Friday, May 30, 2014

Featured Submissions: This Is My Quest, To Follow That Star By Roz Warren

The Mature Women's Guide to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is delighted to feature selected submissions. This week, an essay from author Roz Warren.

Rosalind Warren and Jonathan Coulton

This Is My Quest, To Follow That Star

Some people love adventure travel. Others seek luxury and comfort. There are globetrotters who head off to a new destination each time, and folks who always return to one much-loved place.  

My nephew Isaac travels to wherever his favorite soccer team is playing, which has brought him to the unlikely vacation venues of Manchester, Stuttgart and Malmo (Sweden.) 
My travel planning is all about Jonathan Coulton.

JoCo is a singer songwriter much loved by a devoted fan base of mostly twenty-something computer nerds. Although you’ve probably never heard of him, on the internet he’s a superstar. 

Coulton makes a very good living recording and performing songs about social anxiety, dysfunctional relationships, zombies and mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. Imagine if Charles Addams and John Cheever fell in love and had a kid who wrote great pop tunes with odd lyrics. And kind of resembled a monkey, but in a good way. That’s Jonathan Coulton. 

I heard my first Coulton tune on NPR (of course) five years ago. It was “Shop Vac,“ a great little rocker about suburban angst.  Although I’m a middle-aged librarian and not a twenty-something code monkey, I fell in love with it. I downloaded more Coulton songs and loved them too. When he next played Philadelphia, my home town, I went to my first Coulton show. It was, as the kids say, awesome. I didn’t want to wait for him to return to Philly to see another, so when he performed in New York City, a month later, I went.  It, too, was awesome.    

In concert, Coulton performs his cyber-hits and kibitzes easily with his audience, responding to their smartass nerd wit with his own smartass nerd wit. The crowd he draws is as odd and compelling as his songs: most would look right at home in a Diane Arbus photo. They know all the words. They sing along. They dress like zombies. A Coulton show is where you fit in if you don’t fit in. I felt right at home.  

Everyone should have a goal. I decided to try to see Jonathan Coulton in concert one hundred times. (I’m not saying that the goal has to be sensible or age-appropriate.) Lucky for me, Mark, the man in my life, is also a fan and was happy to accompany me.   

If you can’t devote yourself to chasing a crazy dream in middle-age, what’s the point? I’m happily divorced. My son is grown and out of the house. At 57, I’ve got enough free time and disposable income so if I want to hop on Amtrak, or even a plane, to get to a show I know I’m going to love, why on earth shouldn’t I?           

I was inspired, in part, by the Deadheads of my youth,  fans so crazy about the music of the Grateful Dead that they quit their jobs to follow the band from gig to gig. I would never quit the library job I love. But my decision to get to as many Coulton shows as I could has been life-changing.   

I hadn’t been to Boston in years, but when Coulton scheduled a gig at a club on Commonwealth Avenue, I took the opportunity to spend the weekend with Boston friends and treat my nephew, who was attending Tufts, to his first Coulton show. We had a blast. When Coulton played Atlanta, I finally enjoyed a long-postponed visit with my dear friend Anne and her family. Ever since, whenever Colton comes to Atlanta,  I’ve been there, with Anne, her husband and their two daughters, all of whom now know the lyrics to “Skullcrusher Mountain” as well as I do.     

Coulton-inspired travel has led me and Mark to enjoy weekend getaways in places new to us, like Annapolis, Alexandria, Brooklyn and New Haven.  Not to mention an unforgettable evening music cruise around Manhattan during a severe thunder storm. Passing the Statue of Liberty, the sky streaked with lightening, with Mark at my side, listening to my favorite music, was one of the best moments of my life.  “If this boat gets struck by lightening and sinks,“ I joked to Mark, “my friends can all say that I died doing what I loved.“ 

I’ve read that Madonna has a fan who has never missed a show. And   there’s a dude who has seen Metallica over 400 times! (Once would be plenty for me.) Compared with these folks, I’m small potatoes.  Still, over the past five years,  I’ve managed to attend 31 Coulton shows. If there’s ever a Guinness Book of World Records entry for the most Jonathan Coulton shows attended by a person who is not actually Jonathan Coulton, you’ll see my photo there.  

“Don’t you get tired of the same thing over and over?“ people ask. 

If you love a CD, you don‘t play it just a few times, right? You play it constantly. And you know it’s never going to change. But each live show is different. You never know exactly what you’ll get. Some nights are magical. Others are just good fun. But I’ve never been to a bad one and, when I’m there, I never want to be anywhere else.   

I’m not suggesting that YOU  drop everything and start following Jonathan Coulton around.  But maybe you’ve got your own dream to chase. Don’t be afraid to follow that dream. It‘ll make your life a little less predictable and a lot more fun.    

What does Jonathan Coulton think of all this? At the post-show meet-and-greet, Mark and I always take a photo with Coulton to mark the occasion.  After we’d turned up five times in five cities, we let him in on what we were up to. Now when he spots us waiting in line,  he’ll smile and ask us,  “Which number is this?”

“He’s probably scared to death of you,” a friend joked. “You’re just a couple of creepy stalkers.“  I don’t think so. Mark and I don’t look like dangerous killer weirdoes. We look like what we are: a middle-ages librarian and a retired bookseller.  Jonathan Coulton isn’t afraid of us. He seems amused and charmed and only slightly puzzled by our devotion. We’re assured him that as long as he keeps performing, we’ll keep traveling to see him. It’s not as if he expects to see us at every gig, but he’s no longer surprised when we do turn up.      

Although I am looking forward to seeing his face when he spots us at his London show this fall.         

(This is my Quest  first appeared on

About the Author:
Roz Warren writes for  the New York Times, the Funny Times, the Huffington Post,  the Christian Science Monitor and Womens Voices For Change, among others.  She recently appeared on the “Today Show.” Roz is also the editor of 20 women’s humor books, including “Men Are From Detroit: Women Are From Paris” and “Women‘s Glib.”   You can read more of her work, follow her on Twitter at @WriterRozWarren and connect with her on Facebook at  


  1. This is AWESOME! I love hearing about people following dreams!!! Here's to the next 69!

  2. This is so cool. My husband and I wanted to see every state, we only have Alaska and Hawaii left. Have fun in London!

  3. What a fantastic post! To travel and follow your dream is great. Have a wonderful time in London