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A week in Maine, a summer ahead
Week’s vacation in Maine for the 4th, plenty of maxin, a good amount of relaxin, a healthy dose of Apples to Apples. Clocked some hours on the back deck hypnotized by fireflies. Even had one in the house, luckily the six year-old niece loves bugs. Her three reasons not to sit on the grass could make a good title for her memoir: Dirt, Bugs, and Dog Poo. Or mine. But I sat in the grass, and in a hammock, and all over the place. It was glorious.
Maine bills itself as Vacationland and in the summer especially, you can see why. A solid 7 degrees cooler than Sweet Home Massachusetts. Plus unending gorgeous coastline, tons of local seafood, clear air like I’m not used to breathing, and don’t even get me started on the stars you can see without all the light pollution. A lot of our week was rained out, but Vacationland delivered.
The week featured nieces #2 and #4 chronologically, and it’s crazy to think this is the last six-year-old niece I get to play with. I do sixth grade over and over, witnessing one spell of development again and again. But I’ve watched these girls grow up, seen their brains fill in. With no kids of my own (by design), these are the lives I’ve been in on from the start. I held them each as newborns, the oldest is now starting seventh grade. Last year I brought her a bag of books to read over the summer, did the same for this year’s rising sixth grade niece, the others will have to wait. But they’re not going to be little forever.
And now I face my own Vacationland, weeks ahed with little on the schedule. I’ve reverted to my usual summer massive reading mode, and I have plenty of tasks and projects to keep me out of trouble. I could tell #2 wants her summer and isn’t ready to deal with Mr. Tobin just yet, but that’s fine, that guy’s on vacation. Uncle Dan is open for business.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
We asked #2 which of us was Bert and which was Ernie, and she pegged me as Bert. We briefly panicked until she explained she likes Ernie and Aunt Meaghan better, so I must be Bert. She wasn’t considering the nuances of the characters, so she’s excused for getting it wrong. The comic above is an actual depiction of my entire summer vacation. I have my Bert moments, but I am Ernie through and through. Her face in the last panel? Priceless.
And Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam(s) of the Week
My Proven Winners playlist of favorite and recent albums has swelled to over 151 hours, it’s like a radio station where I program everything. Sometimes I stop on an album, and I was listening to Gang Starr’s Daily Operation. Rock bands, I’m all about first albums, but a lot of classic hip hop needed to get an album out of their system before they got to the big stuff. Like a baseball player needing a season in the minors to get his swing right. Gang Starr, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Ice T, I’m sure I’m forgetting some big ones. Of course tons of best first albums, too, But Gang Starr made me realize that hip hop sometimes takes a couple of tries. Their third album Hard to Earn is as least as good.
My Back Pages
I half-started a blog in 2014, wrote 26 posts over three years, told almost nobody. Or did I flog it shamelessly? Probably both. It was a little boasty, sometimes teacher-helpy, I actually went teacher-viral with my tips on taking SEI MTEL exam. But here’s a braggadelicious one called “That Time I Went to Vince Neil’s Birthday Party,” Jan 13, 2016.
Once upon a time, I worked on a television sitcom on the WB network. As I sometimes say: Not only did they cancel the show, the canceled the whole network! One of their hits was The Surreal Life, a reality show that dumped C-list celebs in a house to be weird. To do some cross-promotion, former Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil won a guest spot on our show, Greetings from Tucson. After the episode, he invited the whole stage crew to his birthday party.
A party thrown by someone from Mötley Crüe, one of the all-time hardest partying bands? Okay!
I was never a big Crüe fan, but I liked the hits enough. They were at their peak when I was the most MTV-addicted and influenced, so this was pretty cool.
The party was thoroughly unwild, a little awkward, in a nice but unremarkable Hancock Park house. The good part it was jam-packed with C-list celebrities, and the ratio of celeb to civilian was pretty high.
In addition to Vince Neil, there was Gabrielle Carteris, aka Andrea Zuckerman from Beverly Hills, 90210; Jeri, a Survivor villain who was on minute 14:55 of her allotted 15; NBA rebound king/future honorary North Korean Dennis Rodman; a guy who was allegedly dating Priscilla Presley; and my ninth grade hero MC Hammer. I stood next to Hammer as the cake came out for Vince Neil, and I wished like hell he’d start a conversation with me. I’d been in LA long enough to know it was wise of me not to corner him and breathlessly confess what “Turn This Mutha Out” once meant to me.
Some hip hop artists used a different mix in the video, like “Can I Kick It?” where I lucked into the maxi-single. It took years of active hunting to find that “Turn This Mutha Out” remix, and when I did it was a LP-sized 45, and my turntable only played 33s. I ended up rigging something up through my VCR to record off the music video, and I listened to that. I was so into those Incredible Bongo Band drums (Co-Jam of the Week, it’s a banger!) I knew Hammer before London and the Bay. We could have been buds!
Nothing much happened at the party, but I had already had my Vince Neill moment earlier in the week. Jeff Garlin was booked as Vince's manager, but he wasn't able to make it to an early rehearsal, the table read where the cast reads the script at a table for the writers, network, studio, and staff. And because I'm awesome, they asked me to be Jeff Garlin at the table read.
The show creator named the girl next door Sarah Tobin after a childhood friend, then my working on the show made them name her dad Dan Tobin. The network made them change it to Don Tobin, and they cast James Widdoes (Hoover from Animal House). When he couldn’t make it to the table read, they had me step in. I did a good job, so I would often end up reading lines for anyone who couldn’t make it or hadn’t been cast yet. It was a laugh track sitcom, so everyone would laugh out loud at every joke to make it feel like the show. So if I ever got to deliver a laugh line, I would get a laugh from a room full of people. Some of whom worked at the Dubba-Dubba-WB! It was cool.
So I ran lines with Vince Neil at the start of the week, and I went to his birthday party at the end of the week, and I'm not sure that he and I actually ever had a conversation. Hollywood!
That much is true. I mean, many of my Hollywood “conversations” were fairly succinct. Like this true story from a different show a year later.
PAMELA ANDERSON: How do I get out of here?
ME: That way.
Technically, I went to Vince Neil’s birthday party. Technically, I talked with Pamela Anderson. It’s how you spin it.