• Ginger Pennington

#TBT - The Once and Future Rock Star

Gentle Reader, In honor of this American holiday known as "Throwback Thursday," I thought I'd do an embarrassing little experiment. I'm selecting an original blog from my wayward youth, and using it as a topic of conversation. If you like this, let me know, and I'll do it again next Thursday!

This post originally appeared on a blog called Taste of Ginger, which was basically the unedited online diary a twentysomething who had no idea what she was doing in life. In this excerpt, young Ginger is 24 years old and lives in Richmond, Kentucky, a city she isn't too fond of but lives in because she's in graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University. "Wow," you might say, "grad school? It sounds like you had it together!" No, Dear Reader, I did not. While most people attend graduate school to reach goals of a specific career, I was merely using it to fill the time while I waited for my then-boyfriend to finish college in Kentucky.

What I mean is, I should have been in Los Angeles. See, I had planned on going to L.A. after high school, when some managers and agents at a national talent conference convinced me I could be the next "it" girl. The silver screen was beckoning, but I instead elected to heed my parents' advice and accept all my scholarships and get my B.A. I could head west once I was properly educated, I figured. Then college (which turned out to be four years of educational-summer-camp utopia for smart drunks) ended. I was 21, with a degree in Theatre Arts and Creative Writing, and once again, I would have moved to Los Angeles, had I not been influenced by my mom's fear of the grim fate that would befall me there (a fear that I would become a druggie hooker who gets shot by gang members). But that fear, coupled with the fact that I was in love with a boy who had two years of college left, meant that my cross-country move would have to wait again.

In the meantime, I entered the working world and realized I simply wasn't ready for it. I was too rife with creative ambition to let my dreams suffocate under the weight of a 9-to-5! I wanted to be a poet and an actor and a rock star. I moved to Louisville and, against the advice of my parents, turned down a "Real Job"---health insurance and all---in favor of a bunch of gigs. I worked part time as a receptionist for a Porsche dealership (where I used the front desk computer to write songs and poems while collecting my $10 per hour), and part-time as a hostess for a fancy restaurant. I also taught voice and acting lessons, a gratifying gig that paid in smiles. But after a while, I couldn't financially survive any longer.

I left Louisville when I was offered an editing job at a TV news station. It wasn't a 9-to-5, but an overnight 10 p.m.-to-7 a.m., in the shadow of the dusty mountains of Hazard, Kentucky. Though I was making money for this thing called a "bank account," I lived alone, slept until 5pm, and ate microwaved dinners solo in my papasan chair while watching Sex & the City. A few months in, I saw that things in this holler moved more slowly than I'd hoped. I didn't want to be in news; I wanted to be the news. Since I rarely saw humans and was quickly becoming a hermit-vampire, I knew I had to change things up. If the "real world" was a choice between sanity and survival, I had to return to the only place where I knew I could both be creative whilst also eating food with a roof over my head: I would run headlong through the wildflowers into the open arms of academia.

The semester was about to start at EKU, so I quickly applied, got in, and moved in with my sister who was also at college there.

During all this, I was also in a band. My guitarist and drummer still lived in my hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, and would record songs and send me the instrumental tracks so I could write lyrics. I'd go back and visit my parents, and my bandmates and I would sit in Roger's shed and record our noise in one take, call it brilliant, and sometimes even make a little video to go with it. In this blog post, Roger has invited me to be a part of a new side-project, a band with this guy named Garson, who I only knew as a Really Cool Senior when I was in 8th grade. Now that you know who you're dealing with, without further adieu, I give you the [only slightly abridged] voice that once belonged to me: the petty, self-aggrandizing, rage-filled lead singer of Fearful Endeavor in Restraint Land.

This is a photo of me from 2008, with my Beetle in Eastern Kentucky, and some questionably striped hair.


Taste of Ginger

October 8, 2008

There's No "I" in Band

The Band is not going to exist. We had our first meeting last night. Garson is the new guitarist, and Garson is the reason why Roger (the very talented drummer/pothead from my old band) was so excited to call and invite me to participate in this band. And Garson is a total douchenozzle. A cocky tool. One of those people who offends you within ten minutes of knowing him. 

Here is how it happened. 

I walked in and listened to them play a song. The song was rageful, tight, and sounded good. But there was no place for my voice in this song; not at all. I figured that since I'd been invited to be the lead singer of the new project, that I was a viable member who had a hand in writing the songs. But when I offered a suggestion, I was frowned upon. Garson automatically assumed that I didn't know what I was talking about. I called for an ironic, sweet-sounding slowdown for about 8 bars in the middle of the song before it raged back up again for the end. He said, "I don't want anything that sounds like a ballad." I was not at all talking about a fucking ballad. I was talking contrast. Multiple textures. He obviously mistook me for an inexperienced young balladeer of some sort.

So I went outside with them while they smoked and talked. Garson had the audacity to look at me and say, "So here's what I want in a vocalist." No, I'm not kidding. He continued, "I want something different than I've ever heard in a female singer." Apparently, he owns this band and I am to please him. Apparently, this egocentric bitch did not know me.

"Have you ever even heard [Roger's and my old band]?" I posed.

"Yeah...uh...Roger played me a little bit--"

"Well, what are you talking about you want a singer who sounds different from anything you've ever heard? If you've heard me sing, you know that I sing blues. I sing rock. I scream. I rap. I do that old school Gwen Stefani sound. I can do jazz. What else do you want?" Obviously this fucker had not heard anything I've done and thought I was as pliable as his old bandmates, and with little to offer. 

He then gave me a cd of his old band and said, "This is what we're going to sound like." 

When we went back inside to make more music (theoretically), I thought it would be a group effort, you know, and that I was needed (after all, they called me). But I sat there, unaddressed, unsolicited, bored-as-hell, like a pretty piece of furniture, until Garson finally left. 

This morning I got a voicemail from Roger that said he had been thinking about the way things went and that, yes, maybe just he and I should work on a project. And Chris could play bass and I could do piano and sing, and write my own lyrics, of course. This is a better idea, but I might wait until I move to L.A. and try again there.


It's 2019 Me again, Reader. (And Reader, if you happen to be Garson, I apologize.)

2008 Me was much rougher around the edges in that she made a meal of herself and served it to everyone, not aware that not everyone can stomach a plateful of Ginger. It's a bit sweet, a lot of spicy, and certainly there are benefits, but to get them, you might have to suffer a little.

Annoying as she was, 2008 me was unrelentingly idealistic. Isn't that what youth is about--- the belief that if you are bold enough, the rules may not need to apply to you? Because when you are young and have nobody to look after but your half-developed self, everyone needs to know you are the most charismatic singer on planet Earth, and if it doesn't work out in Kentucky, then of course it'll work out in L.A.!

I'm really hard on this version of me. I get angry at her for being so blind at 24, thinking that she should have had more awareness of her surroundings, more intention behind her actions. But I had no grasp on cause and effect. I was of the "throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks" school of thought, having been indirectly taught by religion and culture that my destiny was predetermined. I put my hands on the figurative Ouiji board, asked it a question, and followed its sometimes nonsensical guidance. It would take another five years and an entire life explosion (read my book for the story) to realize that it was I who was moving the Ouiji board all along. It was my tiny decisions that built my destiny, my words and intentions that built my character and influenced those decisions.

After I finished my M.A., with no plan, and with my guy allowing my whims to drive the two of us, I finally moved to Los Angeles in 2009. Did I pursue music? Not really. I recorded a few songs with one producer and another: songs I'm proud of, but I never knew what to do next. Did I pursue acting? Not really. I acted anytime I got the chance, but it was years before I would even refer to myself as an actor, because I thought it was pretentious. (What did I think? That I was so amazing that when I said, "I'm not an actor," some bigwig would sidle over and say, "Of course you are! I saw you in that AFI music video and, girl, you've got chops! How'd you like to star in a picture I'm producing?") I worked gigs, same as always, I wrote blogs, I continued to see the world as a big buffet, trying a little of everything, and not quite ever getting nourished.

If there's one thing I want to make sure to teach Taika and Aya, it's how to recognize their power and harness it early. Instead of getting all angry that nobody has understood their greatness, I want them to just do the thing they were put on this earth to do, understanding that they don't have to wait for permission, or for approval, or for a decree from Moses with a stone tablet. The Garsons of the world will be who they are, and if you're living your truth, you can just let them be.

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