Katy Perry Mad Libs

I listen to the radio because it’s the only thing that consistently works in my 19-year-old car. Starting the car means turning the key, then turning up the volume; unlike the windshield, the mirrors, the engine, the tires, the fuel pump or the battery, the radio does not break down (brakes, that’s another one). Flipping through the stations, resting on one for a song or two, and singing off-key by the flickering lights of my faulty dash is the only way I know how to drive. Right now, there are about a dozen stations I roll through every day; sometimes I stop for Led Zeppelin, sometimes for Doomtree, and sometimes I skip them both to belt out the stupidly catchy Ke$ha part of Pitbull’s “Timber.”

Because here’s the thing, I like all music, including top 40 pop songs. I’ve seen Aerosmith, Barbra Streisand, New Kids on the Block, Childish Gambino, and Tool in concert all within my adult life.  31 Songs by Nick Hornby and The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop are two of my all-time favorite books. So I try not to judge anyone’s taste in music; don’t listen to what you think makes you cool. Listen to whatever brings you joy.

But I have some seriously complicated feelings about Katy Perry.

I cannot decide if I like Katy Perry’s music, or if I like hating it. Occasionally I am impressed by her voice, while other times she reminds me of an Eastern Spadefoot toad. Sometimes I think she’s a genius getting the last laugh through slick satire, and other times I want to rage against everything she represents for pop music, feminism, and the future of the species.

Like I said, complicated.

“Roar,” I think, is the perfect Katy Perry song. Observe.

It has everything: the patented Belting/Heavy Breathing/Random Sound Effect style of Katy Perry vocals, occasionally within the same word (“Ro-a-a-a-a-a–uhuhr!”). It is Uncannily Current, in the sense that it sounds exactly like what else is out there at the time (Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”).  And most importantly, the lyrics that are Nonsense Clichés Strung Together In a Forced-Rhyming Fashion (“Now I’m floating like a butterfly / Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes / I went from zero, to my own hero”).

In college, I had an English professor who could not stand a single cliché in anything her students wrote. She was an older Sister with an attitude and  health problems, and she would slam her cane on the floor for emphasis as she wheezed out “Clichéd! Clichéd! Clichéd!” She was a little scary and mean, and it took me years to realize how much I actually liked her and appreciated her guidance, by which point she had passed away. This is what I think about every time I hear Katy Perry sing I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything: a nun who yelled a lot and then she died. I am not the first person to notice and be bothered by Katy Perry’s clichés – here’s a list of all 226 found on her most recent album – but I am willing to bet I’m the first person to tell that particular nun story.

And now there’s this new song, “Dark Horse,” which I initially thought I hallucinated due to my clearly unhealthy obsession with Figuring Out Katy Perry.

A) It has the singing style that haunts my dreams. B) It sounds Uncannily Current in that it sent me down an internet rabbit hole, starting with Miley Cyrus/Mike WiLL Made It collaborations and ending with too much information about what is or is not “ratchet” culture (don’t look it up).  C) The title itself is a cliché. And D) I can’t stop hate-listening to it. Katy Perry may be a complex genius hiding behind bright colors and loud noises because that’s what sells, or she might be so simple that singing “I know a place where the grass is really greener” while dressed as candy is equivalent to her baring her soul. I don’t know.

But I do know she’s a multimillionaire while I drive a ’95 Lumina. So. Dear Katy Perry, I am willing to give up all my English-major principles and follow your formula to success. I’ve done the research and I’ve got some ideas. Here’s a little something I came up with while cleaning my bathroom:

I’m taking out the trash
You’re my receptacle
I can’t see the light
You’re my spectacles
Your reflection! It’s perfection!
Think it’s a Jedi mind trick
You ask do I love you?
Boy, Is the Pope Catholic?
(random vocalization breakdown, Tuvan throat singing, maybe you go “Catholic! Lic! Lic!” for a while, etc)

Yeah. There’s more where that came from, Katy Perry. I bought a book of Mad Libs and filled in all the spaces with clichés, euphemisms and glitter. Let’s collab.

I was not prepared.

When I first started working at my current job, I shared an office with Sister Nora. She was 78 when I met her and did not clear five feet – not by a long shot. But she was a nun, and I was intimidated by her. That is, until one day I turned to ask her something and saw her reading a romance novel at her desk. And I mean a real romance novel, with Fabio on the cover.

I silently turned back around, blinked, and thought, “…I was not prepared for that.”

It was a true moment of surprise, and how many of those do we get as adults?

I immediately warmed to Nora. I learned how much she loved romance novels, horror movies, hot tamales, and soap operas. We spent one Mardi Gras eating cupcakes and watching “The Bold and the Beautiful” in our office. I started picking up romance novels at Goodwill and bringing them in for her. For her eightieth birthday, I made her a card featuring her favorite things.

Nora's heart

Nora got sick in early 2012. Or, sicker. This time she went to the hospital, so I went to visit her. She wasn’t expecting me and when I walked in, she was on the phone with another coworker of ours.

Nora looked at me. It took a second, then said into the phone: “Oh! It’s…it’s the girl who gives me all the dirty books!”

Yes, she knew my name. But maybe she knew me a little bit better.

This St. Patrick’s Day, it will be one year since I last saw Sister Nora. It was her birthday. She was wearing a paper party hat and opening cards with her friend; it was a good last memory.

Now I sit at her old desk. I read more romance novels than I used to. And I remember how the nun who read all the dirty books became my friend, and how much I miss her. I was not prepared for that.

Luck of the Norwegian: An Essay from the Archives 2

This was written about St. Patrick’s Day 2009 – a memorable but odd one for sure:

I got my St. Patrick’s kicks in a little early this year, choosing to make bad decisions on a Saturday rather than a Tuesday.  Does that make it a good decision?  Call it a wash.  Anyway, my weekend was great, aside from the parts where I felt like dying.  The other parts were too much fun, and I would do those parts again (which pretty much means I’ll do the “feel like dying” parts again, too).

The actual St. Patrick’s day was going to be low-key, but ended up pretty bizarre.  First of all, there were drunk nuns before noon.  Always entertaining.  Then there was a phone call from my mom, letting me know my dad was in the hospital because of a work accident (found a chlorine gas leak with his face), but he didn’t want me to come home because I should “stay there and make money.”  I never listen to my dad; he never makes sense.  So instead, I spent about two and a half hours in the ICU, watching my pops take in oxygen and watch NCIS.  It was exactly like hanging out with my dad at home, except with a few extra tubes and wires.

Around seven, the doctor checked dad’s O2 levels and sent us all home, telling him not to smoke for a few days because it would irritate the acid in his lungs.  The acid in his lungs.  I take that to mean “don’t smoke because IT WILL MAKE YOU BLOW UP,” and dad takes it to mean “Gonna smoke anyway, because I like a challenge.”  My dad: surviving things he shouldn’t for half a century.

And that’s how I ended my St. Patrick’s day: watching my dad watch NCIS (at home this time) and thinking not about my Irish ancestors, but my Norwegian ones, and wondering if I might inherit some of their luck.  And their ridiculously hearty lungs.

Note: Dad’s lungs are not quite so hearty anymore, but I am so incredibly proud of the work he’s put into quitting smoking in the past few months. Love you Pops! Keep taking care of yourself so I can keep writing jokes about you.

“Liquor and nuns”

I may not eat turkey, but I still like Thanksgiving.  First of all, there are so many other things to eat!  And it’s practically National Napping Day, which is a cause I celebrate.  And finally, I’m thankful for so much.  Here are a few things in no particular order:

  • coffee and lefse for breakfast (okay, perhaps these are in an order: the order in which they are in front of my face right now, and order of deliciousness)
  • my brother for the sheer amount of inside jokes and movie quotes that make me laugh and make everyone else wonder what we’re talking about.  “Bread.”
  • my sister-in-law for working Thanksgiving so we can finally, maybe, all get together for Christmas
  • the friends and family who helped me raise $220 for the Walk to End Hunger yesterday!
  • my mom for walking with me, and then asking “how does my walking help end hunger, exactly?” That kind of blind support is love.
  • Muppets.
  • My mom’s official review of the new Muppet movie: “Jason Segel’s mother should be proud!”
  • The ladies who found out I was without Thanksgiving evening plans and said, “Rachel, you should come over! There will be liquor and nuns. We won’t have room for you at the big table but we can set up a kids’ table for you.”
  • Great friends and their excellent families who take in strays at the last minute.  And feed them too much. More mint cake please.
  • My dad for driving through terrible weather last weekend to attend his first-ever Vikings game with me.
  • The Minnesota Vikings for keeping me humble.
  • Naps.
  • Laughter.
  • Beer.
  • God.
  • I told you these are not in any order.
  • The fact that my iTunes just started playing Protozoa’s “Zoom Zoom Zoom” from “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.”  Why do I own that? And how could I forget I own that? Amazing.
  • The fact that I can afford to have iTunes, and coffee and lefse, and access to the internet and clean water and everything so much of the world is without.
  • Hands On Twin Cities for introducing me to some great local causes.
  • Feed My Starving Children – and all the friends and family I’ve made go with me recently
  • Not working in retail on Black Friday.
  • Terrible/amazing action movies, and friends who send emails like this: “Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris are in Expendables 2. Get the f*** in line.”
  • Ten years of friendship with Lacy.  “Weebles Wobble…”
  • Really, just all of my friends who let me be my ridiculous self and seem to like me for it.  I like you, too.
  • And this: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
    and try to love the questions themselves…
    Don’t search for the answers,
    which could not be given to you now,
    because you would not be able to live them.
    And the point is, to live everything.
    Live the questions now.
    Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
    you will gradually, without even noticing it,
    live your way into the answer.”
    Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy everything to you all.

Best Things of the Week: A Day Late Edition

I meant to write this yesterday, but a surprise visit from an old friend and an innate ability to procrastinate everything means it’s here today instead!

1. Wedding Bells

Remember when I went to a bachelorette party last week? Unsurprisingly, it meant I got to go to a wedding this week!  And because it’s my life, I got to go to it with a bunch of nuns!  Right after work on Friday, my coworkers and I dressed up and went to our friend and former coworker’s wedding.  The ceremony was lovely, the reception was a great party, and the cupcakes were delicious. Congratulations, friends!

2. Uptownin’ Around

On Saturday, I dropped in to the Pizza Luce Block Party in Uptown with my friend Manolo.

Luce Block  Party Image

 We stuck around for Communist Daughter, then realized we could hear the concert almost as well from Manolo’s porch, which is kind of a perfect way to spend an afternoon.  Things got even better in the evening when I convinced Manolo to watch the Vikings’ preseason opener.  I’m not going to say it was a good game, but I had a great time trying to teach Manolo about the football.

Vikings Vs Packers

Manolo, lesson one: Your roommate the Packers fan is wrong, and I am right.

Lesson two: Our current starting quarterback’s name is Donavan McNabb.  Not, as you guessed, “Don Juan Diablo.”

3. Irish Fest!

I went to my first ever Irish Fest in St. Paul on Sunday! I ate O’Brien Potatoes, drank a Guinness, accidentally bought a loaf of soda bread (I thought I was just buying one piece and yes, I am the kind of person who accidentally buys a loaf of bread), and got my name written in Gaelic.  It is, disappointingly, “Raicheal.” I managed not to tell too many complete strangers about my citizenship — but I let my redheaded Irish buddy, known as “Saibher” for the day, tell them for me.  I absolutely recommend bringing your own ginger wherever you go.

Patrick Renna

If you learn nothing else from me, learn that.

True story

The other day, two of my coworkers were in my office talking about movies. One of them asked, “What’s that movie with Michael Jordan?  The animated one?”  Even though they weren’t talking to me, I proudly, loudly gave the answer, feeling quite the smug-trivia-queen.  Then a weak “um…hello?” drifted out of my headset, reminding me that I was not, in fact, on a game show, and was, in fact, on the phone.  So I did what anyone else would do in this situation, assuming there could ever be anyone else in this situation: I blurted out “Space Jam!” and hung up on a priest.

This one time, at Space Camp…

Quickly: My job sometimes involves phone calls to churches, and sometimes people don’t want to talk to me (let’s face it: I’m a telemarketer.  Nobody wants to talk to me).  Today, I was told Father was not in, because he was “at Space Camp.”  Either that’s the best brush-off of all time, or there’s something strange going on in this church.

San Diego tickets have been purchased, so now I have something to look forward to.  I love vacations with built-in hosts/tourguides (although in this situation I will likely be sleeping on the floor and showing myself around the city, but free is free).  Not that I use my friends or anything; I would visit them anyway.  It’s just nice when they live near tourist attractions, like the ocean or a corn palace or anything that isn’t a convent.


Why not.

So, my company is small. I’m basically the Jim and the Pam of my office: answering phones and making sales.  Now, every time I make a sale, I am required to ring a bell.  The theory here being that bell-ringing is a great reward.  That I yearn to make clanging noises at all times.  This is incorrect but fine.  The problem is that I work in a convent, and to the rest of the office building, it’s difficult to distinguish the “Rachel made a sale” bell and the “calling all nuns to prayer” bell.  Make a sale, ring a bell, get a chorus of “are we praying?”  Everytime a bell rings, a nun gets confused.

I need an adult.

A hand lands on my shoulder, followed by an ominous voice: “You have been chosen.”  Pause.  “Bring your sandwich.”  Thus began my illustrious career as a model, when one of the nuns pulled me out of my lunch break and into a photo in which I was instructed to “act natural” and “hold that Cheeto higher.”  Coming to a Catholic teaching publication near you this August: Rachel the Cheeto model.

Other things that happened yesterday: I went for a walk and came home with seven books.  Clearly I need to move to a location not within walking distance of a used bookstore, also to an apartment that is not an inferno.  My heat system is malfunctioning, kicking out high-heat at all hours even though I have it set to “OFF.” It is currently 65/feels like 65 outside, 78/feels like burning inside.  It seems all I do is complain about temperatures; my office is cold!  Minnesota is cold! My apartment is hot!  Will nothing make me happy, you ask?  Well, yes.  Sixty-five/feels like 65 is pretty much perfection.  If I can only convince my apartment of this.

Easter happened.  Family ate its way through Rochester.  My dad said some unintentionally funny things (“Bob Saget? Are you still talking about him? Move on with your life!”).  Then I came home and my brakes failed, kind of.  According to the mechanic, the brakes were fine, but the sensor was broken, a distinction that doesn’t matter much when you find yourself unable to stop at a red light.  Luckily, I remembered all of the pertinent lines from Speed and hit mostly green lights (and no pedestrians) on my way to Target.  Because yes, I didn’t turn around until I realized the store was closed: such was my desire to shop.  Either I’m out to singlehandedly end the recession, or I’m on my way to a Darwin award.