Requiem for R.E.M.

I was a Casey Kasem top 40 kid in my early teens. I fully own my former obsession with New Kids on the Block. I was not alone, OK?

And then a shift happened in 1991, when I discovered R.E.M.

It’s oddly fitting that R.E.M. is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Out of Time (the first album of theirs that I bought) as I am mourning the 5th anniversary of their breakup.

I still have the cassette version of Out of Time that I bought 25 years ago. I remember watching the music videos for “Losing My Religion,” “Shiny Happy People,” and “Everybody Hurts” on MTV time and time again.

I loved Michael Stipe’s voice. I loved the lyrics and the melodies. I just plain loved (and will forever love) this band. Their music was a soundtrack of my late teenage- to middle-aged life. Therefore, I was devastated when they broke up in 2011. To this day, I try to be mature and tell myself stoically that they had a right to break up and they did so because they felt like it was the right thing to do. But deep down inside I silently weep whenever I’m faced with the cruel fact that there will never be another new R.E.M. album or concert tour.

Luckily I had the foresight to keep most of my concert ticket stubs in a book, so I am able to look back and confirm that I’ve been to 10 R.E.M. concerts.

The first time I saw them in concert was 1995. I don’t have the ticket stubs handy for these two concerts because I think I have a separate R.E.M. memorabilia book packed away in an unknown location. But I have photos of me and my college friends sleeping outside of a record store/ticket seller the night before tickets went on sale to buy tickets for their show in Buffalo, New York.

Overnight crew
Overnight crew









Soon after that, a few college friends and I drove 5.5 hours to Philadelphia to see them. I remember all of us trying to memorize the lyrics to “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” on the drive down. On the drive back, we wrote all over ourselves in pen like 20-year-olds do.

Philly crew
Philly crew









I saw the boys (minus Bill then) four years later at the Tweeter Center outside of Boston, on September 11, 1999. Four years later, I was back at the Tweeter Center on October 5, 2003. Three days afterward, I was on a plane to Baltimore to see them at George Mason University.

I do remember the euphoria I felt at the October 29, 2004, concert in Boston because I scored sixth row seats thanks to the fan club.

Stipe from the sixth row, baby
Stipe from the sixth row, baby













Seven days afterward, on November 5, I was watching them at Mohegan Sun casino. I remember the odd, cheap hotel room in nowhere Connecticut that my friends and I piled into at the end of the night.

My most momentous R.E.M. concert occurred in July 2005. My favorite band (R.E.M.) was playing in my favorite city (London). And I had tickets! As luck would have it, my mom and I were going to be in England at the same time as R.E.M. This was 2005, so my tickets arrived by Royal Mail from across the pond. I still have the envelope.

My mom and I went to England’s Lake District first, planning to spend the end of our trip in London. On July 7, we called a taxi and as the driver took us to our destination he asked us if we had heard about the bombing.


Four terrorists had bombed three London subway stations and one bus.

My mom and I turned on the TV news when we got back to our hotel and watched the horror unfold. We were sickened, worried, shocked, saddened. Once the shock started subsiding, I immediately thought about R.E.M. I hoofed it to the town of Keswick’s post office, where there was a computer with Internet that one could use for a fee. I think the R.E.M. concert was scheduled for a few days later, so it was, not surprisingly, postponed. It would be held a week or so later, long after we had returned to the States.

I immediately searched to see if they were playing anywhere in the U.K. I found that their show in Cardiff, Wales, was still on for July 10. I took this news back to my mom and said something along the lines of “You can stay in London but I’m going to Cardiff to see R.E.M.”

I don’t remember how agreeable she was about my news at first, but she didn’t want to stay in London alone (or maybe didn’t want me to be in Cardiff alone). So I went back to the post office computer and bought two concert tickets and reserved a hotel room in Cardiff.

We returned to London a day or two after the bombing. For some reason, I had to physically buy or pick up the train tickets at the London train station we would be departing from. I will never forget being on the Tube on a weekend afternoon with only a couple of other people in the train car…because the city had told people to avoid taking public transit. But those terrorist bastards were not going to take R.E.M. from me. So I picked up the tickets at the station and we were set for our impromptu journey.

My mom was none too thrilled about being in an arena with thousands of people a few days after a terrorist attack. But she was a trooper. The concert was very cathartic, especially when thousands of us sang along to “Everybody Hurts,” which the band dedicated to London. I felt the power of music that night. The power to uplift and comfort and unite.










Almost three years later, on June 13, 2008, I was back at the Tweeter Center. It was another amazing experience because our seats were in the 20th row.

Now we come to the last time I saw R.E.M., a day later at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island. The theater is an outdoor venue and it was raining. My friend and I huddled under our umbrellas, soaked but having a good time. Until the thunder and lightning started.

The concert stopped and we were told to take shelter under the seating area, where the restrooms and concessions were. I don’t remember how long we waited—maybe 30 minutes? 45?—and the concert started again.








Since R.E.M. broke up, I feel compelled to attend every concert of my favorite musicians…because you never know when the last concert will be.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Eighteen Years Later…

It was 1998. I had been working in London for six months through a work abroad program, and I had a few weeks left. I had read somewhere that the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields would be performing Mozart’s Requiem.

I could barely contain my excitement as I called the box office. It was a dream come true! I knew nothing about the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields except for the fact that it had performed the soundtrack of the movie Amadeus. I’m pretty sure that I discovered Amadeus in high school. I was immediately smitten with Tom Hulce’s Mozart, even though he was a hot mess. But he was a hot mess who happened to be a musical genius!

I bought the movie and soundtrack and would watch and listen to them throughout college. I wasn’t the type to daydream about getting married, but I decided that if I did walk down the aisle, it would be to a performance of the third movement of Mozart’s Serenade for Winds.

OK, back to 1998. I called the box office. All of the performances occurring before I headed home were sold out. AUGGHHH.

Fast forward to 2015. I’m flipping through the Celebrity Series catalog, and I read that the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields is coming to Boston with its musical director, Joshua Bell, as a soloist. Mozart was not in the program, but that was OK! Eighteen years later, I had my chance to see the famous chamber orchestra.

Celebrity Series of Boston










I was looking forward to hearing Joshua Bell, too. He and the orchestra performed a Prokofiev symphony, a Beethoven symphony, and another piece that I don’t recall (a fellow soloist canceled, so they substituted another piece). It was a wonderful concert and Joshua Bell was masterful.

Maybe I will be lucky enough to see the Academy perform Mozart’s Requiem someday. Until then, I’m happy with my Amadeus soundtrack.

So my birthday is less than a month away now. I have nine things left to do. That sounds a little daunting, but I have it under control. As you can see by the date of the concert (March 20), I am way behind in my reporting, but I will catch up somehow. Next up is a discussion about mortality and end of life…


My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady won eight Oscars in 1964 and placed #91 on the AFI’s top 100 film list.

I wanted to love it because I enjoy musicals and I like Audrey Hepburn. But I didn’t love it. Although the acting was first rate, I found Eliza Doolittle’s (Audrey Hepburn) Cockney accent offensive. I physically cringed when she yelled. And Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) treated Eliza like a lab rat, if you ask me. Ugh.

That being said, the sets and the costumes were great. The songs were fine but I didn’t fall in love with any of them either. After watching the movie, I learned that not only was it based on the stage musical My Fair Lady, but it was also based on the film adaptation of the stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

Wow! That’s a lot of adaptations.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

My Fair Lady
Courtesy of

Adopting Customs

I was raised a tea drinker. Neither of my parents drank coffee at home, but my dad drank Lipton tea.

Then I discovered coffee in high school, and it assisted me greatly in maintaining functionality during countless early mornings and late evenings throughout college.

And then I went to England for a semester during my senior year.

I vaguely remember drinking tea with friends, but those times are overshadowed by the times I drank beer with friends at pubs and bars ON CAMPUS. I had already turned 21, but the novelty of having pubs on campus was not lost on me. I kept busy discovering English beer: Bass, Boddingtons, Founders, Newcastle, and Tetley’s. Even Foster’s (“Australian for ‘beer'”).

And then I returned to England on a six-month visa after college graduation.

That is when my tea education began. As the administrative assistant for a group of auditors, one of my main duties was to make coffee and tea multiple times a day. It wasn’t long until I had everyone’s preferences down. About half of my coworkers drank coffee and half drank tea. The tea of choice was Twinings Earl Grey. That’s what I made for myself most of the time.

I came to enjoy the ritual of  “firing up the kettle” for our tea breaks. Sometimes I’d deliver the drinks and we’d stop and chat with each other; sometimes we’d just keep on working.

I also had high tea/afternoon tea for the first time during this time period, when my mom and my friend visited me. We had tea at Fortnum and Mason and it was just lovely. We each picked a tea and received our own pot. The savory sandwiches came: smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad and watercress. Next, the sweets came: scones with clotted cream, fruit tarts, chocolate cake.

Since moving to Boston, I’ve had high tea at Four Seasons, L’Espalier, the Park Plaza Hotel, and Upstairs on the Square (R.I.P.). I’ve decided that my favorite place for tea is the Taj Hotel. Sunlight streams through the tea room’s vast windows while a violinist serenades the patrons and proper and polite waiters bring everyone tea and snacks on exquisite china.

Tea at the Taj










Something about the experience is so relaxing. Time seems to slow to a standstill as you catch up with a friend over tea. The food is dainty but somehow substantial. The tea itself is always delightful and I just about finish the whole pot.

If you’re not a tea drinker, now’s the time to be one. There is nothing like a cup of tea in the fall and winter time!

Some of my favorite brands are:

Twinings (Earl Grey and Nightly Calm)

Harney & Sons (Hot Cinnamon Spice and Diamond Jubilee)

Bigelow (Spiced Chai and Green Tea with Mango)

Sandwiches at the Taj
Sandwiches at the Taj







Sweets at the Taj
Sweets at the Taj











Have you adopted any customs from another country (or state, or city)?

Baby Animals and Lion Hugs

It’s raining baby animals at the animal shelter where I volunteer and I can’t stand it! I’ll start with the most exciting baby animal:

Baby guinea pig










Yep, a baby guinea pig. Apparently called a pup. My brother and I had a guinea pig named Patches when we were kids. Unfortunately, I have a feeling she was not long for the world under our care. Mom, do you remember?











According to this website, baby rabbits are called kittens? Whaaa… We also had a rabbit, named Bunny, who either froze to death in her outdoor hutch or Grandma left her hutch door open so she escaped. Mom and I remember different final chapters of Bunny’s life.

THESE are kittens.
THESE are kittens.










Kittens! So cute, but so much work. We had two kittens while growing up, Tiger (whom we immediately started calling Kitty after we named him Tiger) and Kiwi. I don’t remember all of the work, probably because Mom was doing all of it.

THESE are pups.
THESE are pups.










There are three or four other pups hiding in the back there. So adorable. Well, I seem to have turned this post into a history of my childhood pets, so might as well mention Pooka. I didn’t know her when she was a pup. She was middle-aged by the time I was old enough to understand what a dog was. She was cute, but I don’t remember playing with her much. All I recall is her limping around the house and peeing on the living room rug a lot.

Soooo…while we are on the topic of animals, let’s look at some videos of lions hugging people. Just because I am obsessed with the story of Christian the Lion.  If you haven’t seen the viral video of Christian the Lion, grab some tissues. Every time I watch this video, I practically break down in sobs.

Recently, a friend showed me this video of a lion hugging a woman who rescued him and nursed him back to health.

And then I came across this lion whisperer chap, Kevin Richardson:

Isn’t it incredible to watch these huge predators return the love they received from these humans? You needed the tissues, right??