Mafiaoza’s is Icky, and it’s Not the Pizza

I enjoy being nice, and I generally think people are wonderful. Not being a mean, angry person works out well for me, and I have few complaints. However, once in a while there comes a behavior so appallingly insensitive, so overwhelmingly jerky, that I am forced to reconsider my decision.

Earlier this week, I went with a friend to a beloved Nashville pizzeria [I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so let’s just call it Mafioza’s] for their lauded 2-for-1 beer and slice night. For those of you who have never been, it is as magical as it sounds: a fairy wonderland of pizza mountains, irrigated by rivers of beer. I look forward to going any chance I get, and as part of this week of Paschal celebrations, this time was no exceptions

By their front door, they have one of these. I stress one, because it is, in fact, the only space like it in the entire restaurant lot, including the back:

Image

Generally, a wheelchair being painted on a parking spot calls to mind people with disabilities, who are allowed to park in said spots, due to the fact that the spots are wider and have more space to load and unload mobility equipment. The spaces are also designed and placed in such a way as to allow an unobstructed, close access to the ramp or front door.

We had already parked elsewhere and were waiting on our laser-table-buzzer thing to go off when a black SUV pulled into the reserved space. [I happened to be right next to the driver’s-side door]. The driver hopped out and sauntered through the front door [after giving a warm greeting to each police officer posted there to check IDs]. I didn’t see a hang tag on the dashboard. There was no wheelchair symbol on the license plate. The police offers said nothing else. I was miffed, to say the least.

I went over to the police officer nearest me and said, “Excuse me, but did you see that? He parked there illegally.”

“Yeah,” said the officer, a bit defeated, “He does it all the time.”

“Oh. Well, can you not ticket him for that?” I asked.

“We can’t do anything about it.,” I could tell he was ashamed, “He’s the owner.”

My jaw hung open as the officer explained to me that since the restaurant was private property, a sign should be posted denoting any penalty for parking there [in addition to the space being painted; he had not posted a sign]. Beyond that, the decision is made to ticket or not ticket the person who parks there illegally; that decision is the prerogative of–wait for it–the owner.

Just so it sinks in for the folks at home: the owner of the restaurant routinely parks in the only space marked for use by people with disabilities on the entire property, knowing he can do so without any consequences, by virtue of his ownership. Not only does his nonchalance irk me in the first place, the real kicker is he has no qualms about doing this RIGHT IN FRONT OF A PERSON WHO USES A WHEELCHAIR.

Days later, I am still baffled by his behavior. Even after taking time to cool off [of which I needed a lot], I still feel slighted, disrespected, ignored, and discounted as a patron of the business. To keep people out by virtue of limiting or obstructing their access is to discriminate, exclude, and ignore them.

The Founding Fathers talked about our unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am no political science scholar, but I am fairly certain that infringing upon someone’s access to pizza and beer is to seriously tamper with her pursuit of happiness.

To the owner of Mafioza’s: if you want a spot by the door, paint the word “Owner” in a parking space. Don’t steal what could be someone else’s only safe way to enter your restaurant. You’re hurting your reputation, your business, and your chance to get to know your neighbors. Your food is cool. Your beer selection is cool. But you regularly park in a space marked for people with disabilities because you’re the owner and you can; and that’s not cool.

To other Nashville businesses: inclusion is hip, equality is sexy.

Be hip and sexy. Don’t let me down.

(w)hereabouts

You know those parts in movies where you just know the Couple is Breaking Up, and then one looks melodramatically into the eyes/soul of the other and half-whispers, “I’m not giving up on you.” My relationship with blogging is nearly identical.

In fact, to take the creepy analogy a step further, “You could say I’ve been here all along.”

I have.

Recent Projects:

  • A guest post for my friend Kimmie’s fantastic blog, That Girl in the Wheelchair. You can read my post, “You’re So Brave and Other Assumptions” right about here.
  • Submissions for two successive issues of local literary magazine, Art House Nashville. [As soon as I have  a link to order copies available, I will post it on the ICFUS Facebook Page]. I have plans to be a regular contributor to this magazine, and am honored to be able to do so.

Please-God-Let-This-Happen Project:

Submitted an article for the Huffington Post based on all my Faith Healing shenanigans.

Waiting to hear back.

Hoping for the best.

Current/Forthcoming Projects

Album Reviews for Very Dear Friends:

dust and back again [a song and its exegesis]

It’s been an interesting week. I feel like a martini: shaken, stirred and sure to confuse and disorient you if you spend enough time in my company. When you have bizarre weeks, you either become predictable or erratic. Or, if you are like me and refuse to be outdone, you embody both regularity and chaos.
For example: this week I have logged hours in prayer, word games, and the consumption of caffeinated beverages. [This is not unusual, as I think you can surmise.]On the other hand, I wrote a song tonight, which I haven’t done in years. [This is unusual indeed.] Of course, what you read here, like everything else I write, could be totally different in a moment or two. But I digress.
This little ditty, “Dust and Back Again”, is a series of impressions surrounding a particularly interesting belief: the idea that people are both made of dirt and made to be like G*d, all at the same time. This is one of the more beautiful and humbling realizations of my Faith.
And I seem to be reminded at every turn that I am just as human as I ever was. . . however, I am doing my best to hold tight to that Spark, that little bit of Transcendent beauty I believe each of us has been given to use and enjoy as our gift.
I hope some of my words help you. Don’t forget: you are wonderful, simplistic, and full of fire and gleam. Hold on tight.

"For He knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust." - Psalm 103:14

Dust and Back Again

Sweep me up to shake me off

First your eyes burn then you cough

I am the ground and Holy Things

Friend of worms and kin to kings

 

Ash to dust

And back again

So good to see your face my friend

 

Beaten from a Persian rug

Filling in the grave you dug

Choked by rain and charred by sun

Chains rust in wait to be undone

 

Ash to dust

And back again

So good to see your face my friend

 

Fearfully and wonderfully made we are

Fearfully and wonderfully made

 

Flesh and soil lose themselves

In myrrh and tabernacle bells

Crumbs of bread and drops of wine

Up from earth to the Divine

 

Ash to dust

And back again

So good to see your face my friend

 

Fearfully and wonderfully made we are

Fearfully and wonderfully made

 

-© Beth Hopkins

 

general admissions

I love concerts more than the average bear. I guess I’m a product of my environment in  that way. Concerts are as much a social activity in Nashville as hockey games are in Canada. [I have to admit, I have no idea what else there is to do up there besides hockey, except be bitter about your part in responsibility for Nickelback.]

I don’t claim to know everything about music, or to be particularly hip, or to know how to introduce you to Lady Gaga. But I have been to several concerts. And I have some sense of what irritates performers, fellow patrons, and-most importantly-my specific annoyances when it comes to concert behavior.

So in today’s effort-to-make-the-world-a-better-place, I bring you a list of concert do’s and don’ts. Or, to be more specific, things people do at shows that will get under your skin faster than a prison tattoo.

Wearing Band T-Shirts.

i don't care how much of the rest of your outfit you bought at american apparel, you still look ridiculous.

I have a few band T-shirts. I am not knocking the idea of buying t-shirts, or wearing cotton, or supporting the band you love. But don’t wear your Decemberists tee to their secret Soho show, even if you have aviator shades to offset it. You look like you’re trying too hard, or like you’re the type to sleep in the parking lot of the venue for three days in hopes of inhaling some exhaust fumes from the tour bus. Dress for going out: that’s what you’re doing. Save the t-shirt for the inevitable post-show nostalgia period. You’ll be so vintage if you wait a while.

Loud-As-All-Get-Out Talking.

David Sedaris gave me one of these at his reading, to use at my leisure, and told me he had a whole box. i am waiting for the perfect opportunity.

 

I love to talk. If it was something you could do competitively-like those people who totally gross me out with the whole hot dog speed-eating thing-I would be a champion. And I am not against talking at shows. Note the distinction. I am against Loud-As-All-Get-Out talking, especially while the music is being played.

I recognize that some venues, like cafes, are going to be more conducive to continuing of socializing. Volume control is the most important thing here. I am pretty sure everyone else there at the venue would rather hear a U2 cover than the results of your optometry check up.

Also, I try to use the “commentary” rather than “conversation” method when show-talking.

Conversation: “And then I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to eat at Shoney’s because they don’t serve, like, any organic food, you know?’ And then he says, ‘I am more important than some cows in California,’ and I told him that he was being insensitive to my needs, you know? Because the causes I support are a part of me, and, like, you know what I mean. Hey, can you stop singing along? I’m trying to tell you something here.”

Commentary: “Lead singer. Shirt-as-dress. Precarious Choice.”

Hamlet said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It is also a large contributor to how bearable your company is at a show.

Shouting Out Requests [Unsolicited].

i will set aside my Pacifist principals and punch you in the face if you yell that in my ear one more time.

 

This combines the “trying too hard” element from the first item and the “loud-as-all-get-out” part of the second one, forming a heinous and obnoxious hybrid. The only time you may ever shout out a request-ever in the history of music that has been or will be made-is if the performer asks if anyone has any requests.

I don’t care if you have a favorite song. So does everyone else there. I don’t care how funny your friend will think it is if you shout a song by the wrong band. Your friend is not funny at all. And is not invited to my birthday party.

Set lists are set for a reason. They have already been determined, and probably won’t change much. Just be patient, the biggest crowd pleasers come as closers and encore numbers [and there is always an encore]. So, cool your jets. You’ll be happier than not by the end of the evening, and will come out of the experience without a black eye.

Arriving Freakishly Late/Leaving Prematurely.

don't be late. not even if you are a hilarious-looking shark.

Show etiquette is all about respect. [Other than the whole t-shirt thing, which is inconsequential other than the fact that it deeply annoys me.] I get that everyone runs late, and has to cut out early on occasion.

What I’m saying is, don’t make a habit of it, and don’t go about it in a too-cool-for-school fashion. This is not your friend’s neighbor’s not-really-party-just-hanging-out thing. This is a performance. You would not show up in the middle of a play, or leave before the final monologue of a movie. Same principles for shows. Let them finish. You most likely paid for it anyway.

[And if you must leave early or come in late, wait till a lull of some kind. Don’t make your entrance or exodus mid-song. It’s kind of a punk thing to do.]

Don’t Be a Drunkypants.

Having a drink with friends can be delightful, and is often the perfect compliment to a night out at your sonic experience of choice. And I enjoy a nice import or cocktail as much as the next girl. I do not, however, enjoy belligerence. And as fate would have it-perhaps as punishment for some unknown social crime-I seem to be nearest the most ridiculous patrons of a given listening experience the majority of the time.

[Example: being a few feet from Brett Dennen’s microphone stand and having to put up with some lady screaming “I LOVE THIS SONG. DON’T YOU? ISN’T HE AMAZING?” into the depths of my inner ear while Brett was singing a new song that none of us had ever heard, including my astute new friend.]

Let’s face it, the less Drunkypants you are, the more responsible you’re being. And the more responsible you are, the less likely you are to commit Concert Faux Pas 1-4. [And not being Drunky McDrunkerson automatically makes you more attractive. I promise.]

So there you have it. A list of tips for a foolproof concert experience. Follow my guidelines and you’ll never be kicked out of any venues, social circles, or the good graces of yours truly.

many spoons ago

“I have measured my life in coffee spoons.”- T.S. Eliot

And so have I.

It may sound completely ridiculous to some of you, but I owe a lot to my favorite coffeehouse. Not in money, I’m paid up. Although I can admit, I do owe for a few refills, and deftly mooched mugs of amazing chai-infused cider. [In related news, one look at my bank statement would show you that coffee acquisition, and then some, seems to be a top priority for me.]

Sometimes I actually feel guilty about this. I spend more time in my favorite coffee shop than the employees, clocking in enough hours to be one. I spend more money in there than should be allowed for any single establishment. Terms associated with my favorite haunt include “home”, “office”, and  the phrase “Do you really need to know where to meet me? I mean, really?”

So, what’s my problem? Am I an addict? An escapist? A starving artist? Or some squashed together mixture of them all?

I first started going to the Cafe [as I will affectionately-and with much creativity-call it here] when I was working as a summer camp counselor. My coworkers and I relished our Saturdays off, and we would often venture into town to go to the Cafe for brunch or coffee. Something about the place grabbed me, and I continued to frequent there, until my name became nearly synonymous with the name of the Cafe.

I kept coming back because the food was delicious, the coffee was locally roasted, and the people who worked there were uncommonly sweet [all of the aforementioned is still completely true, by the way]. I also couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the music they used for ambience and my personal collection.

It became my practice, after years of visiting, and becoming an established Regular, to sit at the same big table in the Cafe. I would often be alone there, writing or finishing a book, and would offer others a place to sit when seating became scarce. Doing this began to serve as a reminder to me that human beings are fascinating. Most of them have a story to tell, and many of them are all too happy to share it with you.

Going about this little routine in the Cafe, I have met musicians, travelers, poets, artists, businesspeople, photographers, fellow writers, tattoo enthusiasts, and people who work in ministry Everyone who chatted with me was kind and interesting, and left me looking forward to coming back to my big, empty table the next day.

Along with the new friends, the old friends and I converge at the Cafe all the time. [Mainly because most of them think me incapable of hanging out anywhere else.] It has become a place for the gathering of  people I care about, whether impromptu or part of a time-honored tradition.

[*I offer an apology for the people in this video who think they can sing better than Gabe. And, yes, this song is about a Nashville establishment.]

Since living at home in the post-graduation recession era, the Cafe has become something of a base of operations from me. Not only to avoid cabin fever, but to establish a routine: to give my life a rhythm that it has been missing without school and work. It has collected so many of my experiences, stories, and memories. It has helped me to invest  in the host of friendships that have been borne and nurtured there. [And yes, I have also invested in about a metric ton of coffee and food. I’ll allow a pause for a self-satisfied smirk.]

For whatever reason- perhaps it had something to do with the caffeine-induced insomnia-I realized last night just how important places can be for people, as this one in particular, for me. Because places become associated with people, with stories, with stages of life, and with the passage of time.

I guess, more than an ode, or a tribute, this is a note of thanks. Thanks to the folks, who let me live rent free so I can support my habit, and have little to complain about otherwise. Thanks to people who have sat at my table and put up with my incessant chatter. Thanks to the friends who have closed the place down with me time and time again, and who tell me it’s “weird to be there without me”. Thanks to the baristas, chef, owner, and kitchen staff who put up with-and seem not to mind-my incessant banter.

You all- and having a “place of my own”- have been a great pick-me-up during this time of growth and pruning. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I know a great place.

Take Five: an Interview with Andy Davis

Andy Davis

A native of Louisiana, Andy Davis has been making his mark in the Nashville music scene ever since the release of his first album, Thinks of Her, in 2004. Andy’s music blends honest lyrics, soulful vocals, and a variety of sonic influences, to create a relatable, yet eclectic catalogue.

A member of Ten Out of Tenn since 2006, and a successful solo artist, Andy’s singles have enjoyed significant airplay on Adult Album Alternative [AAA] radio stations.

Last year, his EP New History was the soundtrack to the prime time drama Grey’s Anatomy. Andy has also toured with a variety of artists, including Howie Day, Will Hoge, Jakob Dylan, and Nashville’s own Mat Kearney.

I asked Andy 10 questions about everything from the his take on the local music scene, and the changing nature of the music industry, to his feelings on breakfast cereal. He got to pick 5 of his favorite questions to answer for the first ever Take Five feature.

How do you think music has changed, compared to the previous generation, and where do you think it’s headed?

Technology is probably the biggest thing that’s changed over the last few generations, and it affects the way music is recorded in a big way. In the past, recording studios were in more primitive stages, so people had to work within the limitations of technology.

For example, if you only have 4 tracks to record onto, and you’re recording onto analog tape (making it very difficult to fix mistakes), you have to be very creative to make great recordings. That’s what makes records like Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds so impressive.
Today, in the digital world, there aren’t many limitations to recording at all–you can add as many tracks to a song as you want, digitally correct performances as much as you want….it’s both an amazing thing and a dangerous thing for music, I think. I think the humanity you hear in the recordings of the past are what make them special, and what draws people towards them.

With the ability to fix every single “mistake” in a recording, you run the risk of eliminating all the things that make the recording special and charming…..in a musical world of robotic perfection, people are starving for something raw and real, I think. I think you have to make the most of what technology offers, without losing the raw human elements of a recording. Use digital technology with an analog mindset.

What is your favorite breakfast cereal, and what does it have in common with your personality?

Growing up, my mom always made my sister and I eat plain Cheerios, skim milk, wheat toast……boring, healthy stuff. I went to a friend’s house to spend the night and his mom brought out Fruity Pebbles, vitamin D milk, white bread….later made spaghetti with chunks of cheddar cheese in it…..he also had all the coolest GI Joe’s.

Anwyay, that day my mind was opened to the world of real sugar cereals….I continued down a dark and husky path until I landed on what my soul had been longing for all along—Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I think I resonated with it because it embodied true creativity—something very square packed with so much innovation—swirls, sugar, wavy-ness, good packaging and good commercials…..being creative within tiny limitations. Outside-the-box thinking, inside a box that is flying off the shelves.

What are the 5 Most Played songs in your iTunes?

As of 12.7.10, my top 5 most played reads as follows:

  1. Barry White-“I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby” (the beat extracted from the recording). This doesn’t seem right to me, but now that I think about it….Ron Burgundy has my back on this. San Diah-go.
  2. Elton John- “Susie (Dramas)”–I sing this song when warming my voice up before shows. Plus I rewind the drum fill at 2:43 every time I listen to the track. I’m sure iTunes took that into consideration.
  3. The Band- “Don’t Do It”–This song is greasy swampy funk at it’s finest, yet maintains the vulnerability of being a man that is willing to sacrifice “macho” in order to keep a girl from leaving him. Strong.
  4. Joni Mitchell- “Free Man In Paris”–Still don’t know what this songs really, but it inspires me every time I listen to it. I like to imagine myself doing a live youtube video cover of this song beneath the Eiffel Tower. It will happen.
  5. Paul Simon- “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”–I always think I’m over this song and kinda bored with it, until it comes on again and i listen all the way through. Also reminds me what a fan I am of Steve Gadd and sweet, funky song drumming.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?

Let’s see that would put me in 6th grade? Well, here are some highlights from my 6th grade experience, to give you some background:

  • Playing “Jurassic Park” in middle school band on the trumpet. I apologize to everyone present for what it sounded like, but musical minds were exploding back in the trumpet section.
  • Realizing that my English teacher got a boob job over Christmas break. Wasn’t quite sure what to do with this realization at the time.
  • Being nervous about making Little League All-Stars: big dreams of being the next Benito Santiago; also overcoming the discomfort of wearing a protective cup, for the pride of being the only kid on the team to wear a cup like a grown man.
  • Twice-cutting the grass in our yard on different mower levels, in different directions, in an attempt to make it look like the Braves outfield.
  • Walking in the woods with my neighbor friend, a BB gun, and an axe. . .chopping into a dead tree that happened to be a yellow jacket nest. . .
  • Having my 12th birthday party in a pop-up camper in the backyard with about 7 friends. . .I designed maps of the neighborhood on the Paint program of our new computer so I could give instructions to my team when we played war. A kid named Jared drank one sip from every single Sam’s cola in the 24 pack just to be annoying. Dummy.

Honestly I have nothing to say to my 12 year old self other than you have the best life ever. Enjoy it.

How has your songwriting/performance evolved?

I think a healthy path for any artist is to copy the people you find inspiring, then once you kinda get the gist of it, start in a direction that is truly your own. Learn the rules and then break them kinda thing. When I got to Nashville I got really into clever lyric writing, clever turns of phrase….this seemed to be what the successful writers in town were doing, so I wanted to get good at it. I was also really into classic crooner kinds of music at the time….Sinatra, etc. Thus, my songs began to come out as a jazzy, clever, modern versions of the stuff I was imitating.

I wasn’t really playing out much during this time–just writing and then eventually recording really raw versions of the songs. Once I got a chance to start performing these songs on the road on a regular basis, and started growing as a performer, I found certain songs that I enjoyed playing every night more than others….especially songs where I could really “get into it” on the piano.

I think all these feelings were under the surface as I continued writing for the next albums, and, not surprisingly, more and more funky piano songs started coming out. I think where I’m at now is a culmination of having figured out what I enjoy playing live every night the most, seeing what my heroes of the past have done, and then trying to come up with a way of doing it that feels original and inspiring to me.

Also, I have to include the fact that I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person along the way—I think that your art is usually a reflection of how you see the world, and my world has changed a ton over the span of my career. Different relationships, family issues, living situations….all these things factor into the way you write songs and the things you resonate with a the moment of inspiration. A hopeful love song I write today will have a lot more depth of experience tied into it than the hopeful love song I might’ve written 8 years ago. 8 years ago I would have the benefit of innocence and wonderment, writing to a girl in my imagination, whereas now I’d have the benefit of experience and depth, that will bring a whole new perspective to the song. Both mindsets offer angles that are worth writing songs from….and I think people will resonate with it as long as it’s an honest expression from where you’re at, I think.

Do you prefer hugs or high-fives? (Explain.)

I’m a hugger. High fives are mainly useful in awkward situations, and most people can’t achieve the proper smack that high-fiving is meant for. Bring it in.

– December 7, 2010

Want to know more? There are plenty of ways to catch up with Andy:

Website.

iTunes.

Facebook.

MySpace.

Twitter.

YouTube.

coming attractions: {a.k.a. super-awesome video announcement!]

Cue the fanfare.

Or the green-screen with the rating-box thingy.

Because I have for you a preview, a taste, nay, a sampling, of delights soon to come to our humble little nook of Cyberspace. This announcement is so big, and so awesome, and so super-great, that I have to tell you in person. So I bring you. A Vlog [coincidentally, the only word geekier sounding than Blog]:

Are you barely able to sit still? Can you hardly contain your giggles of excitement?

You are in good company.