Author Archives: Alison Tavel

The Filthy Diet

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“The Filthy Diet” – a diet where you only drink extra dirty martinis all day long, thus losing weight really fast.

137 weeks ago (thanks instagram) I was in Richmond for an “off day” on tour. The group I was with decided to have dinner that night at an Italian place that was recommended to us called Edo’s Squid.

I really want to recommend this place because I think I loved everything. I think I loved the food, I think I loved the ambience, I even think I loved the front door. The restaurant was on a second floor walk up and it felt like you were walking up to someone’s apartment. If I can recall correctly the door to the restaurant looked like a storage closet door and may have even had a broom hanging on it. It’s one of those places that you would totally overlook if you didn’t know about it.

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The reason I can’t 100% recommend this place is because while I heavily enjoyed every bit of this place, I was on The Filthy Diet with my friend, and therefore was wasted out of my mind.

This was a diet that my friend and I had come up with the night before (3am that day) while at a truck stop Wendy’s eating milkshakes and fries. Feeling pretty shitty about the fast food we had just consumed, we decided it would be a good idea to drink nothing but really really dirty martinis all day in Richmond. (There have been studies that say olives prevent cancer and vodka has no calories.. so it’s really the best diet to help you lose weight whilst preventing cancer.)

This diet did have one flaw though…when you wake up and drink a dirty martini for breakfast (and then have another for lunch and another for a snack..) by the time dinner rolls around you are so drunk you have no shame in eating literally anything that’s around, thus defeating the purpose of the diet.

Tomorrow we are headed back to Richmond for a show and I will be making my way to Edo’s Squid for technically the second time.. but basically the first.

Extra Dirty Martini Recipe:
-1 martini glass rinsed in Vermouth
-1 shot of Vodka
-1 shot of Gin
-2 shots of olive juice
-unlimited olives

“The Filthy Diet” Daily Regimen:
Breakfast: 1 extra dirty martini
Lunch: 1 extra dirty martini
Snack: 1 extra dirty martini
Dinner: 1-2 extra dirty martinis
Dessert: 1 extra dirty martini

Touring: The Good The Bad & The Crazy

Things I don’t like about tour:

Fly dates & delayed flights.
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Canadian borders. At 5am.
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Waking up on hotel floors.
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All of this:
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Having to quarantine yourself when you get sick so you don’t get everyone else on the tour sick.
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Overdrives from the east coast to the west coast where you go to sleep thinking you’ll wake up in LA and then you wake up 7 hours later and look at your map and realize that the blue dot hasn’t moved because your bus broke down.
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Not being able to get off the bus in the morning because you’re suspended in the air.
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(Photo by Will Roth)

Not being allowed to have a dog on tour, resulting in a plethora of puppets and stuffed animals to fill the void.
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Flying with 60 pieces of luggage.
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Early morning train rides in Europe.
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Finding boxers and socks in my bunk every night before I go to bed.
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Not really understanding Miami, FL when we play there.
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Things I do like about tour:

Free alcohol from riders.
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Pranking the opening bands.
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Solid truck stop hangs.
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When our tour bus driver did this every morning:
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Cooking dinner at 3am on the bus.
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Making friends with the right people so you get to ride Kenny Chesney’s chair around Gillette Stadium.
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Group showers.
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Having a runner pick up stuff for you.
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Being able to actually say “Robert Plant once told me…”
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Learning how to live simply.
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Unique sleeping situations:
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Learning new stretching poses from tour mates.
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A lifetime of unforgettable stories:
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Songs on Repeat: Lovely Day

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I just turned 27 and everyone keeps telling me this is my year of obstacles and transitions.

I made this playlist because it instantly makes me happy no matter what. Have yourself a Lovely Day. And probably watch Dumb and Dumber.

 

Bone Thugs N Harmony x Phil Collins – Take Me Home

 

Monarchy – We Were Young

 

Prince – I Would Die 4 U

Porn Or Yours: Part II

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Four years have past since that harrowing day when we hosted a porn shoot. And still, it keeps haunting us. The aftermath of the shoot left me with images engraved in my brain that I don’t wish upon anyone. But if you want a hint of an idea for what I’m talking about I’ll just say that watching the producer shave some guys back hair off in my shower right before he “performs” on our couch is just the tip of the iceberg here. The shoot was supposed to be six girls and two guys. That was the deal. However, 15 girls piled into the house and started lighting up cigarettes like they were at a bar in the 90’s. It was like babysitting a bunch of really trashy teenagers.  But the point of this story is not to complain. The point of this story is to talk about the shocking discovery that happened many years later.

When the shoot was over my roommates and I agreed we would never watch the porno. No good would come of that, it would just make us relive the worst day in our house to date. So we never did. Three years later I was on tour and the story got brought up. Our bass player asked what the name of the porno was called and I told him. Within minutes he had a free four-minute clip of the porno pulled up on his computer. Of course our tour manager called everyone in the crew over radio to come watch. Bullets of sweat began to pour out of my face. I didn’t want to see it but I was super curious.

He hit play. Everyone watched and it suddenly occurred to me that the band/crew had not seen my house yet. So all I could think was that they were judging my house based on what they were seeing so I kept yelling out “Those aren’t my curtains!” and “That’s not my rug!” and “We don’t have that many candles!!!!!!” None of them cared or even heard me.

And then something awful happened. While in the foreground of the shot an extremely large woman with a bleach blonde buzz cut and cat paw print tattoos up her arm (who apparently is a “freelance writer – yes, you better believe I got to chatting with her) was going down on this guy (she was also the first one to pop her top off when the director yelled action.. a little too excited for this shoot I reckon), in the top left corner a bit out of focus but definitely visible was a photo of two brothers from one of my favorite bands. I’m omitting the names but if you know me at all, i’m sure you can guess who it is.

You see, it was my roommate’s birthday and my other roommate and I got him tickets to see these Brothers but the tickets hadn’t arrived so instead we took a photo of them and wrote the details of the show on the back. We then propped the photo in the mirror by the front door in the living room as a reminder. When the art director was going around swapping out all of our photos and pictures in the room, he must have missed one. And as a result, these Brothers are now technically in a porno that was shot at my house.Porn Shoot

The third and final part of this saga happened when three months later we were on tour with the Brothers and my tour manager waited until we were all in the same room and forced me to tell them this very story. I broke out in hives. He has the whole thing on tape.

**Just so everyone knows, this is what our living room ACTUALLY looks like.

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Prince of Pop

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On June 25th, 2009 I was in Istanbul, Turkey getting ready to leave for Santorini, Greece. And on June 25th, 2009 Michael Jackson died. It was sad to a lot of people, I’m sure. I guess you could say I was a little more than sad. I had tickets to see Michael in London at the O2 that July. I had been waiting to see Michael Jackson in concert since I was 3 years old dancing around the family room, watching his videos on VHS, learning his dances and singing his songs. It was almost like someone in my family had died. I got so many “sorry for your loss” emails from friends and family asking me if I was OK. (I got the same type of sympathy emails when Jimmy Fallon got engaged, but that’s another story entirely.)

So I flew to Greece where I would be on my own for one day before meeting back up with my friend who I had been traveling with. My iPod broke on my trip over and it just so happened that the only 2 songs I had on my iPhone were “Human Nature” and “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson. I listened to those songs on repeat and wallowed in my sadness until I checked into my hostel in Santorini.

I went out to get dinner and when I came back there was an adorable white lab at my doorstep. He was blocking the door and looked like he just needed a friend. How could I say no to a precious puppy all alone on an island? I brought him in and we snuggled all night long listening to “Human Nature” and “Butterflies”. I named him Prince in honor of Michael Jackson. Prince followed me around the whole week I was in Greece.

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Yes, he was a stray dog.
Yes, he gave me fleas.
Yes, it was worth it.

Porn or Yours?

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There’s a really fun game that we played one year at our Superbowl party called “Porn or Yours.” It’s where your friends guess if objects in your living room are yours, or for porn.

Let me explain.

A week before the Superbowl my roommates and I were talked into having a porn shoot at our house (a friend of a friend of a friend..don’t judge). Anyway, we decided to do it. $1000 bucks cash for one day of shooting in our living room? How could we resist? The shoot was on a Wednesday. The Art Director came in with his crew and they rearranged all of our furniture and re-decorated. After they were finished setting up he got a phone call saying the shoot had to be rescheduled. (I’m trying to keep this as PG as I can, so let’s just say one of the girls wasn’t allowed to work because she failed a certain required test.) They needed to reschedule for the following week so they would have time to find a new “actor.” He offered us an extra $500 if we would keep our house set up the way it was. Obviously we accepted. And then we realized we were having a Superbowl party that coming Sunday.

Our living room now had glass roses on the mantel, a wire mannequin with disco balls inside, a weird elephant candle holder (which we kept), floral wall decals on the fireplace and cheesy pillows and candles everywhere. (If those decorations don’t say “Superbowl Sunday” then I don’t know what does.)

The rules were simple: point to an object and decide whether it was pre-owned, or for the porn shoot. Needless to say, “Porn Or Yours” was a huge hit.

The game was actually a bit of a challenge at times. There was a rod with metallic like strings coming out the top of it. Our friend confidently said, “Porn!” but alas, it was ours.  (Apparently cat toys resemble other types of toys, too.)

Oh and by the way – DON’T EVER HAVE A PORN SHOOT AT YOUR HOUSE. I am scarred for life and will never look at my couch again without thinking of that dreadful day. Apologies to the people reading this who have come to stay but didn’t previously know this story.

I was however really excited about the glass roses because I was hoping to recreate The Bachelor Season 11, but no one else was interested.

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The Two Sides of Congo

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When you read about Congo, you hear about war, you hear about conflict minerals, you hear about rebel armies, you hear about rape and violence. All of those things are important to know – no doubt – and before crossing the border from Rwanda to DRC those were really the only images that I had in my head of the country.

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The things you rarely hear about are the beautiful mountains and water, the music, the dance, the style, the fashion, the clubs and the party.

The country is a war-torn land that has gone through (and is continuing to go through) an unimaginable struggle.. but these people are not victims, they are survivors and they are strong and they are inspiring. I’ve never seen more beautiful jewelry, dresses and well fitting suits. The music has style and the people love to dance. The clubs go all night long, (whiskey and red bull is the secret that I would come to learn about very quickly) and the music never stops.

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The first part of our trip was to Goma, in North Kivu – which is a province in Eastern Congo, right on the border of Rwanda. The city’s relation to Rwanda is largely why it has been so vulnerable to rebel army control and attacks since the ’94 Genocide. For this reason there are barbed-wire gates in front of every house or building and a very large, almost eerie UN presence everywhere you turn.

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Despite the barbed wire, DRC is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to. I wish I could accurately describe or show the feeling I got when I arrived and saw the mountains backing the lake and the miles of greenery, crops and flowers everywhere.

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Seeing Lake Kivu out of context – you would think you were in Lake Como in Italy. However this lake has a much different past than Lake Como. The lake divides Congo and Rwanda. Looking over the water to Rwanda, a friend told me that he remembered the time when all he saw were dead bodies floating in the lake. During the Rwandan Genocide, thousands of people came rushing over the DRC border to escape, throwing themselves into the water to get to the other side while hundreds of thousands of others were losing their lives.

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During my stay in Congo, I was accompanied by one of my best friends Melinda and a translator – Amani, because Congolese either speak French or Swahili and I unfortunately don’t speak either (yet – working on it). Amani was our translator for the trip but a new friend for life.

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He took us all around the cities of Goma, Bukavu and Mumosho and introduced us to so many different organizations that are working hard to better the community and keep the peace. We met with NGO leaders, coffee farmers, ex-combatants, women & children, choir groups and families. We visited a peace exchange market, a primary school, a reinsertion center for ex-child soldiers, a women’s center for victims of violence and even a radio station called Mutaani FM.

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Some things to prepare yourself for if you’re gonna be in Congo.. Black outs every day. And not the fun drunk kind. The power can be out for days, or just a few minutes, but like 20 times a day..and it happens so frequently that no one flinches. It’s inspired me to start writing a short story called Dinner in the Dark. The other thing to note are the roads, or lack there of, I should say. They aren’t so much roads as they are very small Grand Canyons in between the buildings. Amani calls the roads “The Congolese Massage” – Even if you are riding in a 4×4 the rockiness is so aggressive your head almost hits the ceiling every other second. I don’t get carsick and even I was struggling. When we touched back over to Rwanda and drove on a paved road I felt like I was being taken for a ride on Aladdin’s magic carpet. However that feeling ended very soon after because we were winding through the mountains for 6 hours straight.

After Goma we took a boat to Bukavu, in South Kivu.

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Bukavu is a much older city and it’s charm hits you as soon as you reach the dock.

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Amani took us to a Primary School in Mumosho, just south of Bukavu. It was probably my favorite day of the trip. I’m only 25.. I’m not looking to be a mom, I don’t have those motherly instincts and to be honest, I don’t really know how to act around children. However these kids were awesome. They were funny and active and smart and eager to learn. I looked at one of the kid’s notebooks.. his handwriting was perfect and he had taken what looked like extremely detailed notes.

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We didn’t speak the same language (they speak Swahili) so Amani had to translate everything when we visited the different classrooms and talked with them. We found out what they were learning and what they wanted to do when they grew up. One boy said he wanted to be President. Dream big and work hard. Why not? I immediately went over to him and said “Mr. President!” and shook his hand.

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To be able to graduate from Primary School to Secondary School they must take a test that costs $5. So far 18 out of the 47 eligible kids had been able to pay half of the $5. The test was in a few weeks. If they could not afford to pay for the test they would have to retake that year of school. When we left the class we decided of course we would pay for these kids to take the test. How could I deny the future President of DRC the right to graduate? For 47 kids, that’s $235 total. I spent more than that yesterday getting a new iPhone because my camera stopped working. (I don’t really like to put things like this in perspective because it depresses me, but it’s the truth.) When Amani went in to tell the class, he told us that the principal and the teacher started dancing and the kids started cheering. Can you imagine being a kid and getting overjoyed by the thought of being able to take a test? Though the reality is that if they can’t afford a $5 test now, the chances of them being able to afford a $26 test in 6 years in order to graduate from Secondary School is unlikely. The other reality is that we’re just talking about 47 kids out of 500 in just that school in just that one village of Mumosho. I’ll be keeping in touch with those kids though and tracking where they end up in 6 years. When it comes time for them to take the Secondary School Graduate test, I hope I can help them then too.

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The next and last day of our trip was probably the heaviest. We visited a center for reinsertion/rehabilitating child soldiers called Prev. We spoke to a former child soldier who was now a 23-year-old man. He had suffered through two different armed groups during his teen years and managed to escape and find Prev through a church. (A lot of child soldiers run to churches when they escape from armed groups.) Now he is a successful taxi driver and shoemaker thanks to Prev. He had a great presence and confidence while we were talking and even though he is out of the program, he had chosen to come back and teach his shoemaking skills to the others.

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We also met with two females. Both were taken by armed groups when they were in their early teens and beaten and raped constantly. Almost every girl at the center had a baby with her. If they didn’t have one, they had two. Both girls we met with told me they had no hope for tomorrow. It was one of the most heartbreaking things to hear and I felt helpless. It was hard to find the words to respond, because even after hearing their stories first hand, I will never truly understand. Both of the girls we talked with were still fresh in the program though and hopefully in time, with help, they will be able to heal and find hope.

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Falling Whistles gave me the inspiration to learn about this country and my 1000 whistles campaign (my pledge to sell 1,000 whistles for FW) gave me the confidence to move forward on my own. I wanted to go to Congo to see first hand what this place was about and what projects on the ground I connected with. I’m so happy I did.

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Thanks to Osprey Packs for the support – this bag has been through a lot and it’s still going strong!

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Lasse Lucidor – Gamla Stan, (Old Town) Stockholm, Sweden

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Gamla Stan is cute. There are narrow cobblestone steps that take you through medieval streets and even on a Saturday night at midnight the streets are quiet. The shops have closed and there are only a handful of restaurants and bars still open.

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One restaurant in particular made treated us very kind and stayed open for us: Lasse Lucidor. The bar and restaurant on the ground level was very nice, but it was what was in the basement that made it one of my favorite places. The bar in the basement was in a brick tunnel and to get there you had to walk through caves and kitchens and windy stairs. The name of the bar comes from a Swedish poet Lars Johansson (aka Lasse Lucidor) who was tragically murdered in the basement of a bar in Gamla Stan.

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Since the restaurant had “officially” closed, they weren’t serving food anymore so we ordered some White Russians and chatted with the owner.

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Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal – 2014 Sweatpants Mix

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Sweatpants Christmas Mix 2014

Ex Reyes – “This Will Be Our Year”

Shakey Graves – “Chinatown”