Jonas Brothers rock!

Actually, they pop. But thanks, Pittsburgh tweens, for using a Sharpie to share your feelings on a piece of public art.

Andy Warhol Bridge

This is supposedly the only bridge in the US named for a visual artist.

Thanks, Pittsburgh!


The dark side of smiley face ties

I have mixed feelings about positive thinking which is weird because I like being positive. I’m probably annoying, I'm can be so positive. I couldn’t wait, when I was younger, to find out what would happen next. Regardless of sharp mood swings, I had an innate trust that I could do anything, anywhere. Be anyone. Name it. Give me an idea. I'll figure out the details later. I'll send you a postcard. I owned that optimism.

Around age 30 I got discouraged because I wasn't sure what my point was. I felt like I was just drifting around collecting experiences, but for what? Was I really committing to anything or did I always have one foot out the door, at least wedging it open, if not kicking it down?

These days I have as many questions about my life as I ever have but I’m back to that comforting state in which the answers, answers I don't know yet, are exciting, not worrying. For a while there I was worried. When I had lunch with Ingrid and LAM in Seattle last fall, LAM said, "You're GOOD at exits." That comment stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about me quitting my publishing job when I knew for sure that it didn’t make me happy, when I resisted the unbelievably tempting offer of an office WITH A WINDOW.

A window! For me?? Another physical remind of the world out there that I’m not participating in the way I want to be? AND a promotion consisting of a better title with the same shitty pay and backstabbing co-workers? I’d be a fool to say no!

She was also talking about how I'd just quit an unhealthy relationship, left a message on my phone telling people I was on the beach drinking out of a coconut, and went to Mexico. When I decide to act, I don’t usually waste time. Part of me felt proud when LAM said that I’m good at exits because I like that when necessary, I say Oh hell naw. I have my patterns and not all of them are good but I don’t get stuck in many ruts. I am rut-phobic.

I thought for a minute, "Yeah. But I wish there were less situations that I need to exit."

She and Ingrid lifted their eyebrows and nodded with consideration. Since that lunch I’ve had a kick ass year and am shaking my pom poms for the one ahead. I’m back in action, suckas! But still I get stuck on the concept of being positive. Are we supposed to be positive ALL THE TIME because there are things - some big and some small - that make me feel really negative.

That sentence alone alerts the annoying imaginary life coach who whispers in my ear: Nothing can MAKE you negative. You DECIDE to be negative, Jessica Ann Roncker.

And my honest immediate reaction, "Go fuck yourself," sounds another alarm. THAT was defensive! Why am I so defensive? Wait, what about just being human for a minute? What about wallowing and wailing and being pissed and sad and mad?

My annoying imaginary life coach is not unlike the doctor at the natural health clinic in Seattle who talked me into letting him do some craniosacral massage on me. Which is to say I basically let him MASSAGE MY AURA. I know. Don’t ask. I was living in the Pacific Northwest. This doctor guy ended up hurting my aura. He whipped his hands over and around my body and my body started aching in response. No shit. The pain upset me and he and his smiley-face tie – the tie that should have been my sign to get the hell out of there before I let him go all Rambo on my personal energy field – leaned in close and whispered, "You’re in a safe space…"

That’s nice, dude, but YOU ARE NOT. I don’t know what Wiccan drum circle you earned your degree from or why I let you get an inch away from my ear but I am this close to grabbing your smiley face tie and choking you with it.

Lately anything fake makes me negative. Fake human interaction, fake customer service voices, and anything two-faced or insincere makes me want to scream. I was headed to the pool at the St. Louis hotel and asked the women working in the spa area where I could buy a coffee. One of them was telling me about the cafĂ© downstairs when another cut her off, "Or you can order poolside and we’ll bring it to you."

Fine, fair enough. Until she paused, looked "warmly" into my eyes and said, "GO PAMPER YOURSELF." Hey, you go pamper yourself lady. You’re the one talking in that fake voice you learned in some hotel management training. You’re the one who’s into that. I respect real, honest exchanges. It’s okay if it’s messy or dirty or bloody or whatever. It’s okay if you stutter or have spinach in your teeth or you’re having a bad day. It’s okay if you cry and it makes your nose run and you have to wipe it on your sleeve. It’s okay if it’s difficult and doesn’t make sense right away.

I’m not into glossy perfection. I don’t think it exists outside the world of marketing. It’s an image, an inhuman image, and I don’t trust it. Part of this world is the marketing of positivity. The whole create your own destiny / manifest what you want / the law of attraction / your thoughts become reality. Clearly I believe in all of these things; I’ve been using my imagination and making my ideas happen for years. I think the philosophy goes too far, though, when it turns against the person it’s supposed to help.

If you are positive, positive things happen to you. If negative things happen, you must be doing something wrong. You’re being negative. If you’re sick, imagine yourself well. If you’re poor, imagine yourself rich.

But what if you don’t get well and you’re still sick and you still can’t pay the rent? That supposedly has nothing to do with cell growth or health insurance or the job market. No, you just weren’t positive enough. Instead of getting you to take some responsibility, it tells you that you have total control. Everything happening to you, you allowed to happen. You created it. If you need $10,000 and you keep imagining a $10,000 check coming in the mail and it doesn’t, well, you fucked up. Except don’t use the word fuck because that’s negative.

Keep smiling and keep spinning the story. God, it gets to me. It makes me want to do all kinds of things not condoned by The Secret. Or the police.

So what about this contradiction of mine with positive thinking?

All I can come up with is smile when I feel like it, frown when I don’t. Do the most I can with what I have. Love the people I love. Be as positive and hopeful as possible without being a control freak. I don’t know what else makes sense.


Cowbell on Neil's back

I stuck this note on my computer tonight to remind myself what I need to do at 8pm.

Because taping cowbells on people, while not explicitly listed in my job description, is the kind of thing that needs to get done on my job.


one instance in which LOL might have been useful

I went to the hotel bar after our second show in Salt Lake City. I'd had a few Bud Lights there the night before so the bartender didn't make me fill out the Utah club membership card allowing me to drink the refreshingly smooth taste of Anheuser-Busch.

The night before someone told me that a Salt Lake City tiki lounge made a list of the top 25 dive bars in America and I was intrigued enough to get directions but not, at the end of the day, to actually walk the five blocks to make it happen.

I opted instead to drink two Bud Lights, ask about the nearest 7-11, and look sufficiently dispirited for the manager to offer to open the gift shop. At which point I scavenged for a protein bar and sugar-coated almonds. Yes. I know how to party.

On night two, I got there before any of my colleagues and strolled into a room full of middle-aged men in khaki shorts and polo shirts. There were about 25 of them and they all stared at me as I walked to the bar. I was wearing all black clothing, motorcycle boots, and didn't really fit in.

I ordered and pulled a chair over to a table and as I passed one of the groups, one of the golfers moved his chair over and said, "There's room for you here."

"You're fine," I said while walking past without looking at him. It didn't really make sense; it just came out. Actually, dude? You are NOT fine, you are saying tiresome things and you look like a boring motherfucker.

While waiting for my Bud Light, I texted "help" to Roxy, Neil, and Leila. Just that one word. And as soon as I hit send I thought, "Maybe I should give them some context so they know I'm not ACTUALLY in danger."

I was furiously texting an explanation when the calls started coming in. Roxy, Leila. I texted as fast as I could: "I'm fine, just surrounded by golfers! Haha! I'm fine! Not in danger!"

I didn't answer the phone because all the men were nearby enough to hear me. I should have left the room and answered the phone but opted instead to manic-text.

A few minutes later, mid-text, there was a call from Neil. I answered in whisper, "Hey!"

"Yes, I'm okay. I'm sorry! I'm in the bar! No, I'm okay, I promise!"

"Are you sure?" He asked. I realized that he thought that someone was MAKING me say I was okay. Someone with a gun. Or a knife. Shit. I continued to field messages from Roxy and Leila, "No, I'm so sorry, I'm a jerk, I didn't mean to make you worry etc.

A few minutes later Roxy appeared. "You scared the shit out of me."

She got the help text and didn't want to overreact but called me to be sure. I didn't answer so she called Neil. It sounded like "help" was all I had time to write. Like, in the time that the mugger/rapist/serial killer waiting in my room turned his back to reach into his bag of torture implements.

Neil headed to my room.

Leila got my cry for help and did the same thing. She armed herself with an ice bucket, to hit my killer over the head with OR to look casual in case it was a false alarm.

"Hey whatsup?! Oh, you aren't being assaulted? Sweet, 'cause my drink is warm and I need some ice."

I felt bad. When they joined me, I apologized repeatedly and asked tentatively, "Soooo? Is this funny now or do we have to wait until tomorrow for it to get funny?"


Gromyko joined us later and we filled him in. His response? "Maybe just a Help LOL would have been better."

And I realized - FOR FIRST TIME EVER - that, yes, LOL would have been real handy. What a surprise! I despise LOL. It's cheap and easy and usually not even true. I don't think people are really laughing out loud. They're just saying that.

99 percent of time, LOL can take a hike. But that 1 percent? When you're alone and annoyed by Mormon golfers? Bring it.


Saying no thank you to polar bears

"Excuse me? Do you like polar bears?" he asked as I walked past him on the sidewalk. 

"No, thank you," I said. I was in a rush.

"Awwww," the stranger called after me.

OF COURSE I like polar bears! They're so cute even though they will eat me. And I'm concerned about polar bears and the whole endangered Arctic which just pretty much melted, not a good sign for anyone.

I felt so guilty for saying I didn't like polar bears that I texted Jane, who works for the environment - that's right, THE CLIMATE SIGNS HER CHECKS - and confessed. I was expecting a snappy lecture but she was distracted by her appendicitis so I was off the hook. She was either in the hospital or on her way when I told her I'd dissed polar bears and the Arctic which illustrates my point: sometimes personal matters trump overall earthly survival. I'm not saying they should, they just do.

For me, I had shopping to do. And then I had to be somewhere. Haha, no really.

I made a resolution not to over pack this summer and I did a fine job. Unfortunately I didn't also make a resolution to do laundry on a regular basis so there a came a day, three weeks after leaving Cincinnati, when I had a situation. I had already done some handwashing. I'd hung my panties to dry in the shower and had even handwashed a pair of Levi's but there's only so many times you can wear the same three pairs of blue jeans and white cutoffs before they're walking themselves to work. They are dir-tay. And that's not even getting into the argument over whether white cutoffs should ever be worn, much less be made a cornerstone of a wardrobe.

I kept saying, "I really need to round out my wardrobe with a pair of black pants." Which is an obnoxious thing to say. ROUND OUT MY WARDROBE. What is this? An episode of What Not To Wear? Has the Idol management team arranged to have Stacy and Clinton ambush me in the loading dock? (They should).

I looked for black pants in Portland and was in the Diesel store trying on some sale items. I had one leg in when I knew, suddenly, that I'd left my phone on a street bench. I tore off the pants and ripped through my tote bag in search of my phone. In the process I also ripped open a bag of ranch-flavored soy chips, scattering them around the fitting room. At this point the salesman knocked on my door.

"Are you doing okay in there?"

"No!" I shrieked as I ran past him. "I left my phone in the street!"

I'm freaking out because this would be the fourth phone I've been through in less than a year. When I'm not leaving them in public spaces, I'm throwing them onto hard surfaces to see how long it takes for the top to fall off. As I'm running back to Whole Foods, an old woman on the street tries to ask me something.

"Hang on," I say, "I lost my phone!"

At the guest services desk in Whole Foods, I ask if anyone turned it in and instead of answering me, the employee asks me a question. 

"Are you Aaron Spears' friend?" 

"Yes!" I say and clap my hands. Aaron is the drummer in the Idol band and the first person in my phone book. I pass the test and get my phone back.

Back on the sidewalk, I see the old woman I rudely blew off and say, "I'm sorry, what were you asking me?"

She asks for money and I give her a dollar and apologize for running away. She asks me if I found my phone and when I tell her yes she says, "Oh GOOD. God bless you."

Yes, I thought. And the polar bears.


Matt acts like a gentleman

We were wrapping up the Portland hotel check in when Matt asked if I wanted to get coffee.

"Well," I said, "I just drank a whole pot on the bus. But yes."

Hello. Pacific Northwest. It would be UNPATRIOTIC not to get coffee.

I ran up to my room, took a birdbath (pits), and threw on a hoodie.

Portland: land of tattooed hipster girls, punky street beggars, charity muggers, the elderly homeless and robust outdoorsy types.

We stopped on the corner for a light. A girl cycled past in the bike lane wearing Dansko clogs and a North Face backpack. Pierced and studded kids outside Rite Aid asked us for money and when we didn't stop, they called us fascists. Unfazed, we went to a Starbucks.

I told Matt that in Seattle I'd give money to people on the street who'd end up in line behind me, ordering a triple shot specialty coffee way fancier than mine. In no way does living on the street in this part of the country mean you don't appreciate the finer things. And I like that.

Proving my point later in the day was the shaky, cracked out man at Whole Foods who asked me and Leila for change to buy LOBSTER BISQUE. Hee.

"Is there a fascist seating section?" Matt and I wondered outside Starbucks.

We sat on the brick steps of a plaza, taking in the sun after an 10-hour drive. A group of women milled around. Three of them were pregnant and one wore a pink garter belt.

"What is this?" I asked, "Some pregnant field trip?"

We watched silently as they stood and smiled at each other. We continued to stare. Matt raised his hand and pretended to call on himself. "You, in the striped shirt, with the attitude, you have a question?"

One of the women started piling toilet paper on the other's head and as it began to take form as a veil, I got it.

"Remind me not to have a bachelorette party someday," I grumbled.

We turned away and talked amongst ourselves and forgot about the ladies until the one with toilet paper on her head walked over. "I'm sorry!" She said, "But I have to practice walking down the aisle and need a man to practice with. Would you?"

"YES," I answered for Matt, "He would!"


Jesus loves you: everyone else thinks you're an asshole

Vinnie and I bought this bumper sticker for Geoff on the Brighton boardwalk.

JESUS LOVES YOU. Everyone Else Thinks You're An Asshole.

Geoff brought it with him from England but couldn't find it until yesterday when he shuffled through some papers in a folder.

"Yes!" he said, holding it up. "Where should I put it?"

"Across your forehead," I said.

We went for the road case instead.


Doug, in a desperate fight for his life

I've tried very hard lately not to write about squid or octopus because I had this feeling that the post would end with I guess you had to be there. How many times have I re-told a story that wasn't funny to anyone else? Every time Jocardo and I have shared anything with anyone.

Just this morning I injured my nasal cavity from laughing at an email - I basically CHOKED ON A SNORT - and when everyone in the front lounge of the bus looked at me, I told them that Matthew had a dream that he gave me rabies and we started attacking people together. For some reason, they all just stared. Though my wrapping an Ace bandage around my tonsils may have contributed to that. What? IT HURT.


Last week I was driving back to the production rehearsal hotel with Lindsay and Leila and we got in a fight about whether squids are as smart as dogs. I decided at the time that it was a private battle. We all know, anyway, that squids are as smart as dogs. We discussed giant squids and octopus and sharks and when Lindsay and I said we'd pretty much die of shock if we saw any of those three underwater and that is why we don't scuba dive or snorkle, Leila responded. 

"You're more likely to get trampled by an elephant than attacked by a shark!"

Which is SUCH a surfer statistic to know/make up.

"Well," I said, "To be perfectly honest, I'd go with the elephant."

Then she asked if we'd rather get hit by the bus crossing the intersection in front of us than be bitten by a shark.

"I just don't understand why those are our only choices," I said.

I mean, I know it's related to how Sunny was adamant in seventh grade about wanting to be mauled by a tiger. Because that would be an exciting and cool way to go. Headline-making, possibly glorifying etc. Whereas I fear the knowledge that I'm a goner inherent in that type of death and would prefer a simple carbon monoxide accident BUT THAT'S JUST ME.

This squid and octopus business went on for awhile. Several days later, though, after clearing up some technical questions on squid heads and what kind of eyes they have, I let it go. The other two were still at it in Vegas when we shared an office and were making references to "squid-like telepathy" which I ignored since I was stressing about ticketing for the upcoming LA show.

I was over the creatures of the deep. Until this morning when I had two hours on the bus from San Jose to Sacramento and I watched a video Leila sent me, a video that confirms I won't be getting my scuba certificate any time soon.

"An angry octopus is hiding in the shadows, stalking his prey..."

It "wraps its powerful tentacles around Doug's head" (Doug = scuba diver) and tries to drag him into his den. Octopus have dens! I did not know that. It pulls the mask off Doug's face while Doug makes "one final attempt to escape the creature's vice-like grip."

"I've never come across a more aggressive octopus," comments Doug.

Huh! Me either, Doug, and I sincerely doubt I ever will. But I have a couple of questions for the cameraman.

Was there perhaps anything that you could have done besides film Doug's desperate fight for his life? Were Doug's strangling noises, muffled yet audible behind his scuba mask, maybe a signal that he could have used some help in, um, staying alive?

Or maybe his strangles were dubbed, like I've heard animal shows regularly do in order to intensify the terror or the drama or whatever it is that they're going for. A friendly reminder of how savage nature is? I don't know, but I'm checking my carbon monoxide detector when I get home.

Someone has to poop

You know you're living and working closely when the bus is pulling off the exit and someone says, "I have to poop."

And you say, "I heard."

At least we were close to a gas station so we didn't have to get out a plastic bag.

The wheels on the bus

This morning I woke up on the fifth floor in San Jose. I looked out the window to a plaza below which was hosting a kids' concert. The grass was pocked with strollers and a band was rocking out.

To The Wheels On the Bus. Yeah. Go Round and Round. Exactly.

As if I don't already spend approximately 100% of every day trying not to get songs stuck in my head.

An hour later, after showering and chugging down a cup of bad hotel room coffee, I walked across the plaza for the real shit: Starbucks.

(ps If I knew a good local independently-owned organic fair trade cooperative that brewed coffee strong enough to melt my stomach lining, I'd go there. In lieu of that, helloooo evil megalithic corporation).

I passed the stage where the musicians were breaking down their equipment. A CD was blasting through the PA and I caught the line:

"I like to eat, eat, eat, eeples eend beneenees..."

And I fucking started SINGING ALONG.

Which begs two questions. Why? And perhaps more importantly, How?

Obviously, it's catchy. The song is all about learning vowels and it sings on the subject of eating apples and bananas while teaching the different vowel sounds. I wandered through during E.

If I'd passed by a few minutes earlier I might have been schooled in U (uuples and bunuunuuus) or in I (iiples and biniiniis).

Annoying. Or so I thought, until I starting singing AKA betraying myself.

See, back in December and then again in March and May, I drove around London with Joanna Hudson and her two-year-old, Alfie. In order to keep Alfie busy in the car seat, Joanna would play a music CD.

The CD was American and Joanna would say to Alfie, "Jessica sounds like the lady on the radio, doesn't she?"

And we'd play the songs, supposedly to keep Alfie from screaming his head off, though I had my doubts after Joanna got ALL EXCITED before one of the tracks came on and said, "Ooh, this is my favorite one!"

"Would you listen to yourself?" I said.

Joanna knew exactly what I meant. The girl who'd stomped into my house in the early 90s in her Doc Martens, all authoritative on raving and the Stone Roses and Oasis and the Charlatans UK, was getting off on track 3 of the toddler mix.

I continued making fun of her and she said something like, "Don't you dare write about this!" She may have mentioned something about ruining her reputation. I sadly promised not to but that was months ago. Our contract expired yesterday.

In Starbucks, I navigated past a double stroller and a child with a muffin crumbling out of his fingers. I ordered my large coffee and was pouring half and half and stirring when I thought, "None of us are immune. We are all in danger."

I'd made relentless fun of Joanna back then but today I eepled and beneeneed my ass off. Furthermore, after ten days in the Hudson home, I'd started talking like Alfie.

"Are you ready for dinner?" Joanna would ask.

"Yeah, I'm hongee," I'd say.

I started calling the remote the "ganny telly" (don't ask) and I was psyched when Alfie decided to watch Nemo instead of Bob the Builder because I was kind of into Nemo, too.

So? Yeah. Maybe you haven't heard but the wheels on the bus go round and round and it's awesome.



The great number of exclamation points that I use in professional emails does not reflect my actual personality.


Waking up in Las Vegas

I woke up suddenly as the bus started braking off the highway exit. Jerked out of a dream of suffocating in my bunk, I must have closed the air vents in the middle of the night when I was cold. I looked at my watch and calculated two more hours drive time. I thought we must be stopping at a gas station so back into dreamland I fell, for exactly five minutes until I heard Ray's voice on the other side of my bed's curtain, "We're here!"

BAM! I grabbed my glasses from the pocket on the wall, the day sheets from my bag, pulled on my boots and jumped off the bus. Panicked, I ran through the wrong door and up the wrong escalator. But I did it real determined, like I meant it. I was so wrong, though, I was in the wrong hotel and only figured it out by asking a cleaning guy where I was. I ran back outside and into the right hotel, stuffed day sheets into key packs with Geoff, and stood around the lobby looking generally delirious and disheveled for twenty minutes. When I got to my room and opened the curtains, this is what I saw. Good morning.