QUEEN CONCERT: The Concert that Rocked Us

There are reasons why QUEEN is among the best rock bands in the world. When the group lost their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, perhaps a lot of people thought they wouldn’t be able to enjoy Queen concert anymore. I’m not a fan of them in particular, although I like some of their songs a lot. The chance of seeing Queen concert was somehow not in my bucket list. Growing up, I never had a chance to attend any concert from the world famous singers or groups that I love when I was younger. But I wished that someday I would see them. Then I got to see Kool & the Gang, Debbie Gibson and Taylor Dayne live in concert and I didn’t even have to buy tickets. They were among the performers for the summer concerts that were held in New Haven – a neighboring city where I live. I was ecstatic for sure! Because they are my favorites since middle school. Another singer that I saw live in concert was Belinda Carlisle. I found out about her concert accidentally when I knew about an event called Woodstock Fair. She was one of the highlight performers. I was over the moon being able to see her that I’ve never thought I would ever have.

My daughters are the ones who get me the “concert bug”. They love coming to concerts and I got to accompany my younger daughter to see One Direction concert before Zayn Malik and the group were separated and each member does solo. It was rather bittersweet for my daughter and one of memorable and historic event in her teenage years. After seeing 1D concert, I got the bug of wanting to see more concerts preferably from my favorite singers and band. One day I found out about Phil Collins concert in Brooklyn. Oh, how I wished I could see him live! My younger daughter insisted that we had to see him. She and I have similar music preference, maybe because I love playing my music to our kids and my younger daughter becomes a fan of Phil Collins too. We managed to get the tickets before they were sold out and we saw Phil Collins concert enthusiastically. After that, the concert bug got me looking for Toto concert – the band is my all time favorite. It was either luck or a blessing that Toto had one concert in our next door state. I got the tickets for the three of us, my younger daughter, son and me. They were just as ecstatic as me singing Toto’s songs especially Africa during the concert.

Before getting into the concert venue.
The audience were amped up.

I don’t know for certain when was the first time my son becomes a fan of Queen. When the biopic movie Bohemian Rhapsody came out we saw it together. I thought maybe because of that movie that he became interested of Queen. We watched the Academy Award and rooted for Rami Malek who played Freddie Mercury in the movie for an Oscar and he did win it. My son loves Queen so much that their songs becoming the anthems of his day-to-day activities. He’d do his homeworks while listening to Queen songs. He wakes up with “Don’t Stop Me Now”. He knows almost every song by heart. In a very short time, this 16 years old become one of Queen biggest fan. One day, my son found out about Queen concert with Adam Lambert as their lead singer. You can imagine his excitement asking to see the concert that just happened to be in Mansfield, Massachusetts, about 2 hours away from us. Of course, we said ‘yes’ especially this might be the only Queen concert that my son gets to see.

Seeing the concert of a lifetime.
The concert began.

We decided that the three of us would see the concert just like we attended Toto concert, my son, younger daughter and me. Many came to see Queen and Adam Lambert from all over. They were younger kids under 10 years old brought along by their parents and the older people who grew up loving Queen. Many wore t-shirts with Queen inspired images including my kids. They looked so proud to be able to see one of the biggest rock band in the world. Indeed, Queen rocked us to the core! Adam Lambert performed each of the songs awesomely without trying to copy Freddie Mercury. Like Lambert said, he isn’t Mercury and he performed to honor and pay respect to the master. The concert was spectacular! Bryan May was able to wow us with his electrifying guitar solos. Roger Taylor still could belted out some notes that moved people. We were astounding when the image of Freddie Mercury came up during the song Love of My Life. People cried and cheered. Freddie even lead us to do the calling that he usually did at their concerts. Eeeooo! Eeeeooo! People got so excited when they sang along with Freddie. It was surreal as if he was there with us, not his hologram.

It was a wonderful night for me and my kids. We sang along. We cried and cheered. What a joyful night that we could celebrate before my younger daughter began her college life far away from us. My son was amazed by the stage display and light show and was inspired by them specifically because he has worked as stage crew and sound engineer for several school plays and musicals. In the concert, Bryan May did a solo with him playing against the background of the galaxy. One by one things that representing the planets came up around May as if he was the sun. He performed on a special platform that made look like a big meteor and he ascended high and higher above the audience. It was a breathtaking performance! When Roger Taylor did a duet with Adam Lambert singing Under Pressure, people went crazy. For a man who is considered senior citizen, Taylor still thrilled us with his drum performance. Everybody was jumping and dancing. There’s no one in a bad mood that night. The atmosphere was exhilarating. Queen has successfully rocked us with their performance. For my kids, the concert was historical for it might be their only chance to see the legend. For me. it was among the highlights of my life last year.

Adam Lambert performed many Queen most popular songs.
Roger Taylor killed in with his drum performance.
The light show was awesome.
Adam Lambert and Bryan May performed.
Adam Lambert and Bryan May on stage.
Queen and Adam Lambert rocked the audience.
The incomparable Bryan May.
The one and only Bryan May.
Standing ovation for the legends.
Bryan May raising his guitar to Freddie.

Snaps from A Road Trip: Nashville, Tennessee

Last July, we had a chance to visit the city of Nashville. Nashville, situated near Cumberland River, used to be called Fort Nashborough named after the Revolutionary War hero, Francis Nash. It was founded by an Englishman, James Robertson, who lead a group of pioneers settling in the area in 1779. The Mississippian used to to call the area their home, while other Native American tribes like the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee also lived and used to hunt there. Fort Nashborough was part of North Carolina but then became part of Tennessee and became its capital in 1843. We didn’t have any special reservation towards Nashville. What we know about it is when someone mentions Nashville, we’d think about country music. We were curious about Nashville and thought that it’d be a perfect place to visit during summer break. We didn’t go to a lot of places due to limited time but two Nashville famous streets: 12th Avenue South and Lower Broadway, but we had pleasant time and certainly in awe of Nashville. I can tell that Nashville loves boots, cowboy boots, that is. There were boot shops we visited on Lower Broadway because my younger daughter really wanted to have a pair. They were plenty of beautiful boots, but they cost a lot that we had to think and rethink about spending hundreds of dollars for them. We also came by a candy shop where they made fresh pralines and gave out samples. Yum! Nashville is all about live music and we certainly heard and saw a lot on Lower Broadway. In fact, we bumped into a street musician who made up lyrics as he sang when we passed by about “a pretty girl in a yellow dress with a nice hair”. His song made my daughter blushed because she was the girl in a yellow dress. It was surely a memorable visit in Nashville and we can’t wait to come back here again to explore more of Nashville and of course, Tennessee. Until then, Music City. 

 

The statue of Bill Monroe who established foundation to the birth of Bluegrass in December 1943.
So many beautiful boots to choose if you can afford them. The lowest price were around $200.
We bumped into this street musician who sang a country song and as we passed by him, he sang a made up lyric for my daughter.
Boots made out of snake skins and leather decorated with metal accessories.
Freshly made caramel apples.
Watching the candy shop worker making pralines and then giving out some samples.
One among the many wonderful murals found at 12South.
Mural inside a cafe in Nashville.
This vintage VW bus was a flower truck I saw at the 12South. It was parking in front of a clothing store that uses an old gas station as their shop.
This flower truck was charming and adorable.

Snaps from A Road Trip: A Visit to Bison Ranch

Bison is the iconic mammal that have been living in North America for thousands of years. It becomes the symbol of U.S. Department of Interior whose missions, one of them, is to protect bison from extinction with the help of its organization, the National Park Service. Bison is a majestic animal and my son completely loves them. They have given him inspirations that he expresses towards his artworks. My son goes to a high school that emphasizes arts education and he takes visual art program. Some of his works featuring bison. One of my son’s biggest wishes is to see bison in the real life and up-close. That chance came when we visited Tennessee in July. My son found out there’s a bison ranch in the city of Cookeville situated in the Upper Cumberland Region in Tennessee. And we thought,”Wow! A bison ranch in Tennessee?!” Long ago bison lived by the millions at the Great Plains and most of North America but due to overhunting during the expansion of the settlement in America by European settlers in the 19th century, they almost extinct. Merely hundreds left before the United States Government established a program to save bison through conservation. The program has helped increasing the bison population and spreading them throughout the United States in the federal, Native American and private owned lands. By the way, the European settlers called bison as “buffalo”, although they’re not the same. If you ever known a song called “Home on the Range”, it mentions ‘oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam’ which means bison. 

The bison ranch we visited in Cookeville, Tennessee, is called the Lazy G. Ranch. The gate was opened when we arrived and walked into their driveway. Right away, we were astonished by the sights on either right and left sides of the driveway. Dozens of bison grazing freely under the blue sky. My son was beyond thrilled! He wanted to see the bison closer but he knew we had to keep our distance so not to startle the herd. We certainly didn’t want to cause a stampede especially with the warning that bison is unpredictable. From afar, we saw the bison wallowing or rolling on the ground and covering themselves with dust. They did that to take care of the insect bites, to mark a territory or simply to play. It was very interesting to see their behavior inside the herd. We couldn’t tell which bison was male (bull) or female (cow) just by their appearances because they all looked similar. Both bull and cow have thick coat of long dark hair on their massive heads, legs, necks and the front part of their bodies. They also have a pair of short, sharply pointed and hollow horns. What distinguished the cows from the bulls at the ranch were the babies that were always next or near their mothers. 

Among the bison at Lazy G. Ranch were a couple of white bisons. They were truly unique and extraordinary. We were fascinated by them having to see white bison for the first time. Native American considers white bison as sacred and very important spiritually. When a white baby bison was born, the Native American tribes will come to the ranch or park where the baby is to pray and ask for its lock of hair to keep for ritual purposes. Bison grunts to communicate to each other. We heard plenty of grunts when we were at the ranch. The owner of the Lazy G. Ranch, Eddie Gaw, wants to conserve bison because he was thinking of the future if this iconic American animal completely wiped out. We think his effort to set aside about 150 acres land to breed bison is brilliant. Beside bison, we also saw four horses who were enjoying the day. They were beautiful and looked tame. After sometime, we needed to go to different place on our journey so we bid the bison and horses goodbye. I took pictures of my son and younger daughter posing with a statue of bison that was placed in front of the Lazy G. Ranch. Our visit to the ranch was among the highlights of our trip to Tennessee. 

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Bison at Lazy G. Ranch
Fascinated by the sight of bison grazing freely.
Can you spot the white bison in the herd?
Amazed by the bison.
The remarkable Lazy G. Ranch in Cookeville, Tennessee.

At the 9/11 Memorial

Some loved ones left flowers and some left miniature flags. People flock, read the names that were carved on the long dark bronze blocks and pay their respect. But no matter how many people visit and congregate around the twin giant pools that used to be where World Trade Center buildings or twin towers were, it always feel somber and subdued there. The first time I came to the site of Ground Zero was 6 years after the 9/11 tragedy happened. My parents were visiting from Indonesia and we took them there. There’s still nothing interesting to see but covered wire fences. There were a lot of works happening behind them. The sound from the heavy machineries, the banging of metals and the buzzing from the construction workers all mixed as proof that life still goes on. I felt humble being at the Ground Zero, because a couple years before 2001 I was there staring at the two towers with astonishment of the tallest buildings in the country. My husband and I passed by the area where World Trade Center was for several times when we headed towards Brooklyn. I would open the car window and look at WTC buildings enthusiastically while we passed the lower Manhattan. Who would’ve known that one day those magnificent buildings would be gone.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up on our bed with our oldest daughter who was 2 years old and our baby girl who was 4 months old. They were still asleep soundly and peacefully without any care in the world. I turned on the TV and watched the morning show on NBC, the Today Show. It was sometime after 8AM suddenly Katie Couric, one of the presenters on the show, announced a distressing news: an airplane has crashed into one of the twin towers. I was stunned. But I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw from the live feed another plane flew directly towards the other tower. What has happened? Then, in minutes everything crumbled and fell. Katie Couric was heard crying on air and I had trouble believing what I had saw. My eyes welled up, tears ran down because I imagined the chaos that ensued. I held my daughters closer and I could feel something in the atmosphere was brewing, fear. 

It has been 18 years since the most despicable tragedy I’ve ever witnessed, happened. I can still feel the uneasy feeling when September 11th is approaching. The site where Ground Zero was, now a sprawling park with memorial for the fallen and a museum to commemorate the lost. In November 2017, I took a group of high school students from Indonesia and their teacher to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. It was the first time I visited the place and I became rather emotional especially when I read the names of the people who perished during the tragedy. My fingers sometime ran through the carved letters on the bronze blocks while I listened to the sound of the man-made waterfall, said to be the greatest in United States. In April this year, I visited the plaza again and that time I was escorting an old friend and his colleagues who were curious about the 9/11 Memorial. They were astounded and again, I somehow lost with emotion when I read a name, a woman’s, with additional statement “and her unborn child”. 

(To all who perished and the first responders, may you rest in peace).

The Year of the Women & the History of Women’s Rights

On November 6th recently, after the midterm election, over 100 women will serve in Congress including 31 new members who come from more diverse background. Among them are two Muslim women, two Native American women and two first African-American women elected to Congress from Massachusetts and Connecticut. The election became a history for my eldest daughter who voted for the first time. At first, she was worried because on the day of election she would be away at her college in Massachusetts. So I helped her getting to know about the absentee ballots. People who can’t come to vote at their local voting stations can send their vote beforehand by mail. My daughter did that. She sent me text telling me that she dropped off the ballot in the mail box in her campus a couple of days before November 6th. I was so proud.

The recent midterm election became more significant because of the situation that we’ve been having for the past two years. I’m not going to indulge in mentioning name or names or whatever that has happened. But making a note about the turn out of the recent election which showed the strength of the women’s voice. It is one of the milestones for American women in the history of fighting for the rights to vote. I somehow connected the midterm election to my experience visiting Seneca Falls where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held. During our trip to Upstate New York a while back, we passed by the town of Seneca Falls. We came there actually to see the Eerie Canal, but we found out that Seneca Falls has important part in the fight for women’s rights. The first Women’s Right Convention was held there between July 19th – 20th, 1848, at Wesleyan Chapel.

When we arrived at the sight where the first convention happened, unfortunately the place was closed. From outside, though, I could see the inside of Wesleyan Chapel where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt called on women to fight for their Constitutional right to equality as U. S. citizen. They came up with 11 resolutions that demanded women be placed as equal as men. The 9th resolution was viewed as the most controversial, which said,

“to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise or the right to vote”.

However, the women’s fight to get their rights be acknowledged was a long one, especially the fight for the right to vote. From that, women’s suffrage was born. At last, on August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was certified. Then, on November 2nd, 1920, as much as 8 millions women across the country gave their votes in election for the first time. Now, there are more women being elected to sit in the legislative sector in U.S. and that is one achievement the women of Seneca Falls Convention would be so proud of.

The 19th Amendment of U.S. Constitution:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”.

(For my daughters Emily & Audrey).

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Dear Diary: The Boy on the Q Bus

Sometimes life can be cruel in a funny way. When you thought your past is only in the past, turns out it’s following you to the present day. It was like any other Wednesday, I went to downtown to do one of the routines and I needed to catch a bus. I love taking Q bus, because its route takes me to the beautiful part of the city where old houses line up nicely. I would be imagining living in one of those Victorian houses. After getting down from the B bus that took me from home to downtown, I walked towards the main bus stop next to the Green. Lo and behold, I saw someone whose face similar to a boy I knew long ago. My heart skipped a beat! That face was the face I once missed so much. I walked towards where the boy stood with a group of his friends. He was a high school student, maybe 17, just like the boy I knew. Suddenly I felt the rush of nostalgia filled my mind. This boy, who only stood some feet away from me looked similar to him, the 17-year-old boy so dear to me. He was tall, maybe a bit taller than the boy I knew. He’s not skinny, in fact the opposite, quiet hefty but not chubby. His hair was brown and he had plenty, like the boy I knew who one day let me stroke his hair. 

The bus came and I approached it still paying attention to this stranger who resemblance the boy I knew. It turned out that boy also rode the same bus. He sat not far from me. I could hear him having a lively chat with his friends about movies, comics etc. I reminisced to the days I had with the 17- year-old boy I once loved. I remember his voice and the way he laughed. How he loved messing up my hair and because he’s way taller than me, he did that many times . One day he pinched my nose and he said I had a funny looking nose. Maybe he meant I have cute nose. I would try to get him after he messed up my hair and tried catching him when he ran away. On the bus, I stared at the boy. When he suddenly turned around and I could see his eyes, nose, lips, mouth even his eye brows and I could’ve sworn he could be that 17-year-old boy’s son. They looked so much alike! This boys’s eye brows are thick and with distinct shape just like the ones I loved to look at on the face I so dearly knew well. 

The Q bus moved along the streets going to the park where in the Fall looks spectacular and  where the beautiful old houses are. I still had my eyes on the boy on the bus. I listened to his joke which was not funny. I listened to his story about his grandpa. My mind was still reminiscing to the other boy who took my heart away. Then after passing the park, the stop bell was heard. The boy got up, said ‘goodbyes’ to his friends and got off the bus. I remember when the other boy and I rode the same bus home from our high school. My heart fluttered. Though our journey was a short one and he would get off first, every time he said ‘later’ and waved when he got down the bus, I would memorize everything. The way he walked with a bit of spring on his steps. The way he put his hands inside his pockets and carried his backpack. Gosh, I missed him!! I could feel my eyes watered. I would’ve never thought that I would meet his doppleganger here, in a far away land thousands of miles from him. 

Another Wednesday came and I hoped to see that boy again. In the midst of people waiting for buses, I saw him. He wore a blue jacket and baggy jeans. We got on the same bus and he sat at the back. I was listening to my playlist and there were songs that had memories from my high school years. I remember a 17-year-old boy who loves blue, whom I gave a blue colored t-shirt with an image in embroidery one day. I especially spent my allowance for his birthday gift. The song that was playing on my phone was ours. All of sudden, I felt sad. It’s bittersweet. There he was, a boy who looked like him, sat not far from me and my mind would reminisce. Life has a funny way indeed to play trick with my heart. On Wednesdays, I kept on wishing to see that boy who looked like the boy I knew, once more. That 17-year-old stranger had given me the stories on board of the bus. The memories I kept about a boy I once loved came up every time I saw that boy. I wanted so much to stare and look at him closely. Maybe I could find something that I’ve been missing, the love of my youth.

(For November 13th)

Women’s March NYC, A Day to Remember

Saturday, January 21st, was a special day for my oldest daughter. On that day, she had an audition in New York City with a music college that she applied for. We, my self and her sister, accompanied her to NYC. We took a train from our town and departed about 8:30AM. When we got on the train, a lot of seats were already occupied. That Saturday also marked a very important day for a lot of people, most of all the women, who live in United States, because that’s the day the Women’s March(es) were held all over the country. Many women, young and old, from many different background and race got on our train to go to New York City to participate with the Women’s March NYC. Some women who boarded the train later a long the way to New York brought along signs and posters. Between them were also some men who were as enthusiast as the women. Our train car felt very energized by the present of these people who chatted and became acquaintances for they shared the same thoughts and opinions relating to the new president. The atmosphere was really invigorating.

We reached our destination, Grand Central Terminal, around 10:30AM. After we went to the restroom on the lowest floor at the station, we went up to the main floor which is where the main lobby is and were surprised to see so many people who would participate in the Women’s March NYC flocking there. Some were children, mostly girls, who were beaming proudly putting on a show of their posters and signs for anyone who wanted to read them. It was fascinating! Of all the times I’ve been to Grand Central, that was the first time that that I felt the place was full of energy. My daughters and I passed by several people who were getting ready for the march. A woman with pink hair sat near one of the pillars while holding on to a poster, while on the other side two young women busy preparing their posters, writing some words with capital letters. Some women wore pink knitted hats that shaped like kitty’s ears. The hats became the symbol of the Women’s March movement. We then continued our journey to the building on West 54th Street where my eldest would have her audition. While we were walking from Grand Central towards the audition studio, we passed by several streets that were being cordoned for the march. New York City was getting ready for one heck of a celebration.

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After the audition ended around 1:30PM, as I promised my daughters, we walked towards the lower 50’s street to see the march. But then a chance arose when we saw the street in front of us wasn’t closed and so we blended in with the crowd that already started the march. It seemed my daughters and I started around West 52nd Street and walked towards West 54th Street. People in the march were in a very jaunty mood. They yelled and shouted but not in an angry manner, even though they spoke of disappointment, fear and sadness about the country’s predicament. People were very engaged to one another, saying ‘hi’ and getting acquainted. It was beautiful to be in the crowd.

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When we reached the last post (around West 54th Street), the march organizers asked us to disperse and go on our way to the street they showed us to go. So along with some people who stopped marching, we walked to the end of the street and had to walk further because a lot of streets were closed. By the time we got into the 49th Street, we met more people who were still marching. To get to the other side, we had to blend in again with the crowd and made way to cross the street. It was more like a celebration happening rather than a demonstration. It’s a democracy celebration for sure! On and on even after several hours have passed, even after my my daughters and I had a late lunch, when we walked to Grand Central to go home, we still met more people who were still marching. It was 5PM when we stopped by the New York Public Library and saw people gathering on the sidewalk next the building, looking at the signs and posters that some people brought for the march that were laid down just like an art exhibition. We walked through another crowd of people and amazed by the amount of people who participated in the Women’s March NYC. It was surreal! We certainly had a wonderful time in New York that day and had an experience and memories that we can share and cherish for a long time.

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