top eleven of twenty11.

[happy new year’s eve, y’all.]

Oh, 2011… What a crazy year you’ve been.  In looking for the music I listened to most this year, I perused the whole last year of this here blahg and at one point had to say aloud to myself, “It was a damn good year!”

And with the newness and the sameness, there will always be music.  This year so much different than last, though.  At the beginning of this year, I still lived in Jackson, Wyoming and still had two shows at 89.1 KHOL.  This time last year I did my…

I was constantly surrounded by music and my top album was a clear winner.

This year was different.  There was a move to Missoula, Montana and leaving KHOL.  Training at 89.9 KBGA and picking up a couple shows there.  Music was still constantly on, but in a different way… in a different community.  So, this Top Eleven of 2011 was oh, so different than last year’s… but still so beautiful.  A different kind of beauty.

So much music.  So many jams that I cannot get enough of… and I hope you’ve gotten your hands on…


Click on those and getya some… if you haven’t already.

Life has been beautiful, but different.  Still dancing, but differently.  Less talking about music these days and more listening… just listening.  Reflecting.  Smiling.  Dancing.  Being.

It’s all so great.  Yes and yes.  So, now I present to you… not the Morning Scramble’s top albums… not any radio station’s top albums… but mine…

My Top Eleven of 2011

[eleven] We Are Augustines, “Rise Ye Sunken Ships”

These guys came later in the game for me, but their album is solid… and wonderful.  I felt like I wanted to share this music with everyone, just everyone.

[ten] Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Tell Me”

Oh, pretty Jessica Lea Mayfield.  The beginning of this year was defined with her comforting voice and raw lyrics.  There’s no replacing songs that bring you back to a vivid time.  A realization.  A feeling.  A drive over the pass to ski with friends and look at life, laugh at each other.

[nine] Thao & Mirah, “Kill Rock Stars”

“When love is love, don’t let it go away.”  I was introduced to this album by reviewing it for KHOL and I listened to every track over and over.  Addicted.  Love it.  It’s something special when albums work out like this.

[eight] The Decemberists, “The King is Dead”

This is definitely the longest love on my list.  The Decemberists.  College called, am I right?  But I just love them.  And after surprising my boyfriend who helped me look for apartments ceaselessly in Missoula with tickets to The Decemberists at one of our favorite breweries, these guys have stolen my heart again after so many years.  We danced under the Missoula stars and sang along to almost every song, reveling in everything… everything from their gorgeous concert posters to double fisting brews to stories of Missoula to “The Mariners Revenge” antics.  Love.  Love it.

[seven] Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”

These guys really have something.  As much as I tried to not like this album because aforementioned boyfriend liked it first [not dysfunctional, just a condition of oldest siblings], I could not help myself.  I would come into the apartment and say..

– Oh, really?  You’re listening to Fleet Foxes again?  Ugh…

– Oh, I can change it…

– NO!  I mean, whatever… It’s fine… I’ll live…

And then sneakily turn it up.  It’s just too good not to love.  And so good for the winter time.  Try it.

[six] Adele, “21”

Not sorry.  Not at all.  I mean, come on…

And then…

But, I won’t lie to you, what really did it for me was the Glee Mash-Up…

You can stop judging me now, cuz I’m just not sorry at all.

[five] M83, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

“Midnight City” swept us all away…

…and I was so scared that this would be a one-hit-wonder album.  But, no.  The whole thing is gorgeous.  In fact, “Midnight City” might be my only “play on repeat” jam that had it’s album make it to the list.  Because with lovely, childhood-yearning hits like this…

…how could it not?

[four] Head and the Heart, “Head and the Heart”

There’s no denying how this band is just amazing.  I knew every word to this album in about three days.  And while they might not be the most original band on the planet, their beautiful lyrics and stomping beats will win their way to your heart without even buying you a drink.

[three] TV on the Radio, “Nine Types of Light [Deluxe Edition]”

This is a solid album all around.  TV on the Radio does it again.  I don’t have much to say about this album, really.  Don’t know why.  It speaks for itself, I guess…

[two] Foster the People, “Torches”

It’s a shame the teenie-boppers got a hold of this one.  If I hear one more thirteen-year-old singing, “Pumped Up Kicks,” whilst obviously not realizing it’s about plotting a shooting, I’ll freak out.  That being said, damn-you-me, I could NOT stop listening to that song when it first came out.  I couldn’t stop listening to the whole damn album.  I LOVE IT.  And maybe it’s because I’m part teeny-bopper, but I was/am obsessed with this album…

And my dad said they weren’t so bad live at Austin City Limits either… not bitter… in the least… at all…

[one] tUnE-yArDs, “W H O K I L L”

This was not a clear winner, but when it came down to it, I don’t think I enjoyed any other album more than this one.  So unique.  Such jams.  It might move you.  It might make you move.  Makes you sing along.  Makes me excited about everything.  Makes me wanna break things.  Makes me wanna practice some high-fives.  Makes me wanna dress up.  Makes me wanna wake them up and dance.  Makes me wanna create.  Makes me wanna share.

It does good things to me.  Hope it does good things to you as well.

Welp, that’s it folks.  There are many, many runners up.  And maybe I’ll compile a mix of favorite jams that weren’t on fave albums.  And I must give a shout-out to my, “Fave Jam that Wasn’t on a Top Album”…

And Runner Up Album Artists…

Matt & Kim
New Division
Oh Land
Zola Jesus
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Florence+The Machine
Bon Iver
Sharon Van Etten

Thanks for being here!  Thanks for listening!  Thanks for being part of this kickass year!

[may your 2012 be filled with many more great songs, much more great times, and too many smiles to keep track.]

rogue deer wandering.

Anna and I have been friends since the days of Alpinist magazine.

We lived in the Swamp House together, with her gorgeous sisters, awesome boyfriend [dan], and random interns…

We’ve been on many an adventure to Yosemite, danced on tables in Vegas, made tons of Valentines for loved ones together, ran together, skied together, laughed together, cried together, moved together, grown together… I couldn’t think of my life without miss Anna Davis… and her ah-mazing pick of a partner, Dan… who has taught me so much as an awesome friend and always played the role of [fun] big brother when needed.  [side note: no one rollerblades faster than dan abraham.]

So, when I found out that Dan and Anna were tying the knot, not only did I insist on making them some sweet Save-the-Dates…

…but I really was gunning to be IN the wedding.  I’ve told Dan and Anna [“danna”] this since the beginning.  I just love them so much!  And I was there when they started living together!

So, when I asked Anna who her officiant would be, she said, “I’m not sure… but Dan is taking applications.”  And I jumped at the opportunity!

I sent the following to Dan…

[note of disclaimer: these documents are filled with inside-jokes and a few things that could maybe maybe be found offensive to certain peoples… but were only said in grasps for humor. enjoy!]

“In Regards to the Open Officiant Position

Dear Mr. Abraham,

How many weddings have you been to?  What?  I can’t hear you.  People who have been to more than fifteen weddings can’t hear when people try to talk about attending under ten weddings.  It’s science.

In attending these 15+ wedding ceremonies (and being in most of them), I’ve become quite the expert at how they are supposed to go.  And, sure, I’ve had my criticisms:

• Too much crying.

• Too much cleavage.

• Wait, are you kidding?  We’re singing?

• Too long.

• Too many children.

• Not enough attractive groomsmen.

• Where are the little cups of wine that are usually passed around?

But I believe that those criticisms have helped me grow as a potential officiant of your wedding.  And although I would love for you to have a ceremony just like this: , I will cater to your wishes for this very special ceremony… Plus, I know you guys are more of a Lil’ Wayne couple.

Attached, you will find a résumé listing all of my qualifications for this coveted position.  I will give you a call later in the week to follow up with you.  Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Rachel Stevens”

And I thought I was just hi-larious.  I thought I had won… no matter if I got the gig or not.  But then, I was just sitting at work [in MIssoula] and got up to check my office mailbox [which is miles away from Jackson… where Anna and Dan live], when I found the following folded up in my mailbox.  Unbelievable!  How did she do it?!

[note: the highlighting and note were obviously added later… when scanned in and emailed back.]

I really cannot wait to be a part of the ceremony of such good friends declaring that they’re in it for the long haul.

Precious, exciting times ahead!

anna and myself canoeing on string lake, summer 2011, photo courtesy of miss grecious.

dance, dance, dance.

My life has been oh, so full of preciousness, hilarity, and excitement inside.

Of course I can’t tell you all about it right now because I’m on the tail end of my lunch break that was spent working on more designs and then there’s working late and then making appetizers for holiday parties and then book club and then repeat.

BUT I wanted to share this gorgeous/preciousness with you…

…makes me want more of this preciousness to light up my soul every day.

Also, what does it say about me if I find this little girl very suspect for stealing some of my moves?

they have like seven cats.

Most. Awkward. Lunch. Break. Ever.

In Missoula, I’ve welcomed meeting new friends with open arms.  This means going on what I like to call, “blind-friend-dates.”  Letting friends I know, set me up with their friends who live in Missoula.  Nothing can go wrong, right?

So, I get an email from my friend, Jeff Brown, telling me I have to meet his friend, Dana.


Jeff Brown is better friends with Evan, but he’s dating my way good friend, Katrina [whom i’ve been on many an adventure with], so I trust his judgement.  And this is Jeff Brown…

courtesy of the facebook machine.

I email Dana and we exchange a few notes back and forth.  I ask them if they wanna get a beer sometime after work, they say we should meet for coffee sometime in the middle of the day.  Perfect!

And the first thing that’s a bit awkward is that I don’t actually know if Dana is a male or a female.  No offense to Dana, but we’d only been communicating via email.  I had just met a male Dana and knew a bunch of female Danas.  And this Dana had said somethings like, “You’ll know me by my long, overdue-for-a-haircut hair, and my nubby, oatmeal-colored cap that I wear everywhere in the winter.”  And I thought, Alright, maybe they are a guy… but I’m pretty sure they’re a girl.

So, I tell my friends at work to wish me luck on my blind-friend-date… with either a guy or a lady.

I walk into the coffee shop we were meeting at today and see an older lady sitting at a table, wearing an oatmeal-colored cap.  I kinda look around, but, no, she’s the only one.  I walk up to her and ask…

– Are you Dana?

– Yes, you must be Rachel!

Alright, lady Dana.

– Hi!  I’m gonna go grab a cup of coffee… I’ll be right back.

And I’m thinking, Alright, Jeff could have a good friend that’s 55.  There’s nothing wrong with that… a bit weird… but nothing wrong.

I get my cup of coffee and go back to the table, asking Dana…

– So, how do you know Jeff?

– Oh, well I lived in Austin for about 12 years.

– Oh, I didn’t know Jeff lived in Austin.

– Yeah…

– Did he go to school there?

– No, he went to school in Indiana.

– Oh, cool.

Dana is super sweet.  A gentle, lovely soul.  I see how Jeff could be friends with her… sure… She asks me…

– How do you know Jeff?

– Well, he’s good friends with my boyfriend, but he’s also dating my really good friend, Katrina.

– What?

– Yeah, him and Katrina just moved to Boulder… they’re super in love… it’s awesome.

– Wait… What??

She’s obviously confused… and really worried about something.  This is not going well and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable at this point… so, I sound a bit shaky when I say,

– Yeeeeah, has Jeff not told you about Katrina?

– No!  I thought Jeff was still married to Maryam.

– WHAT?!

– Yeah, are they not married anymore??

– Jeff was married?!

At this point, I’m freaking out.  How the hell did I not know that my friend’s live-in boyfriend has an ex-wife??  I bet she doesn’t even know!

– Wait, Jeff Brown?

– Yeah, Jeff Brown… lives in Boulder… was in Australia for a year… lived in Jackson…

– No, this Jeff Brown lives in Austin and is married to Maryam!

– Oh, my god.

It hits me.  My PARENTS have a friend named Jeff Brown.  They MUST have given my email address to him… and he set this up… my parents’ friend.  This is all a big misunderstanding.  I immediately start apologizing.

– I am so sorry.  Okay.  I’m figuring it out.  We’re talking about different Jeff Browns.  Your Jeff Brown lives in Austin… he’s friends with my parents.  Nice guy.  Yes.  Okay.  My friend, Jeff Brown, lives in Boulder… with my good friend, Katrina.

– Oh, my gosh, you had me so scared!  I was so confused!

– Yeah, me too.  Okay, we’ve got it figured out.  Jeff and Maryam.

– Yes, Jeff and Maryam.

And then I remember a few phone conversations I’ve had with my mother lately about her friends in Austin and I say…

– Oh, and I’m so sorry to hear the sad news about Maryam.

– What sad news?

– Well…….. that… she has… cancer…  [i say this the same way anyone would tell someone they didn’t know that their dear friend has cancer… very timidly and unsure of what the hell is even happening.]

– WHAT?!

She looks like she’s going to cry… like, bawl… in the middle of this coffee shop.  I am currently turning this woman [who is old enough to be my mother]’s life upside-down.

– Well, okay.  Ummm… I’m pretty sure?  No, okay, I could be wrong.

– I thought she would’ve told me!

– Okay, probably not then.  Okay, these are my parents friend… I don’t really know any of them.  Probably not.

– I hope not… Oh, my gosh.

She’s kinda in her own tiny world of gentle panic and I’m looking around for candid cameras or maybe a sign that this is a nightmare…

– Yeah, I would double check those facts.  Okay, probably not.  No, not at all.  Sooo… How long you been in Missoula?

We talk for a while longer about Missoula and Austin and life and jobs and whatnot.  When talking about Austin, Dana mentions Jeff and Maryam again… Except this time, “Maryam” is said in a softer tone and paired with drifting eyes to a hopeless stare into nothingness.

I panic and want nothing more than to snap at Dana a couple times and say, “Hay!  Probably doesn’t have cancer… Really.  Seriously.  Hay!  Probably does not have cancer.  Seriously”  But instead, I try to change the subject and ask…

– So, how is Jeff and Maryam’s kid?

– [very matter-of-factly.] They don’t have any children.  They have like seven cats.


– Phewwww… Yeah, oh, yeah, I knew that!

I can’t help but start to think about what this woman must think of me… what she’s going to say to our probably-mutual friend, Jeff and his probably-cancer-free wife, Maryam.  I bet she thinks I’m drunk.  God, I wish I were drunk at this point.  And then I finally decide to stop faking it and find out who the hell Jeff is… I KNOW I know my parents’ friend, Jeff Brown…

– Okay, what does Jeff do?

– He’s a sculptor.

– YES!  Oh, my goodness.  With the beautiful studio in his home.  And Maryam’s an artist as well!

I got it.  I figured it out.  Small victories.  I had to clench to those small victories.  But, then I was done with my cup of coffee and there was really no getting over the awkwardness that I had doused allllll over this meeting.  It was time to get going.  We said our goodbyes and I said…

– Well, it was nice to meet you.  Glad I could confuse the fuck out of you…

Just kidding.  I left that last part off.  But I wanted to say that.  I also wanted to assure her that Jeff Brown did not have a girlfriend living in Boulder and that Maryam didn’t have cancer… but I felt like hearing that again from the drunk 20-something that her friend made her have a cup of coffee with probably wouldn’t make her feel better.

I walked out of the coffee shop, already dialing my mom’s number.

– Hi Rachel.

– Mom.  I’m sorry to ask this, but what’s the name of your dear friend who has cancer?

– Laurel.

– Oh, my god… Yes, Laurel.  Okay, I just told one of Maryam’s friends that Maryam has cancer.

– What??

– Yep.  Yep.

– What??

– I don’t know!  I thought I was meeting a different friend… or something!  I just scarred a 55-year-old woman forever.  I’m sure of it.

My mom started laughing and I did NOT think it was funny at the time.

– I’m sorry, Rachel, but I have to go… I’m at work.

I went back into work and plopped my coat down.  Said,

– That was the most awkward lunch break of my life.

– That’s a pretty bold statement.

…my boss said.

– Oh, it’s accurate.

So, I tell him the story and everyone in the department starts listening.  At one point my boss stands up, laughing at everything… especially at how frazzled I am, and puts his head in his hands because he can’t believe that the story keeps going.  Everyone is laughing so hard and I’m seriously looking at them like, “What the hell is wrong with you?!  This is horrible!” 

They all keep asking me questions like…

– How did you not know she was older?

– I don’t know!  I guess I should’ve known when she didn’t want to go for a beer!  Of course she didn’t want to come to Missoula to have a beer after work!

– Come to Missoula?

– Oh, yeah!  She lives in Florence!  She drove from 20 miles outta town to have some seemingly-drunk girl give her a minor heart-attack!

Everyone is dying laughing.  And I start smiling.  I start breaking.  It starts being funny.  Then Mike, my boss, says…

– So, you pretty much told this poor woman that her good friend’s husband is cheating on her and that that good friend probably has cancer.

– Yeah.  Pretty much.

– Ha.  You need a beer.

– Yeah, I do.

– Hell, I feel like I need a beer after just hearing that story.

Side Note:  Dana is lovely!  We made tentative plans to have dinner with our partners and if she doesn’t think I’m completely bat-shit crazy, maybe we’ll become dear friends and laugh at that time we first met and I almost killed her with breaking news.

you would go to a writing class tonight?

Hay!  Hay, you!

…wull hay.

I wanna talk to you.

It’s been a while… and there’s so much I’ve wanted to talk about.

But then… everything, all this, floors you. me.

We decided to go out for drinks.  A lot of us.  At work.  Work has been hard lately… for everyone.

Work has been hard for me in the “ahhhh!  there are too many cooks in the kitchen!” or ” this is over-designed!” kind of way.  [picture me with a melodramatic fist slowly shaking in the air.]

Work has been hard for Jason* in the “fuck, my mom is dying” kind of way.

And, yes, I see it.  I see it now.  My self-involvement.  But I hadn’t seen it fully until recently.  So let me go.

Jason’s mother had a heart attack whilst on vacation in Florida about two weeks ago.  She never recovered.  Jason [my co-worker, if you haven’t caught that] flew down there immediately.  Not to escape the cold, the sleet, the off-season… to see his mother, to try and save her, to try and hold her, to try and hug her, to try and say goodbye.

She never recovered.  She never gained consciousness.  She never looked at, recognized, her son.

They pulled the plug.  After a week and a half.  She wasn’t coming back.  They were just keeping her alive.  Machines.  Machines were “they.”

She’s been holding on.  She is holding on.  She’s technically still alive right now… but not in the way we all know our mothers… the way we all hold our mothers, hug our moms, kiss our moms, see our moms.

Jason came home.  Back to work.  Home is Missoula.  And work is Adventure Cycling.

We’re not that close, but we’re parts of the funniest email chains… parts of the young crowd… we are friends.  He’s been back for a few days and things have been hard at work [refer to aforementioned hard-factor], so we decided to rally some people to go for a drink tonight.

I thought I’d be out for just one drink… maybe two.  I mean, I have my writing class on Wednesdays and tonight was my last writing class in this series.  One drink.  [maybe two.]

Four of us went out for a drink right after work… two more joined later.  I sat right next to Jason and we shared nachos, talked about our love for corndogs, talked about work bullshit, the fate of co-workers, the hope for our own careers, then it went silent for a second and we both noticed the music… Christmas music… Jason said…

– God, I’m really not looking forward to Christmas this year.

I put my hand on his knee.

– Oh, Jason, I’m sure.

– She did everything.  She was Christmas for us.

– God, I couldn’t imagine.  I just couldn’t imagine.

We all kept talking.  Jason wanted to talk about it and the others around wanted to listen.

I had to go to the bathroom.  I came back, drink empty, looked at my watch… almost time for writing class… looked at Jason.

– Hey, are you gonna get another drink?  Cuz I was thinking about going to my writing class…

Jason looked at me, so confused… like I was insane… but, wait, not even that.  He looked at me like he didn’t understand me in the least… not in an offensive way… in a genuine confusion… then he said…

– You would go to a writing class right now?

And he didn’t mean it in the, “oh, really? writing class? who are you” way.  He meant it in the, “that’s what you do with your wednesday night? when your mother’s not dying?” way.  It was genuine.

I shook inside.

– No, of course I’m not doing that.  Mike!  Hay!  Another round, please.

I missed my last class and I’m not sad in the least.  I mean, I am sad.  All the sudden, I’m sad.  But not for the loss of two and a half hours of talking with other twenty-, thirty-, forty-, fifty-somethings about their novel-in-progress.  I was sad because of life.  And death.

Every once in a while it hits me.  Life.  And death.

All the sudden my heart is filled for Jason and his family.  All my love is for them.

And then I’m thankful.  In a way that blows Thanksgiving out of the water; I’m thankful.

I’m thankful, first, for my family.

as old/weird/not-together as this picture is... i love us that much more.

I am thankful for my job.  [gosh, i love us.  this organization.  that i’m a part of this.]

I am thankful for my loved ones.  My friends.  Evan.  The Evan that I can accidentally call “mine” every once in a while and he smiles instead of grimaces.

[and i don’t know how to explain the fact that all my loved ones and myself are in costume in all of our love-expressed photos… i promise i love them not in costume and that i’m okay being myself for most of my life.]

I am thankful.  “I am so blessed…” as my brother simply said in a recent text.  I am.

And I know it’s not a time to think about myself right now.  It’s a time to think about Jason… and his mother… and his mother’s children… the ones that are a blood relative to him and the hundreds of others whom she took in as a foster mother… wanting to give… wanting to show children they were loved… she only gave… and then she was taken.

But, I am thankful.

I hope you all know this.  I am thankful for you [whoever the hell you are] and I hope you are thankful for the loves around you.

Of course I’m not going to writing class tonight.

Of course not.

*The name has been changed because a] “Jason” doesn’t even know I have a blahg.  b] if Jason did knew I had a blahg, he’d probably politely request to never be mentioned on this ridiculous thing.