My So-Called Legislators

Recently Tennessee went through a redistricting process, and while I don’t fully understand why, I imagine that part of the reason was to confuse things for people who aren’t really on top of what district they’re in and who they are going to be asked to vote for when they show up at their polling place.

I am pretty Internet-savvy and it took me a good 10-15 minutes of research to find out what House and Senate districts I’m in now and whether I was redistricted into them, and I still can’t get a clear consensus on who I’ll be voting for in the TN Senate race. The US House is finally clear: I’m in the DesJarlais/Stewart race after being moved from District 6 to District 4. The US Senate seat up for election is Bob Corker’s, easy peasy.

In the TN House, I’m still in District 34. Ok, great. If I look at the sample ballot from the Rutherford County election commission, I’m told I can vote for either the incumbent Rick Womick or the challenger Luke Dickerson, and this matches a candidate list that I got from the Tennessee Department of State.

But it all becomes a shit-show when I start looking for information regarding what local Senate race I will be voting in.

Can I trust this information?According to the TN General Assembly’s website, I am in TN Senate District 14 and Bill Ketron is my senator “after redistricting.” The Tennessee Department of State confirms that I’m in District 14, but they give me a PDF of candidates that tells me Jim Tracy is my senator (and is in the race I’ll be voting for). The sample ballot I downloaded from the Rutherford County Election Commission also tells me that I’ll be voting for Jim Tracy.

So who do I trust? The Rutherford County Election Commission and the TN Department of State seem like two departments I should be able to trust, right? But what about the Tennessee General Assembly? They’re the only ones of the three to even mention redistricting, and they say that I’m in Bill Ketron’s district. Except I can’t find anything that talks about him being in a race (ballotpedia.org and votesmart.org say his seat isn’t up until 2014, but they also show him in District 13, not 14 like the Tennessee General Assembly does). And I seem to recall in the past being able to vote for or against Jim Tracy, but I can’t figure out if this has changed for sure even after checking three supposedly reputable state election sources.

All of this is made even weirder by the fact that the election is less than a month away and I have not received even one piece of campaign junk mail at my house. The rational part of my brain is happy about this, because it makes my recycling bin lighter. But the conspiracy theorist in me believes this is all just part of a plan to confuse me into not voting since I’m a Democrat in a very, very red state.

I should be able to find reliable, trustworthy information between these three sources, yet I can’t. I can honestly say now—after trying to find an answer to my simple question of “What TN House district am I in, and who will I be voting for/against in the election next month?”—that I can see why people don’t vote. There is no way something this simple should be this difficult to figure out.

And more importantly, if I can’t decide who to trust between the State Department, the General Assembly or the Election Commission, how am I to trust that my vote will even be counted accurately?

It’d been a while

I just got back from spending the weekend in the woods. For someone who loves trees and walking around amongst them, I sure haven’t spent much time outdoors this year. I’m not really sure why. I guess I’ve been busy, but trees are everywhere and you’d think I could just make time for something that clears my head the way they do.

Oct. 20: Fire! Fire!

We hiked several miles at Old Stone Fort, where I was mesmerized by what I dubbed the Ghost Prairie, and then we set up camp on top of piles and piles of leaves shed by the trees that surrounded us. Veggie dogs are best cooked above a fire you built yourself (er, rather, your husband built because you still treat fire with kid gloves, even when it’s controlled in a fire pit). It was cold in the morning, so we built another fire and stared at it for a while before heading back home.

It was a good weekend.

A jam-packed week of music

After Music Midtown, I gave myself a week’s rest and then launched into an insane but awesome week with three shows, with the last one taking place in—you guessed it—Atlanta.

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, I went with some friends and colleagues to see David Byrne and St. Vincent at The Ryman—from the front freaking row!! Seriously, I am pretty sure I got the first two seats sold: row AA, seats 1 and 2. The show was amazing. I don’t even know how to describe it with meaningful adjectives. It was weird, arty, captivating… it was perfect. David Byrne and Annie Clark are both weirdos, but in their own distinct ways.

Oct. 2: David Byrne & St. Vincent at The Ryman

Three days later, on Friday, a friend and I went to see Mary Chapin Carpenter (at The Ryman again). I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about how back in high school I listened to country music (I hope my mom is grateful that was my worst teenage act of rebellion), but I did. Keep in mind that this was in the mid-90s, before pop-country, back when singers like Reba McEntire and Pam Tillis were topping the charts and Faith Hill was just getting popular. Anyway, Mary Chapin Carpenter was pretty popular then, too, and as soon as I heard her smart lyrics and soft voice on her album “Come On, Come On,” I was hooked. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for her, and I’m glad I was finally able to see her play live.

Mary Chapin Carpenter!

But good lord, let me tell y’all: My friend and I were the youngest people in the audience by about 40 years. I’m not even kidding, the number of blue-hairs was astounding. Now, I imagine that back in the 90s Mary Chapin Carpenter’s main demographic was people my mom’s age. But my mom is nowhere near her 70s today, so I have no idea what was going on.

The next morning, I dragged my tired ass out of bed and drove Ian and I down to Atlanta (that made our third trip in four weeks for those of you paying attention) to see another show that night. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit who it was, so keep in mind that this is our Year of Live Music and we’re trying to pack as many shows as we can into it.

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy.

And it was EPIC.

I’m serious, it was an awesome show. The venue was an amphitheatre with a lawn, reminiscent of Starwood. We took a blanket and chilled out on the grass as we listened to the music over the course of the night. The people-watching was superb; teens were dressed up in classic 80s gear, cougars were out in full force and we saw quite a few mullets (both ironic and genuine).

Pat Benatar from the lawn

We were mainly excited about seeing Pat Benatar, and she did not disappoint. She and her husband/lead guitarist, Spyder, have been touring together for nearly 40 years, and you could tell they had it down. As with most concerts involving aged rock stars, we were a bit nervous about how she would sound, but that worry soon proved unfounded. Her voice is still strong and smokey and she hit every note as she bounced around the stage, kicking ass completely.

I’m a Journey fan in the sense that I will scream-sing “Don’t Stop Believin'” along with every other asshole around whenever it happens to get played, but I was really surprised at the show that they put on. Their lead singer since 2007, Arnel Pineda, is Filipino and apparently does not speak much English beyond Journey songs*, so we were intrigued to find out if Journey had become essentially a cover band of itself.

Dude sounds exactly like Steve Perry. I’m not kidding, he killed it. He’s a true 80s ballad showman, too—running around the stage, dropping to his knees and grabbing his heart, reaching out to fans in the front rows. It was a sight to behold.

We have a break in our live music schedule, at least for a little while, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to having a bit of downtime. But who am I kidding, it’s not like I don’t have 100 other things planned over the next several months. YOLO, right?

*Thanks to a commenter, I now know that he does, in fact, speak English. I had heard previously that he did not, so thanks for correcting me!

Back to Atlanta: Music Midtown

Remember when I was talking about how Ian and I went back to Atlanta a couple weeks ago after a long hiatus and how awesome it was?

Yeah, well, the truth is that we had three trips in four weeks planned there, I just didn’t want to tell the Internet we were going on vacation before we actually went.

The second trip was two weeks ago—just one week after our trip there for the Braves game. We drove down to Atlanta again for Music Midtown, a two-day music festival held in Piedmont Park in Atlanta’s Midtown area. We stayed at the same hotel as we did the week before—the Hotel Indigo Midtown Atlanta—which was about a mile and a quarter away from the festival. It’s a great neighborhood and very walkable so we walked to and from the festival each day.

After surviving two years of Bonnaroo (and one Beale Street Music Fest), I had a pretty good idea of what to pack for the festival, so I loaded up my small Camelbak with the things we’d need for the day and we were pretty much set for the weekend. While my packing list for Bonnaroo was pretty extensive, Music Midtown was not as intense so my pack was lighter: Baby wipes, hand sanitizer and a light jacket came in handy the most, as did the water I snuck in since the festival ran out of water by the second day.

All I need for this weekend: A bed & my CamelBak

I also had my headlamp with me for late-night port-a-potty trips, and as we were walking around the vendor tents someone started making fun of me, saying I was over-prepared. But as fate would have it, it was at that moment the power to the tents went out, taking the lights with them. So guess who was asked to hang out and shine light upon their credit card receipt-writing process?

The vibe at Music Midtown was decent; not as many hippies as Bonnaroo but not as many teens as we’d encountered at Beale Street Music Fest a few years ago. The number of women I saw in high heels or heavy fall boots (it was in the 80s most of the time) astounded me, though. I can’t imagine coming to any outdoor event where you’re going to walk the equivalent of 7-10 miles wearing heels or heavy boots. But as a vendor told me later, “This is Atlanta, where people won’t show up to an event if they can’t valet park.” I even saw one woman wearing what appeared to be a formal dress, almost a gown. I wonder how that worked out for her in the port-a-crapper.

And while Music Midtown didn’t have the “let’s be friends, man” vibe of Bonnaroo, for the most part people were polite and didn’t shove through crowds, though we never tried to get right up at the very front of the stage. I’m too old and claustrophobic for that, and it really wasn’t necessary. We had a pretty good view of the stage for almost every band we saw, and we were even able to get up pretty close for Pearl Jam without having to wait around for hours beforehand.

So yeah, the music. On Friday, we showed up right after Joan Jett started her set. I had never seen her before and was surprised by how great she was, in terms of both her voice and her stage presence.

After Joan Jett we wandered around the grounds a bit and got some food, and then later sat up on a hill with a great view of The Avett Brothers. I’ll admit I’ve found them boring before, but they put on a good live show. I’m still pretty sure listening to them in the car or at work would put me right to sleep, but I’d definitely see them again in a festival environment.

Avett Brothers

Friday night’s closing act was the Foo Fighters, and Ian and I were both pretty bummed about their performance. It sounded exactly like listening to one of their albums, which I guess is a good thing, except there was hardly any audience interaction or variation or, I don’t know—they were one of the headliners of the festival so I guess I expected something more than a CD listening party atmosphere.

At one point they just stopped playing, and Dave Grohl started talking to the audience about something, but I couldn’t quite understand what his point was. He dropped about 20 f-bombs in one sentence and I just lost interest. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good f-bomb, but if you’re not using them with a purpose or context then you’ve lost me.

Saturday we showed up mid-afternoon so we could catch the Garbage set, and it was probably my second-favorite show that we saw at this festival. Shirley Manson is AMAZING, and looks nowhere near 46 years old. Her voice sounded just as good as it did in the 90s, and she had a great energy and rapport going with the audience.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Ian juggled knives in a Dos Equis variety show!

Ian juggling knives

Later that afternoon we saw Adam Ant (sucked), listened to Ludacris from across the festival grounds (basically the same show as Bonnaroo this year) and watched Neon Trees—who were really entertaining, despite my prediction that they would be boring. The crowd for Florence + the Machine had swelled to a crazy frenzy by the time she came on, so we sat up on a hill near a beer truck and listened to her from afar. Ian took a nap during Girl Talk (I was content watching his crowd buzz and dance like a bunch of possessed bumblebees), and when he woke up we made our way to the main stage for Pearl Jam.

Holy. Crap. They were the lead headliners for a reason. They’re amazing. I’d never seen Pearl Jam live before, and now I want to see them a million times more. Eddie Vedder talked to the audience, sang almost every song I wanted to hear (no Daughter?!) plus some, and then defied festival security when he was told they had to shut down at 11 p.m. sharp due to a city ordinance. “Fuck it, keep going!” he shouted to the band after he announced he was being told they only had two minutes to sing an almost 6-minute song. A guy ran around trying to unplug things, but they finished their song.

This was the second year Music Midtown was back after a several-year hiatus; it was shelved after experiencing some “issues” that nobody can seem to pinpoint or agree on. I hope they find a way to keep it going, though—for the price ($100 for two days), location and musical acts, it’s a great festival experience.