Monthly Archives: April 2016

Seven Day Song Challenge / Melanie Kristy / Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes (song 4)

One of my favorite movies is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I love the series so much I’m listening to the audio books right now. It reminds me of summer, friendship and freedom. I adore reading stories about groups of best friends, tight knit families and any other sort of community. I love when people – even just those in fiction – have found their tribe. This is another reason why I love Now & Then so much (see my previous post).  Even though the characters had grown apart, they come back together. This is another reason why I enjoy watching HBO’s series Girls. Even when best friends aren’t talking, there’s still remnants of that friendship beneath layers or hatred or mixed feelings. Just watch the season finale of season 5 to see what I mean.


In high school I had a lot of friends that I had met over the internet. These days it doesn’t seem as weird to go online, find a community and become part of something where you can become real life friends. This group is the perfect example of that. Online writers from all over who shared a common interest in writing and Francesca Lia Block met through an online writing workshop and bonded over Facebook and other social media sites. Back in high school I used to write in online journal type sites like LiveJournal. I became close to a few friends that I still talk to and see, if even it’s not on a consistent basis.


There was something cool about Chuck Taylor’s. There’s always been, I think. Even now I’d rather pick out Chucks to suit my personality than stuff my toes into heels. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that Red Chucks were the ultimate. I think it sparked from this song. My friend Kate used to feed me story ideas because she’d think up some world or scenario she would want to see, and I’d make it happen. This still happens to this day. Nana Sprinkles was inspired by the thoughts of Kate Jones. So at some point I wrote her a story about a boy with red Chuck Taylors and all I remember is that he lived in New York City.


Some time after that, and I’m not even sure where the inspiration came into play, but it was decided that as I was going into my freshman year of college two of my online friends – who didn’t really know each other, but had common interests and knew of each other through me – and I would share a pair of Red high top Chuck Taylor’s. Our feet sizes varied a little, but the Chucks were forgiving. We kept them for a month before passing them on, writing in a colorful journal to keep in touch that way. Miranda brought them to a Hanson concert and got them signed. Then, after my freshman year of college Hanson was on tour again and my friend Michelle’s mom somehow knew Taylor’s father-in-law (it sounds a lot more convoluted than it was). She managed to get us on the “meet and greet” for a show in New Hampshire. We were grouped with a bunch of people who won a radio station concert, and we had a chance to get something signed.


I started babbling the moment I stuck the sneaker in Zac’s hand. When the shoes were in Texas, Zac hadn’t come out so the other shoe only had Isaac and Taylor’s signatures. I was determined to fix this. Zac barely said anything to me, nodding as he signed. Then he passed the sneaker along to his brothers.


I met both Miranda and Kate because of  Hanson. At this point I’d spent time with Kate, both in Massachusetts and Ohio, and I wouldn’t meet Miranda until a year later. Because of Hanson and Chuck Taylor’s, Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants we have this one cool thing we did back in 2003/2004. Something I often forget about, but every now and then the memory pops up. And it feels like magic.




Melanie Kristy

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[sic] seven day challenge, day 6: romeo y julieta

So, since I’ve posted my last song challenge piece, I’ve been thinking more and more about Romeo and Juliet, specifically in Latin music. Two of my favorite songs by Puerto Rican artists draw upon Romeo and Juliet, proving I’m a hopeless Shakespeare nerd in any language.

First, there’s the classic “Amores Como el Nuestro” by Jerry Rivera. You may recognize the opening notes from “Hips Don’t Lie”, a song that made annoyed me to no end despite the fact that I really like Shakira because every damn time the song came on the radio I would automatically get hyped for Jerry Rivera. Every. Time. I should have known better, but I didn’t because, like Pavlov’s dogs, I had been conditioned to expect a damn good salsa song and not middle-of-the-road pop. To be fair, had I not grown up listening to “Amores Como el Nuestro”, I probably would have liked “Hips Don’t Lie”, but alas. (I’m sure Jerry Rivera gives zero fucks about my feelings, seeing as how it probably rained money in his house every time that song was played.) This song takes me back to my friend’s room as she waxed poetic about boys, and I, being younger and not exactly popular with the fellas, listened while frantically tucking away information in the back of my mind. Put this song on at a party and watch me get my entire life.

Next, a much more recent song from Ivy Queen, “Peligro de Extincion”. I love Ivy Queen. She’s unapologetic about being herself. Bold style, bold voice. Her music makes me want to get shit done. I love this song because it’s the perfect blend of her reggaeton beats with a softer flow that speaks more to her ballads. The juxtaposition of hard and soft work so well here. (Also, her hair in this video is goals. That red! Also, I want the typewriter. Just sayin’.)


All this Romeo and Juliet talk has brought me back to the Baz Luhrmann-directed version, a movie everyone who grew up in the ’90s has seen and either loves or loathes. Guess which side of that fence I’m on? (Also, HOLY SHIT THAT MOVIE IS 20 YEARS OLD PARDON ME WHILE I GO TAKE MY GERITOL AND YELL AT CHILDREN TO GET OFF MY LAWN.) The soundtrack to this movie just takes everything about the ’90s and wraps it up in a tidy little bow.

Presenting the most 1990’s thing you’ve ever seen (and heard) in your life:

Ah, Shakespeare and his foolish, shortsighted young lovers. Gotta love ’em.




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[sic] seven day song challenge, day 5: america

So, I’m currently participating in a writing workshop that explores the Latino immigrant experience, using Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors as our guide. It’s one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had, both in terms of my writing and my personal life. I love speaking Spanish in the room (even though I’m a Spanglish speaker at best), listening to others tell their stories, feeling a little bit more at home.

This isn’t the first time I’ve explored Shakespeare in the context of being Latina. My freshman year of high school, we studied Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story side by side, and through the hell that was my first–and only–year in that school, this exploration was everything. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Latinos on television or read about Latinos in books, which is probably why West Side Story affected me so deeply. Reading the stories and watching the movie cemented my love for both Shakespeare and musical theater. I annoyed my family by obnoxiously singing along with the movie, sometimes more than once a day. While the starry-eyed, desperate teen Jessa loved scenes like “Mambo”, “I Feel Pretty” and “One Hand, One Heart” (on which I modeled a senior wedding project because, in my other high school, we had to take a Marriage and Family class where we planned a Catholic wedding, making religious programs and all, and then had an egg “baby” that we had to care for. But I digress.), adult Jessa keeps going back to “America”. That conflict of hope and disillusionment, the deep pain and frustration at not being respected, sadness and resentment at the difficulties my parents faced as young people in the US, especially my dad, who came to the US from PR when he was eighteen, the way even anger and frustration can be turned into art. It’s masterful, and the lyrics resonate. Plus, Rita Moreno is a goddess.





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7 Day Song Challenge, Day 5

Today’s a bit of a mixtape because I wanted to post a song that inspired a character from my novel, but then I couldn’t choose, so here goes.

For Miles, who’s not as lost as he thinks he is:

For Vivian, who’s not as alone as she thinks she is:

For Oskar, who’s not as trapped as he thinks he is:


For Ivy, who’s not as dangerous as she thinks she is:

For Rook, who’s not a big as he thinks he is:

For the J’s, who’s not really sure who they are:

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[sic] seven day song challenge, day four: guns n’ roses n’ bees, oh my!

Axl Rose: egomaniac, kickass vocalist, object of my pre-teen affection. Guns n’ Roses were the be-all-and-end-all in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and Axl and Slash were second only to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart as far as vocalist/guitarist duos went in my mind. I remember seeing the video for “Don’t Cry” for the first time and marveling at Axl’s perfect face, his shaking hands, his writhing body. Also, the clothes. ’90s fashion perfection. I had seen other G n’ R videos before, but watching this grand interpretation of Axl’s life being played out by the man himself–fucked-up Axl, withdrawal Axl, cool-as-fuck blazer-clad Axl, underground Hulk Axl–felt different. I loved the poetry and the storytelling, even if it was some narcissist’s big, vulgar ego stroke. (Which…I think we can give give the “Biggest Ego Stroke” award to “November Rain”.) And Slash–can we talk about that guitar god? The hair! The top hat! The snarl! I was totally in love with that sliver of face and wild mass of curls. And the way he played guitar was beyond music. It was an awakening.

I loved the rooftop band performance scenes in that video, where Axl wails under the accusatory glare of helicopter lights, sharing the spotlight with another singer. This man also had long hair and wore a plaid shirt, and he was so gorgeous that whenever he appeared I kind of forgot about Axl altogether. Axl was in the whole video, but you had to work to appreciate this other dude. Years later, I would discover thanks to VH1’s Behind the Music that the backup singer in that video that outshined Axl was none other than Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.

When I found that out, it all clicked. Of course. The man who wrote “No Rain”, the saddest song with the happiest melody. The man dancing in a field, his long, wavy hair draped over his shoulders; the man singing to delicate yellow flowers. The man who introduced this lonely, sad, weird kid to the Bee Girl. For the first time ever, I saw someone on television who looked like me and wasn’t just there to be a sidekick or a punchline. She was her own person, and it was her weirdness, her tap dancing, her longing, that made the story. And she finds her bee people! A whole fucking field of bee people! Hope, the thing in my chest that bloomed like a sunflower, big and bright and bold.

I had been planning on writing about these two videos together since we started this challenge, and it’s been my goal to write about it all day. Lo and behold, Facebook memories reminded me that exactly five years ago today, this is what I had to say about “No Rain”, which I shared on my page: “This may be my favorite song of all time. Seriously. The video only makes it better. I identified with that Bee Girl so intensely. Still do. Must be where my love of tutus comes from.”

It’s a song I return to whenever I’m feeling alone and weird and sad, and I find it perfectly odd that five years ago it was the song on my mind. Our brains are funny things, aren’t they?

Tell your stories. Be exactly who you are. You’ll find your people eventually.


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Seven day song challenge / Melanie Kristy / Sugar Sugar

When you’re friends with someone for 26 years weird things connect you in ways that sometimes need explaining. Shaylin and I are connected by orange traffic cones, doors, Dumbo and amongst many other things: Sugar Sugar by The Archies. When I turned eleven I was allowed to take two friends to the movies. We chose Now & Then and the movie quickly became our anthem. Shaylin and I spent summers pretending to be Sam and Roberta and conquering the streets of Carver one our bicycles. We highlighted roads we ventured down in our Town of Carver maps. In the bogs behind my house we found our 

In sixth grade we performed Sugar Sugar in the sixth grade lip sync. Choreographed dancing and pretend singing in an elementary school auditorium.

There were lots of songs in Now and Then. We learned them quickly with the help of my soundtrack, and somehow Sugar Sugar was the song that stuck the most. It became part of the soundtrack of our friendship.

Fast forward to 2011, five years ago, I was the maid of honor in Shaylin’s wedding. I had the DJ play Sugar Sugar for her (us) and we danced like we had danced all night. 


Melanie Kristy

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Seven Day Music Challenge, Day 4

Here is one thing you should know about me: I love Beck.

But only as an artist.

Sometime in the last couple of years, I heard the definition of the word “demisexual” and finally understood something about myself that I never had before. At last, a perfectly good reason for why everyone expected me to have a crush on my favorite celebrity.

To explain this, I’m going to have to take you back to sixth grade, but first here’s what you need to know about demis, if you haven’t heard the term before. A demisexual is a person who does not feel sexual attraction for others unless they have formed an emotional bond. While I’m not much for labels, I think this one fits me pretty well.

So, anyway, sixth grade. Right. That was when I noticed music. Up until that point, music was just something that existed on the car radio, something my parents were into. It wasn’t until I was flipping channels at my grandma’s house and came across MTV (ya know, back when they showed videos) that music interested me. I loved music videos. I’m a very visual person. I love seeing how each artist would present their music in this expanded form. During my teenage years, I watched hour upon hour of music videos, aborbing all the madness of mid-to-late 90’s alternative music.

And I got a little obsessed with this guy…you know the type. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Two turntables and a microphone? “Where It’s At” was the first Beck video I ever saw–I was too young during the “Loser” days, and anyway, its popularity seemed to have bypassed my sleepy little town. So, here is the first glimpse I ever got of my favorite musicain of all time:

12-year-old me watched that and thought, “That’s fucking weird.” Or maybe “freakin’ weird.” 12-year-old me didn’t curse. Anyway, there comes a time in every kid’s life when they either deny their own weirdness, or embrace it. Yeah, I liked The Goo Goo Dolls okay, but this, whatever this was, was my thing. And I was going to own it. I spent the next several years of my life learning everything I could about this weird little Beck guy. I read fansites (and later made my own). I played his cds on a loop. I dressed like him.

So, naturally, everyone thought I was in love with Beck. My friends at school insisted that my interest in Beck was a crush. Grown ups, too. My mom took my magazine clippings to the craft store where she worked and had them framed for me. “I remember kissing my David Cassidy posters every night before bed,” she told me with an inflection that led me to believe she expected me to do the same.

I had zero interest in kissing Beck, in poster form or otherwise. I didn’t even think he was cute. Just the notion that everyone believed I idolized him for such shallow reasons infuriated me. Nor could I understand when a friend would casually mention how much they’d like to make out with, say, Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. For me, musicians existed for singular purposes. Ear candy, not eye candy. One simply does not make out with Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. Clearly my friend misunderstood what fandom was really all about.

Now I look back at my celebrity non-crush and realize that it was just a part of my demisexuality. I never fell “in love” with Beck because I never knew him. Those feelings were an impossibilty for me. I loved Beck, but in my own utilitarian way.

Over the years, my obsession with Mr. Hansen peaked then waned. Once upon a time, I used to babble about him so much that my friends would beg me to stop. But eventually I took those (still unkissed) photos down from my wall. And I certainly always will be a fan, but I have to confess that I listened to Morning Phase exactly once and thought, “This is not for me.”

But Odelay? Odelay was definitely for me.

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[sic] seven day song challenge, day three: kylie minogue, love at first sight

I woke up this morning craving Ribena and McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits. Two things I fell in love with when I studied abroad in London. Whenever I think of these things, I automatically picture my dorm room. It was a private room, so for once, I didn’t have to share my space with anyone. No one barging through to get to their rooms (one of the many fun perks of living in a railroad-style apartment!), knocking on the door, asking me to clean, telling me to do dishes or run to the store. Just my room, with a comfortable bed, a bookshelf with my schoolbooks and my shampoo and my hair dryer and my fancy soaps and makeup, a desk for me to sit and do my homework, a little wooden table where I kept a basket of oranges and a sleeve of McVitie’s that no one was going to take and eat without permission. A little stand with my neon blue wig that I wore to the Tower of London. Mine mine mine! Even when I managed to get my own room in my apartment back home in Brooklyn, it was never fully mine. But now–mine.

A room where I hung out with friends I made from my study abroad group, a room where I recovered after a massive hangover. A room where I read The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing and Shakespeare’s Pericles and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill and “Not Waving But Drowning” by Stevie Smith. A room where I cried myself to sleep after a bitter argument. A room filled with my emotions, my stuff, my life. A room that smelled like Lush’s Karma perfume. A room just blocks away from King’s Cross where I would take trains, giddy with freedom. Jessa, Explorer Extraordinaire!

One day, after taking a shower, I went back to my dorm room and cranked up the radio. “Love at First Sight” by Kylie Minogue had just started. The beat, so buoyant and joyful, Kylie’s sweet, girlish warble gliding along these sonic champagne bubbles. I unwrapped my hair from the towel and let it uncoil, wet tips brushing my bare shoulders. And I sang along, dancing with my big fluffy yellow bath towel clinging to me like a mini dress.

“And everything went from wrong to right/and the stars came out and filled up the sky/the music you were playing really blew my mind/it was love at first sight.”

No one was going to barge in. No one was going to laugh at me and my fat body. No one was going to tell me to hurry up. I took my time and danced. For the first time, I knew what it felt like to be authentically myself.

Love at first sight, indeed.

Fall in love.


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Song Challenge \ Melanie Kristy \ Penny and Me


Penny and Me.
There was a long wait after Hanson’s second album came out before we had any music news. We didn’t fully believe there would be more music. We were young, and Hanson was in an ugly battle with their record label to even put out music. Eventually they split from their label and decided to take the independent route. They recorded an acoustic album, a spoiler of their new CD, in a church basement in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Penny and Me is one of the songs on the album. A friend of mine who has connections with in-laws told me it’s about a doll named Penny and living long distance and the Georgia mountains. To me it’s about a lot more.
You know those days when you can drive around with the windows open, drinking iced coffee and wearing sunglasses while singing along harmoniously. Maybe beach trip is in the immediate future. Maybe you’re on a road trip. You feel free. If you’re familiar with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s one of those feelings where you feel infinite. You just are. And that’s all that matters.
I came up with the term “Penny Days” to describe that kind of feeling, that infinite, breathless lightness that sometimes happens when the moment is just right. It started when I wrote a novella called Penny and Me. It’s about a girl named Penny who becomes fast friends with a boy named Lucky who is a guitarist and just about to make it big. It was the first piece of fiction I wrote and completed that wasn’t fan fiction. And I loved those characters. It’s been so long since I’ve revisited them, I decided for Camp Nano this month I’d write more based on Penny’s life as an early-twenty something girl who’s disillusioned by life. I haven’t actually started writing it, and we are a week into April so you can see how well I’m doing with writing fiction. But that’s not the point. Penny was named for my friend Kate who later got “Penny Rose” tattooed onto her foot as a way of indicating her alter ego.
This song encompasses a feeling I can’t quite explain, that high on life you can’t always recreate. It’s magic in song form, and I love every second of it.
Melanie Kristy

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7 day song challenge, day #1: See You On a Dark Night

TW: sexual assault

As a kid I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb where I always felt safe walking at night. My friends and I used to go on night adventures all the time as teens, haunting school playgrounds and netball courts and the random patches of forest that grew in between houses. We would cast spells, gossip, sometimes drink. Walking home, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning, I would have to split off from the group and head down this long stretch of poorly lit road, and then through the twisting backstreets of suburbia to my parents’ house. And I enjoyed those walks; there were always bats about, and I had space and time to think before the sun came up and day-to-day life began again.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

A year before I moved to Brunswick, which is where I live in now, a woman was killed. She was abducted while walking home from a night out with friends, from a pub I’d spent many nights at during university. She’d only been a couple of twisting backstreets away from where she lived. Backstreets I’d covered many times in between friends’ houses and tram stops, often walking for much longer than I needed to because I was poor, and couldn’t afford money for a taxi, but also because I wanted to. One of the newspapers marked out her route on a map and when I saw it my insides froze up; I’d walked that way before.

I don’t know if I was actually any safer in my old suburb that I am in my new one. Perhaps that tough, glittering, teenage-girl-feeling of untouchability kept me safe somehow, shimmering like a mirage, there but not really. Now, when I’m faced with the possibility of having to walk home alone at night, I don’t look forward to the space and time, to the bats or the lights. I don’t feel free.
I feel trapped.
I weigh up the options.
I could get a taxi (that’s $12 minimum), or an uber (a little less).
I could call and hope that my partner’s awake so that he can come meet me at the tram stop.
I could walk with my keys in between my fingers, and my phone to my ear, making imaginary conversations with myself, hoping it doesn’t ring.
I could, I could, I could…

The night doesn’t belong to me anymore. And I hate that.

I loved this song first for the way it sounds alone. It’s catchy. The vocals are haunting, but playful. I love the way Grimes samples in this track, the sounds she chooses, not quite fitting together, but in a way that makes you listen harder. I’m always surprised at finding new sounds creeping through every time I hear this song. It reminds me of a patch of forest at night.

But when I heard what the song was really about, it became my anthem. What she does with this song is nothing short of genius. She is taking something incredibly painful (her own sexual assault) and turning it around to face the perpetrator. By weaving that pain into something upbeat, something poppy and fun, something that she has since built a career in music on, she is taking all the power away from her attacker.  And I love that

And so on nights when I have to walk with my keys between my fingers, I chant these words in my head. It doesn’t make me feel untouchable, or even safe. But it makes me feel like I am gathering some of that power back.

See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night.

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