Celebrating 20 Years of Queer

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On Tuesday night, I stepped into a time machine and traveled back 20 years along with 1,400 of my closest friends and an iconic band led by a sultry singer with pink hair.

Twenty years ago, I was 10 years old, bumbling through that awkward space of not-quite-pre-teen but already boy crazy and very much feeling like the other. In sixth grade, the division begins. Concepts like popularity take shape. Boys start to have opinions about when you should start shaving your legs (true story). The things you love are suddenly categorized into “cool” and “not cool at all.” If you are not among the pretty girls who are up on the latest trends, you start to feel a little…queer.

For us strange girls who didn’t quite fit in, a band like Garbage, fronted by the incomparable Shirley Manson, was a godsend.

Garbage sounded different than anything else on the radio at the time (and intentionally so). Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Butch Vig blended trip hop beats with electronica and classic pop (and countless other styles and influences) to create a truly funky backdrop for Shirley Manson’s grungy, moody, resonant vocals. Of course, the combination worked, catapulting singles like “Stupid Girl” and “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” into heavy pop culture rotation.

And Shirley Manson was the complete opposite of popular girl Cher from the cult teen movie Clueless, whom everyone was trying to emulate at the time. Manson was a much-needed counter balance, someone who could advocate for girls who didn’t relate to bubble gum and brands. Quite frankly, she was the bad ass female figure we needed in the media at the time to understand that everyone didn’t need to look like the epitome of popularity.

What I remember most from the early days of listening to Garbage as a kid are the lyrics. Shirley Manson seemed to be saying a lot of the things I was thinking (You pretend you’re high/You pretend you’re bored/You pretend you’re anything/Just to be adored), and I was a little shocked and awed that someone would say those things out loud. Oh, the sweet, innocent thought patterns of a 10-year-old.

And then, of course, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet came out in 1996, along with a wicked soundtrack that includes the infamous Garbage track “#1 Crush.” Between Leonardo DiCaprio’s adorable mug and that song, so many of my girl friends and I started pining for our first boyfriends and, dare I say it, deep kisses, sweaty bodies, and “die for you” kind of love. I’m pretty sure that moment in time represented a sexual awakening for many of us, which had been started, of course, by David Bowie in Labyrinth years earlier, whether or not we were fully aware of it.

But back to Garbage. That first self-titled album was everywhere, peeking out of backpacks and gifted at birthday parties. You were likely to see pink spinning inside any “queer” guy or girl’s Discman. Kids experimenting with alternative style would offer flashes of Manson’s bad girl flare—dark eyeliner here, short skirts there. And, of course, there were the pink feathers.

And thank God for all of that. Because for me, this band has always represented the other, the outsider, the girl or guy on the fringes—without apology. And that’s pretty fucking special.

Garbage’s tour, which I attended on Tuesday night, is called 20 Years of Queer, and I honestly can’t think of a better name or representation of the experience. San Diego was Garbage’s first tour stop, and they played Humphrey’s by the Bay, a beautiful open-air venue on Shelter Island.

Before the concert began, my boyfriend and I looked around the audience and felt like we were surrounded by “our people,” individuals who clearly remember 1995 and 1996 and who undoubtedly bought this album on CD—or hell, maybe cassette?—and played it ad naseum.

A white cloth hung in front of the stage and before the music began, pop culture images and behind-the-scenes footage of Garbage from the mid-90s were projected on it. A clip of Princess Diana giving an interview. Shirley Manson putting on makeup in a dressing room God knows where. Courtroom footage from the O.J. Simpson trial. The band backstage, flipping off what was probably a gigantic hand-held video camera. Then “Supervixen” began and we watched Garbage traipse about the stage behind the scrim, illuminated by pink light, their shadows teasing us with their almost-presence.

When the white cloth fell, we all screamed, and we were officially back in 1995, reliving a slice of our past with a band who helped us shape it.

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It’s been 20 years, but Garbage certainly doesn’t play like it. Manson continues to be a hell of a performer, circling the stage with seemingly pissed off intention, making jokes between songs in her thick, Scottish brogue, belting out the lyrics that need to be belted, working a pink boa, and let’s not forget about the rad pink hair. And it wasn’t just Manson living the rock star life onstage. Her bandmates played with zeal and finesse and such a beautiful level of musicianship. I felt like I was listening to the original record, the music was so precise and amazing.

We all sang along as Garbage performed their entire self-titled album, punctuated with rarities and B-sides like “Driving Lesson,” “Girl Don’t Come,” and “#1 Crush.”

And personally, during the concert, I remembered why I’m so happy to label myself as a girl who’s a lot left of center, a girl on the edge, a girl who relates to Garbage’s music and Shirley Manson’s realness.

Garbage lovers, this concert is more than a concert. It’s a celebration of self-recognition. If you’re like me—regardless of where you were 20 years ago, how old you were, how you were navigating your life in that moment—Garbage helped you realize that you were different—and that that was more than okay.

And wouldn’t you know it, it still is.

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Crushworthy: Butch Walker

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Chances are good you already have a crush on Butch Walker, even if you’ve never heard him play live. That’s because this 80s hair metal guitar god turned guitarist/vocalist for an alt-rock band turned solo artist who wrote the best torch song of all time has also produced for the likes of Weezer, Pink, The Donnas, American Hi-Fi, Fall Out Boy, and The All American Rejects—to name a few. This is good shit, people. Butch knows how to write a hell of a song.

But for me, personally, the crush stems from his tattooed arms, his voice that can gravel scream one second and then whisper the next with the same level of emotion and commitment, his lyrics, which are more honest than most dreams—even the ones that come from the deepest part of your subconscious. Or maybe it’s because on Friday night in Scottsdale, Arizona, Butch reveled in both the stupidly mundane story of how he tore his meniscus and the truly not mundane story of how he lost his virginity at 15 to the leopard print legging wearing keyboard player in his band. Yeah, that might be it…

When I accepted my new job four weeks ago, I had a condition; my boss had to allow me to work a half day my first Friday in the office so I could fly back to Arizona to see Butch Walker live in my home state. My (for all intents and purposes) big sister, Rachel, got me a ticket to the show months and months ago to celebrate my birthday, and come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to miss it. Luckily, my new manager is rad, completely understood, and Friday night, Rachel and I rolled up to Livewire to see one of my rock star boyfriends in action.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t my first Butch Walker show. Years ago, Rachel and I drove to L.A. to see Butch perform the entirety of Sycamore Meadows at The Hotel Café, which was a beautiful albeit somber show to match the vulnerability and emotional resonance of the album. For me, it was worth every mocking milepost of the boring drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles.

But this was different. Instead of a full album in sequential order, I would get to see Butch creating his own impromptu-ish set list and calling the shots—and taking a number of shots of whiskey during the show, which only made my lady crush grow exponentially throughout the evening.

And now we fan girl.

Butch opened the night with “Joan,” one of my all-time favorite songs of his—because it’s rock and emotion and piano and yes…it was hauntingly, achingly perfect. After a few more songs at the piano, Butch moved to acoustic guitar and I almost peed myself when I heard the opening chords of “Don’t Move.” And we won’t even discuss what happened to my musical heart when Butch took a lovely guitar solo and then proceeded to sing a sample of BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone.”

Then, it was time to get electric. As the amps popped and sizzled to life, we were introduced to Butch Walker the rocker, who likes his music loud, his denim vest ripped, and his audience screaming for more. I got a taste of the boy from Cartersville, Georgia, who got his start shredding guitar and growing long, luscious locks perfect for the glam rock era. There was the stirring and uncompromisingly sexy single “Bed on Fire,” Butch’s psychologist-recommended confessional trip through “She Likes Hair Bands,” and even a guitar-drenched cover of Tove Lo’s “Talkin’ Body.”

As if all of that wasn’t swoonworthy enough, Butch let us know that he’d crafted the set list around his late father’s favorite songs and he was playing them as a kind of tribute to a man who had always supported him. (Are you “aww-ing” yet?)

Two of those songs, “Love Ain’t Enough” (the first song Butch wrote for Southgang, reworked to be something “Leonard Cohen would play”) and “Freak of the Week” (from the Marvelous 3 days and sung by a local business owner(?)) were songs Rachel had never heard Butch play live before. And the girl’s been to some Butch Walker shows.

And guys, this was essentially a one man show. Sure, backup singers drifted onstage for a couple songs (and were so talented and lovely) and someone offstage shook a tambourine to the beat here and there, but Butch played piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and even his own percussion. How the man is able to play two sets of rhythm simultaneously will always be beyond me. And he never missed a beat or hit a sour note. This stuff is in his blood.

Really, the magnetic firebomb of attraction that is Butch Walker boils down to this: there is nothing sexier than watching someone play an instrument, perform to an audience, share what they’ve created, and love every second of it (I know this by virtue of building a life with a musician myself—is it obvious I have a type?).

And you can tell Butch loves this, lives for this. He told us so a couple of times throughout the show, but he was simply reinforcing that which we could already see—that music is an extension of him, that it’s all that exists when he’s onstage, music and storytelling—and that there’s no other option for him in this crazy, elusive ride called life than to make music and fucking rock.

If you don’t have a crush on Butch after reading all of that, well…you’re a lost cause. Conversely, if you’re starting to feel the pitter-patter of giddiness in your chest, here’s some kindling to fuel the music crush fire:

That Day My Church Marched in the Phoenix Pride Parade

Phoenix Pride

This year, I marched in my very first Phoenix Pride Parade–and I did it alongside my faith community, City Square Church. City Square asked me to write a reflection on my experience in the parade and here’s what came out:

The morning of April 12 was a morning of celebration. The City Square logo received a colorful Phoenix Pride Parade-worthy makeover and our t-shirts served as symbols of alliance and solidarity. Lisa and Everett Van Aller showed up with a wagon of supplies, City Square-stickered candy to hand out, and baby Elliott in tow – clearly the cutest member of our group. We broke bread and took communion in a Phoenix park-and-ride lot before joining the masses of feathers, leather, glitter, and happiness ready to walk – no, strut down 3rd Street.

Ben and Teneia Eichelberger saved the day, morphing a mic stand into a banner holder. Sam Richard served as our unofficial hype man, handing out candy, running the lines giving high fives, and “getting low” to the club music that poured out of the double-decker bus in front of us. We all made jokes about the possibility of getting lung cancer from the smog billowing out of said bus, but made those jokes while smiling and still committed to walk, our health be damned! I passed out blue feather boas and participated in a dance party or five on the sidelines of the Phoenix Pride Parade as we walked for equality and understanding.

But I dreaded the last quarter of a mile of the parade, that wide, slow turn onto Indian School, because that’s where anti-gay protesters were set up, shouting hurtful rhetoric through megaphones, boasting neon signs that proclaimed people would go to hell, simply for falling in love. The church-affiliated demonstrators quoted Leviticus between their hateful slurs, trying to make scripture stick to rainbow balloons and furry go-go boots. It all seemed so strange against the backdrop of even louder dance music, its volume strategic, trying to drown out the hate…

Read the rest on City Square’s blog!

 

As I Like It

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Last night, while hordes of jersey-clad out-of-towners (and locals alike) descended upon downtown Phoenix (our backyard) for the NFL Experience, my boyfriend and I snuck off to Mesa for a little classic Shakespeare. My good friend, Alex Oliver (or “Red” to us), who was in the show, had invited us to Southwest Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of As You Like It months ago, and when we picked our date to see it, Super Bowl was the furthest thing from our mind.As it turns out, I’m happy the two events coincided—because I will gladly use any excuse to escape downtown Phoenix right now.And quite frankly, I think my little party at the Mesa Arts Center was better than the supposed biggest party in the country. (I fully expect to have footballs thrown at my head for making that statement. Bring it!) Let me explain…

I feel like a horrible Arizona native, because I’ll admit that before last night, I hadn’t seen a production by Southwest Shakespeare Company. We won’t even talk about how much of a fail that is because I’m a literary nerd, writer, and theater chick. (Hey, we all have our faults, right?)

Well. I. Was. Floored. And reminded why the Bard is the ultimate storyteller.

For those of you who haven’t read or seen As You Like It, it’s a classic Shakespearean comedy in the pastoral tradition, chock full of love at first sight, feisty female characters, baudy sex jokes, mistaken identities, and the juxtaposition of regimented, courtly life with a freeing, unregulated existence amidst Mother Nature. It’s also the play that boasts the famous, “All the world’s a stage and the men and women merely players” monologue.

And Southwest Shakespeare Company’s adaptation was on point. Such a joy to watch.

First of all, it was wholly apparent that these actors truly understood their material, which is so crucial to any successful production of Shakespeare, because while the language was incredibly accessible to folks in Elizabethan England, it can be a lot like Greek to a modern audience. Inflection is everything. Performance is everything. Timing is everything. And these actors—impeccable. The entire audience was laughing and gasping during the entire show, which means we got the jokes and understood the plot. My guess is that these actors fully immersed themselves in their texts and studied their material. And I’d also guess that their performances are a byproduct of the skillful direction of Mr. David Vining.

On top of that, they had fun onstage! From the third row, my boyfriend and I were up close and personal. We saw every subtle (and not so subtle) expression shift, every interaction between characters. And each actor was feeding off the energy of everyone else onstage, which resulted in a phenomenal, cohesive ensemble. This show wasn’t work for them (and if it felt that way to the actors, it wasn’t apparent to the audience). Since the actors were having fun onstage, we were given permission to have fun as audience members.

Now let me fan girl for a second over two standout actors in the production: Allison Sell, who played Rosalind, the lead heroine of As You Like It; and William Wilson, who played Touchstone, a fool at the Duke’s court.

Allison Sell: Shakespeare girl crush. There’s no other way to say it. The character of Rosalind carries this particular play, and Sell seemed to do so without breaking a sweat. In particular, her mastery of physical comedy impressed me, from her flawless facial expressions to the careful, jolly point in her toes. Movement didn’t look contrived for her, though I’m sure it was carefully planned (or happy accident and then repeated). Her delivery of her lines was gorgeous and seemed improvisational; she never faltered and it seemed like her thoughts were coming forward, unscripted. And such presence. That stage was hers, no doubt about it.

William Wilson: The most pleasant surprise. When the play opened, we undoubtedly knew that Wilson had impressive belching ability, but in the second act when Touchstone really gets to speak and frolic and make mischief…hold onto your hats. Wilson managed to find a balance between complete foolishness and this uncanny knowledge of life and happiness. A fool, yes, but an easy fool to play? Definitely not. Wilson’s character filled the space to the brim with revelry and madness and uncouth. Like his true love Audrey did toward the close of the play, I’m pretty sure we all wanted to feed him grapes and play audience to his jokes.

Other highlights. Live music (yes, every cast member sang!), great costuming, seeing my friend live into his art (Red, you were brilliant), laughter, and the reminder that Shakespeare knows how to tell a damn good story.

Last night, I had it as I like it. I chose Shakespeare over Super Bowl shenanigans. I guess it all boils down to an individual definition of entertainment and art. While I know there’s artistry in the perfect pass and orchestrating defensive and offensive plays, I’ll always choose iambic pentameter and tights over pigskin.

Chocolate Crickets, Wooden Shoes, and Live Lemurs

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The only place those three things could exist in complete harmony is the Arizona State Fair. Now, I’ve already raved about the fair in the past (read Quite the Affair), but I feel like the experience is different every year, because the offerings change. Fair.Chocolate Crickets

For example, as part of my annual tour de food, I put on my big girl panties and tried chocolate-covered crickets. Yep, you read that right. I ate bugs—the kind that chirp and hop all over the place at night—and I have no regrets.

Maybe I did it because Bryan and I have been watching too many episodes of Bizarre Foods (I mean, crickets are a far cry from cow testicles).

Maybe it’s because chocolate covered crickets were way less expensive than the high-flying swings—and would deliver the same adrenaline rush.

Whatever the reason, I ordered the crickets…and they were pretty good! Generally, texture is what makes me shy away from certain foods; if it’s slimy, I’m not a fan. The crickets were crunchy, a little earthy, and come on, there was chocolate, so I was in!

I did apologize to a nearby grasshopper for eating his cousin…but I’d order crickets again—maybe even without the chocolate. Fair.Fried Pumpkin Pie

Of course, the tour de food also included lots of fried foods, a state fair specialty, the stamp of ‘Merica. If you can dream it up, they can batter it and fry it up for ya. One of the most decadent fried foods I spied was a fried bacon-wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cup. Yeah, that sounded like a bit too much for me, but we did indulge in fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream and a fried lemon bar.

The fried pumpkin pie was akin to a turnover or an empanada—beautiful and super delicious! My boyfriend described it perfectly; if pumpkin pie made sweet, sweet love (get it!?) to a churro, this would be the lovechild (okay, he didn’t use that euphemism…)—and then add ice cream.Fair.Lemon Bar

The lemon bar wasn’t exactly what we expected; it was more like lemon cake with lemon frosting as opposed to a traditional lemon bar dipped in batter and fried, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a flavor bomb of awesome. Because it was. The lemon was nice and bright in contrast to the heaviness of the fried dough—a pretty solid combination.

Apart from the food, I did some shopping at the fair, and that was something I didn’t expect. Sure, we walk through the hall of wares every year and take a look around, but the vendors are usually selling gimmicky items that I don’t really care about—spas and sand art and Korean boy band posters and helium-powered toys. Fair.Wooden Shoes

Well, that changed this year, because I found myself a pair of hand-carved wooden slides. They are so unique and comfortable, and I happen to be wearing them right now, which makes me feel rather posh. The vendor, Kingdome Clothing, doesn’t just make rad shoes; they make wooden sunglasses, watches, and phone cases, to name a few things. There were some cool clothing pieces, too, but the shoes simply spoke to me. Seriously. I heard them whisper, “We want to come home with you.” At first, it was creepy, but in a really endearing, fashionable way.

I found another booth that inspired me to start my Christmas shopping, because the item I found is perfect for my mom. Of course, I can’t go into detail about what that item is, because she just might read this blog post.

We didn’t get to experience a lot of entertainment this year. My boyfriend and I weren’t interested in the Fifth Harmony concert happening Sunday afternoon—although the place was packed with teeny boppers. And the community stages didn’t have the same variety as last year. I was left jonesing for a little more cultural art like Folklorico dancing and bellydancing. Fair.Lemur

However, instead of the Flying Pig Races, the fair had lemur racing this year! The racing itself was not that exciting, but the animal handlers brought out a lemur named DJ before the heats. And I kind of wanted to take him home. A member of the marsupial family, the lemur is like an exotic, beautiful monkey and I could imagine DJ traipsing about our counters and staircase—and then I remembered our dogs. Yeah, not a good idea. But a girl can dream.

In any case, we had a brilliant time at the Arizona State Fair, which is no surprise because it’s a blast every year. The fair is running until November 2. If you have the chance, GO!

I mean, where else can you eat crickets, buy wooden shoes, and watch live lemurs?

Getting (V)amped!

Photo by flick user "virginsuicide photography."

Photo by flick user “virginsuicide photography.”

For me, vampires and October are synonymous. Of all the monsters out there, great and creepy, vile and horrible, vamps have always been my favorite. I mean, what’s not to love? Vampires―my favorite breed anyway―are sexy yet ruthless, timeless yet new, scary yet alluring, and can be mistaken for humans. Walking (or flying) contradictions are pretty dang creepy, because you don’t entirely know how to feel about them from one moment to the next. And I think vampires are the monsters that most resemble humans, which is terrifying on an entirely different psychological plane.

I’m happy to report that I’ve kicked off October the right way―with everything vampire.

For one, I just finished a novel called Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary by my good friend, Sara Dobie Bauer, who is brilliant and also just as obsessed with vampires as I am. For a taste of the book, read the query letter for Bite Somebody. Unfortunately, that’s all you can read for now, because Sara’s shopping it to agents for publication. But I will tell you that when it gets picked up and published (because I very much believe it SHOULD and WILL happen), get your copy. Because vampires in Florida and parodies of Twilight and performance anxiety and 80s movies and cute stoner boys and blood bags and love. Yeah, all of that and so much more. Sara created a fun, new vampire world―and it was a great introduction to October for me.

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Of course, I didn’t stop there. Last Thursday night, I took my boyfriend to see A Vampire Tale, Scorpius Dance Company’s dark and comical tour de force depicting a vampire clan motivated by tradition, bloodlust, and a human-vampire love triangle. Choreographer and vampire lover Lisa Starry conceptualized and staged this show long before the Twilight explosion―and she’s stayed true to her depictions of vampires despite all the pop culture fluff that’s saturated the market. Her vamps are intense and sexy and physical―and they fly thanks to lots of training in aerial arts. Swoon.

A Vampire Tale is an annual treat and many consider it the Nutcracker of the Halloween season. It’s a pretty sound comparison. It’s the same story every year—a beautiful and innocent girl is invited to “have dinner” with the queen of a vampire clan, but the invitation gets a little complicated when the vampire king falls for the human—but the same story always delights. It just keeps getting better.

I also went to see Dracula Untold last night, which I highly recommend if you like old school vampire lore a la Vlad the Impaler. I will admit, I hadn’t seen too much about this movie before going to see it. I didn’t need to. The movie posters were motivation enough―and the casting of Luke Evans? Uh yeah. Superb call, because he has that dark, brooding thing down that’s so essential for a man—or monster―fighting his demons.

Despite poor reviews, I really enjoyed it.

Warning: Light spoilers are about to happen. If you want to see Dracula Untold without my words in your head, stop reading NOW.

Okay, with that out of the way…

What I loved the most about this particular depiction of the Dracula/Vlad the Impaler mythos is that it portrays Dracula as human first and monster second. Vlad turning into Dracula is not an accident—it’s a choice. And the motivation for him to turn to the dark side warms your heart. He’s a complete character with emotions and drive―and you relate to him on an interesting level. But he’s a monster, so that’s weird, right? (Remember that contradictory stuff I was talking about earlier—yeah, empathizing and relating to a monster is part of that.)

To the end, I did a little talk for Ignite Phoenix a few years ago called “A New Breed of Human” about the transformation of the vampire in popular media from Nosferatu to Edward Cullen and my theory about why they’re becoming more and more human, more and more relatable—Dracula Untold being a perfect example. Watch the video for a full breakdown, but here’s the short of it.

Vamps have it all―sex appeal, immortality, power. And we keep pulling our monsters closer and closer to us; they resemble us more and more. Maybe that’s because, deep down, we all just want to be bitten.

 

Photo licensing – virginsuicide photography on flickr

A New Breed of Gamer

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It’s my boyfriend’s fault. He started watching Tabletop. And he started getting ideas.

Then, he got me to start watching Tabletop with him. And we changed. We became gamers—board gamers.I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure at first. I mean, we’re adults. Board games? Really?

This past December, my mom asked my boyfriend for some suggestions of what to get him for Christmas. Naturally, he created an Amazon wish list, and even more naturally, I didn’t know jack shit about the things on it. My mom bought him a card game from this list called Star Fluxx. Huh? While on holiday vacation, my boyfriend asked if I wanted to learn how to play it. I agreed somewhat begrudgingly, and then wound up asking to play it over and over throughout our trip.

For anyone who hasn’t played a Fluxx game (there are many themed editions), the rules, the goals, and the game play fluctuate constantly―thus, its name. It’s a smart game. You have to strategize, but you rely heavily on the luck of the draw, too.

New gamesDuring the same trip, my boyfriend got me a game called Once Upon a Time. It’s a group storytelling card game. Each player gets a hand of cards containing story elements like “castle” or “ogre,” plus an end card. You take turns telling the story all the while trying to play your element cards and steer the story toward your ending (keep in mind these can vary from “they lived happily ever after” to “he lost a limb and was disfigured for eternity”). Ladies and gentlemen, just add wine.

And then Amazon got involved. I have a Prime account, so my boyfriend orders games online with Prime―and why wouldn’t he with free two-day shipping? Since it’s my account, guess who gets the suggestions from Amazon…And slow clap for Amazon, because I’ve been sucked in a few times. It’s how I’ve come to own Takenoko, Letters from Whitechapel, and Shadow Hunters.

ZombicideAnd now the clincher―game night every Thursday night at CO+HOOTS. CO+HOOTS is “downtown Phoenix’s member-sustained, community-supported collaborative coworking space.” Need a dedicated office-like lounge with various workspaces, meeting rooms, a refrigerator, coffee machine, a laid back, groovy vibe, and instant connections with others in the community? Look no further; CO+HOOTS is your spot, and their rates for renting space are really reasonable.

On Thursday nights, CO+HOOTS transforms. Workspaces become battlefields for growing corn in the wake of the Mayan apocalypse, killing zombies in the wake of the, well, zombie apocalypse, or creating the perfect sushi roll (Wasabi!―awesome game and newest addition to our home collection).

But it’s the people who come to game night who truly make it great. It’s a diverse crowd, which makes for diverse games. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played a certain game before; someone else has, so take a seat and learn by playing. Bring whatever games you’d like and some booze to share, and jump right in to defeat supervillains, cure an epidemic disease before it destroys humanity, or build a city. Make connections. Grow community. Geek out. Thank you for playing.

See? I’m hooked…I’ve been writing this post for the past 20 minutes or so―and now all I want to do it hop on Amazon and find a new game.

Like I said, it’s my boyfriend’s fault―and I couldn’t love him more for it.