Anyway, on a Friday night of high school, I am wearing my favorite shirt.  At 15 years old, I was introduced to one of the loves of my life, Steven Page.  It was a brief courtship since I fell in love instantly.  What was it about him?  His voice?  His looks?  His being?  Perhaps all three.  I was on my first date with my first real boyfriend.  He was older than me with a license and conveniently lived down the block.  This was the 90’s, so a legitimate date could take place during a hot summer day in the afternoon.  We were awkward around each other, so we did what most kids did back then, and that was going to the record store.  We traveled to Carmel to visit the Karma record store.  (God, do those even exist anymore?  That is where we had to buy concert tickets all those years ago.)  On our drive to the store, we were listening to an album called “Rock Spectacle” by the Barenaked Ladies that Bryan was in love with.  I really, really liked it.  I was a bit confused as to why Canadian men were calling themselves “barenaked” and “ladies,” but I believe that is where the love affair began.  When we got to the store I bought the CD and a hemp necklace for Bryan to wear.  Then he drove me home and didn’t call me again ONCE the entire summer.  Ha!  I would listen to the CD over and over and fall more desperately in love with the boy down the block and the music coming from my stereo.  Ironically, BNL was playing the July 4th concert in downtown Indianapolis with Bon Jovi.  I convinced my parents to take me and my kid brother.  (Hey, it was free!)  It was wonderful.  I bought 2 shirts.  One shirt was for me and one for Bryan since he liked them so much, and I decided to give it to him once we got back into school.  (Man, I was a schmuck even then).  Of course as teenage romances go, I offered to give him the shirt (which I wrapped… kill me!) but no, I never had the chance to give it to him.  Instead, I would wear it and wish death upon the neighborhood boy breaking my heart.

In a twist of fate, I was going to marry that boy years later.  We had gone to any show we could in the area.  We loved those BNL boys.  When I broke off the relationship, Steven Page helped me get over the pain.  I would listen to a few songs each day to cope.  When my best friend and I almost imploded a few months later, I would listen to a few other key songs of Steven.  Needless to say, Steven Page has always been my favorite.  Yes, I had a poster in my room, and if anyone ever asked me my favorite band, it was always “the Barenaked Ladies of course!”

One of my favorite memories with Matt is when I took him to our first (and sadly only!) Barenaked Ladies concert.  This was the true test to see if I could REALLY fall in love with this seemingly perfect guy.  It was a comedy of eros that night just to say the least.   Luckily for me, he loved the show and shared my love.

A few months ago, I got an e-mail from Ticketmaster saying that Steven Page was performing with Chris Isaak for the 92.3 WTTS Rock To Read concert.  Before you could say “Pre-Sale,” I had bought 2 tickets on the floor for about $70 bucks a piece.  We had great seats on the right side of the Murat in Row P.  We got to the show and socialized a bit with my work buddy, Trey and his wife, and then went in for the show.  I was a bit confused since Steven wasn’t on the marquee.  He came on the stage promptly at 7:30 and began his set with new material from “Page One” called “A New Shore.”  He was on stage playing all by his lonesome with no back-up or band.  One reason why I love Steven is because he sounds EXACTLY the same live as he does on his records.  At this time, the first best part of my night took place.  I looked over at Matt and he was giving me this goofy ass look.  It is a familiar goofy ass look, and I haven’t seen it in a long while.  The last time was during Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  The look culminates in, “I am happy YOU are happy” and then he said those exact words to me.  Sweetness.  Mushy overload!

Steven then went into one of my favorites, “Jane,” and the crowd went wild.  Matt and I were jamming and I was belting out all of the songs right back at him.  He played new songs like “Entourage,” “Over Joy,” and “The Chorus Girl,” but he also played “The Old Apartment,” (tear tear!) and played the finale of “Brian Wilson.”  After only 30 minutes on the stage (with various funny interludes), he was off and waved good-bye to the crowd.  Wah?  Only 30 minutes of my precious Steven Page?  I was pretty bummed to say the least.  I thought he was sharing the show and not just a measly 30 minute opening act.

We decided to stay and listen to Chris Isaak to see if we would like it.  I only know one Chris Isaak song and it is the one with the naked model running on the beach.  Otherwise, I have no idea about him or his music.  Well, he is more Rockabilly than anything, which I don’t like.  We gave it 1.5 songs.  I looked at Matt and said, “Let’s go because I can’t take this abuse.”  I was only there to enjoy Steven.  As we were leaving, Matt said, “Too bad you didn’t get to see more of your man.”

At that very minute we were walking towards The Rathskellar, Steven Page was walking to a car on the curb waiting for him.  Matt says to me, “Is that him?”  YES.  HIM.  YES.  OMG! Me being me, I did what I have dreamed of: I ran to his car and waved and said “Hi Steve!”  He waved and smiled at me and then looked at the driver and said, “Hold on, it’s a fan.”  He rolled down the window and I went up to him and the driver and said.  “Hi, thanks for stopping, I appreciate it!  I love you!”  He laughed and then said, “Why are you guys leaving?”  “Well, we can’t get into Chris Isaak and I’ll be honest, we came just for you.”  He smiled and said, “He does put on a good show, but that is nice of you.”  NOTICE I did not TOUCH him or pass out!!! I was a LADY!  Matt asked, “Can I take your picture with my wife?”  He said sure and then we were smiling.  Of course, Matt fumbles with the camera and I said to Steve, “If my husband screws this up, I think I might just kill him!”  So then Matt took the picture, and a life mission was complete.  I turned to him (still not touching him!) and said, “Thanks again!  I love your new album!  You’re the best” and he thanked me, waved, and drove off.

At that point, I went into batshit crazy mode.  I started jumping up and down and screaming and dancing in a parking lot.  I jumped on Matt and just started being a moron.  At this point, we then went to The Rathskellar and ate a big plate of sausage and drank awesome beer.  He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I think you are more happy now than if a doctor told you that you were pregnant.”  As I swigged that beer, I looked him in the eye and said, “Hell fucking yeah, buddy!”

A few days later, I am still happy as to what happened and how I acted.  People say life is short and moments come and go.  Do you believe in fate?  Did I always know in my gut that I would have the opportunity to meet someone I have loved for years?  Yes, I have imagined meeting Steven Page my whole adult life.  BNL always seemed to be so accessible and friendly to their fans.  I always wanted to come off as cool and calm and not an insane chick.  I am thrilled that my experience was just so.  Overall, I’d say it was one of the best nights ever.  I’m going to treasure that memory.

On another sidenote, I have finished up my parent’s Christmas gift of the old VHS movie to DVD transfer.  This weekend I found a tape that just says “BNL” on it.  I stuck it in and was in awe.  During the summer of 1998, I had taped every single Barenaked Ladies appearance that I could.  This was the year “Stunt” came out.  I’ve got it all, Good Morning, America, David Letterman, Conan, and even the Behind The Music special on VH1.  I couldn’t help but smile and laugh as I watched them.

Is life complete?  Quite possibly!  I know Kari will be totally jealous with this.  Sorry girl!

Song of The Moment: Steven Page – “Over Joy”