Saturday, April 28, 2007

One person's pearls are another person's dirty rocks

" 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'
- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
-John Keats

The other day I read an article by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post. It is called "Pearls Before Breakfast," and I want you to take the time and go read it, because we should have a discussion about it. There's a video you can watch too, which I highly recommend. Now -- once you read it, come back here and we'll talk.

Okay? Done? Very good. It is an interesting read, isn't it? And for those of you who I know didn't go over and read it, the gist of it is that Gene Weingarten decided to do a little sociology experiment. He wondered if you took the greatest musician on the planet and stuck him or her in the middle of a subway station, would people stop and pay heed.

He wondered, are we all so busy that we cannot see something amazing and beautiful, because we've lost that sense of amazement in truth and in beauty.

So he enlisted Joshua Bell to join him in the task, and set up shop in a Washington DC metro station.

Who is Joshua Bell? If you are like me and have no idea who he is, well, he is the equivalent of The Rolling Stones in classical music. He is a rock star of the symphony. His concerts sell out all over the globe. People into classical music drop their teeth when they hear him play. On top of that, he is drop dead gorgeous, young, and this gives him a dimension that few other classical musicians have. I immediately think grizzled old white haired conductor... but then Keith Lockhart of the Boston Symphony throws that image right under the bus. Joshua Bell is the Keith Lockhart of the violin.

Before this article landed in front of my eyes, I had no idea who he was. I'm not into classical music. But listening to him on his webpage yeah, he sounds good. Better than good, he sounds great. I don't know that I'd pay 400 dollars to see him at Avery Fisher Hall in Manhattan, but I think I might stop and stare if I heard that kind of music in a subway station. Played by one nice slice of hottie pie.

The writer, Bell, and Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, all thought that a huge crowd would gather to watch Bell play. They were afraid of the stir he would create. Turns out, they were sorely disappointed and shocked. A thousand people passed him, and about a dozen slowed down, while about six people stopped for a measurable length of time. This was found to be somewhat distressing to the writer of the article, and to the musician himself.

Bell is used to people weeping when they hear him play. He is accustomed to being lauded and cheered, applause at the completion of a song. He was largely ignored in this setting, and found it to be rather shocking and disconcerting.

For the people who did stop, each had interesting reasons. One had about three minutes to spare before he'd be late for work, consulted his watch and stayed for just the time he had. Another was getting his shoes shined and was held captive almost, and enjoyed the sounds but would have probably felt the same way if any other decent and talented musician was playing. A woman stopped because she recognized Bell and had seen him perform earlier this year and almost had a heart attack when she realized who she was listening to. She was shocked at the fact no one stopped, and discovered at that moment what the term pearls before swine really means.

For those who didn't stop, they were interviewed later. Many of them were either late for work, or were in a rush to get to a meeting on time. One woman positioned herself between her toddler and the music, because the boy desperately wanted to stop and listen to the musician play but she was pressed for time. The child had the sense of wonder and desire to hear, and in his own mind was not held by schedule or lateness or times or deadlines. He probably would have sat all day to listen to this man, probably would have danced. His mother probably works incredibly hard to distill that feeling in him, teach him of the finer things, but herself has become enslaved to schedules, meetings, deadlines and punching of the clock.

Many people were tuned into their own little music spaces, iPods and mp3 players, cell phones and the like. They had created their own playlists and didn't care to stop and listen to something that they weren't interested in at all. The writer interviews a man who had his mp3 player cranked up to a song by The Cure, which in and of itself is a beautiful piece. We've all picked out and have chosen our soundtracks to our lives, and any daily noise, interference or different sounds no longer are welcome into our ears, as long as we have our pre-programmed choices.

The fact that Joshua Bell is no doubt a talented man begs the question to me -- how many people even care about classical music in the first place? On the whole, it isn't a well liked, appreciated, enjoyed form of entertainment.

Personally, I clearly believe I would have stopped because the video shows he puts on a hell of a performance, but I don't care for classical. I really do not like the violin unless it is a "fiddle..." if you know what I mean. I would have stopped to hear, but I would have stayed to listen if it were Bluegrass... because that's just where I am as a listener. Classical does nothing for me.

One person's pearls are another person's nothing.

Bell plays a Ferrari of an instrument -- 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius -- worth over 3 million dollars. But to me... would I even know the difference between that and the fiddle Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek plays?

Again, one person's pearls...

Something else that struck me hard about the article was how many of the people interviewed worked for the federal government. Postal Service employees, federal this, government that... they all were bureaucrats to the core.

If he played in Manhattan in the subway near Times Square, where there were more tourists and 'regular' businessy kinds of people, would the result have been different? If he played in the subway at Downtown Crossing in Boston, near where the shoppers go and the Emerson students, and the people going into Chinatown... would there have been a crowd?

If they did this in April instead of a cold, crappy, blah day in January, would people's hearts be more open and willing to hear?

I think that the individuals who walked past were all very different than the person I think I am. But is that true? If I were commuting into the city, and the silver line was late, and I was screwed trying to get over to my office building and bemoaning the fact that it was freezing out and in theory I could walk faster than deal with public transportation.... would he reach me? Similarly, if I were on vacation in the city, taking the subway around to get from interesting point A to interesting point B with no time constraints until it came to dinner and where I'd like to go to eat, would this really give me pause to stop and enjoy and breathe it all in?

Finally, for me -- if instead of Joshua Bell playing his Strad, they stuck someone from American Idol down there with a pre-recorded karaoke track, I think more people would have stopped. Hell, if they stuck that no talent assed clown Sanjaya down there ... a crowd would no doubt gather, linger, and ... enjoy?

Say it ain't so!

People would be late to work and they'd say, "I'm late because that Sanjaya kid was in the subway singing like a wet cat. You wouldn't have believed it."

No one, I bet, would have taken a bullet for being late to stop and listen to Joshua Bell and go back to the office to say "I heard the most amazing musician in the subway this morning, I don't know who he is but ... wow."

And this is what makes me cry.

I know the rest of our nation seems to have gone there, and lost beauty and truth in ways that boggle my mind. I would like to think I'm different, above and beyond that. But I'm afraid, honestly, of being the latter. I'm afraid of life consuming everything that I could possibly witness as being beautiful and a treasure, and replacing it with the tedium of bureaucracy. And this frightens me to the core.


When Doug and I were in New York last October, we were waiting for a subway.

We walked past a group of musicians playing some sort of West African tribal mix of aboriginal music and jazz and rap. They were dressed in a peculiar mix of traditional clothing and hip-hop style. They were screaming into the microphones, and the drums were loud and fast.

Normally, I'm game for any kind of music. I'll stop, look, pay attention for a little bit. If I don't care for it, I'll usher myself along. If I like it a lot, I'll stick around. But this, oh my God. This was horrendous. Loud, over amplified, screeching, ridiculous. And it was inescapable. We were held hostage by this auditory massacre. I wanted to over to them with twenty dollars and say, "Look, I'll pay you to knock it off for the next 15 minutes. Please, for the love of all that is good and pure, stop playing."

They were killing me. Not softly, but hard and fast and horribly. I was incredibly disturbed by their display. The trains were horribly delayed and we were just stuck there. Trapped like rats, unable to go anywhere. It is an experience I won't soon forget.

I wish it had been Joshua Bell. But we've established, one person's pearls...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Guitar

Geoff broke three of his six guitar strings, forcing me to need to stop in at Guitar Center on the way home this evening.

I felt a little weird in my dockers and my pink blouse, with my little purse. I didn't feel all rock and roll, the way I did all weekend long as I celebrated the joy that is Guster and my Rock And Roll Lifestyle (a great song by Cake, if you aren't familiar).

When I walked in the door, I was immediately approached by a very tall red-headed young man who smiled and asked if I needed help.

I felt for a second as if he really wanted to say, with utter disdain, "Hey Lady... you're in the wrong store. The puppy store is across the way. And Wal-Mart is behind us."

But he spoke with absolutely no disdain or disgust. He was smiley and helpful, and leaned in politely and made eye contact.

It frightened me. This isn't what I expected.

"Um, yes. I need some guitar strings. My son broke three of his so I guess a full set of six is good. I'll take the Ernie Balls there in the blue packet (four bucks and change, thank you very much) and a couple of picks too while we're at it."

He looked pleased. Oh joy, the woman is in the right store and knows what she needs. The only thing I did wrong was ...

"Electric or acoustic?"

"Oh! Acoustic, thanks." I guess it makes a humongous difference, although the packet I got is clearly labeled nickel strings for acoustic or electric... but whatever.

I looked around the store and all kinds of rock star wannabe guys were there, some with girlfriends in tow. Some guys dressed similar to me in their dockers and work dress shirts were trying out guitars and being helped in a similarly fine fashion by the staff there. No "you're not pierced and inked so we will ignore you!" attitudes.

It was a very pleasant experience.

I got home and put the strings on the guitar and immediately broke one of them myself. Good lord. It wasn't even like tight or anything. Just ... sproing! broken. So I have to go back. I managed to tune the guitar via a webpage mp3 file, and even though he only has five strings, it sounds a lot better than it did just a few hours ago.

Now he wants a guitar strap. Jeeesh. I'm going to become some sort of Guitar Center regular at this rate.

Anyway -- that's about it for me. Good feed rss thing, good guitar experience. Good night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rise and Shine

I wake up every day with good intentions. I am usually out of bed at 6:15 or 6:30. Actually, now that the windows are open, I'm awake when the first big stupid truck bounces down the street at about 5:45. I should be riding the exercise bike. Wait. I will. Stay here, I'll be right back. I'm going to go ride that bike. Instead of saying that I should.

Right, then. I'm done. 1/2 hour, 214 calories, 5.3 miles. Showered. Ready for the day. Geoff hasn't even left for the bus yet. We're doing good.

I am a horrible time manager. I know what I need to do, and figure I have X amount of time to do it in, and then cram everything in close to the wire. Most mornings, I do not ride the bike. I manage to barely wake up, surf some blogs, drink a little coffee and then look down and yell "Holy CRAP! Where did that hour go???" And then I rush to make sure Geoff's ready for school (he ususally is, he takes really good care of himself) and then I jump in the shower and rush around and watch him go out to the bus and ...

End up exhausted by 9.

I want to wake up and sieze the day. I want to wake up, get out of bed and greet the grind with a "bring it on" attitude. I want to play ball with the dogs for 15 minutes with a cup of coffee in my hand and a wave to the neighbor as she leaves for work.

What I don't want is to realize that I burned hours by expending no effort. I don't want to dribble down the chin of my existance my life's flow of time.

Is it because Spring finally showed up here in Boston? I think so. Watch out life, I'm renewed. I am your Persephone blogger... rising from Hades with my seeds in hand, ready to sow energy and happiness all around.


Anyway -- after the Gusterrific weekend, all I can think about is how fun they were to see, how many cool things I got to experience, how happy their music makes me even though it makes my husband roll his eyes. I can't stop thinking about how much fun it was to dance with my son and my daughter and my friends. I think I burned 700 calories both nights just jumping up and down to "Come Downstairs and Say Hello." I think that my legs hate me because they are still really sore.

When I look around the concert hall and everyone is closer to my daughter's age, and they are cute and collegiate and happy and ... something washes over me. What am I thinking. I am too old for this scene. Who am I kidding.

But then I see people 10 or 15 years my senior cutting a rug at the show and I know they're not even Ryan's parents... they're just fans. Like me. Maybe one of them was a Tufts professor. Maybe they were neighbors back in Somerville. Maybe they heard "Amsterdam" on the radio five years ago and said "Hey, this is cool, I'll look into these guys" and they got hooked.

Who knows. They're older than I am, and they are loving the Gus. So I'm re-energized and joyful. I am happy.

I have this smile on my face right now that makes me think if someone saw me they'd think "She drank the Kool-Aid." And you know what? I sure did. And I am happy for it.


farmer geoff is crazyRight, ho. I have other stuff to talk about, not just Guster.

Doug decided that we need to reclaim the yard from the dogs in the name of grass. Our yard is the better part of an acre, most of it fenced in for the dogs. The three of them ran like maniacs all winter long, and they tore ass up all over the place. The grass that was growing here wasn't too lovely in the first place, but put three dogs, one boy and a lot of running around on top of it and the place is a dirt pit now.

The bulk of our fenced in area used to be a clay tennis court. You can actually see where the court used to be. The grass didn't grow in nicely there, the way it does all over the eastern end of the yard, so he knew that this season he'd be out there trying to encourage it as well as he could. We put no effort in last year, just trying to watch and see what took care of itself and how things grew. This spring, we know where needs help and how we want to approach gardening and lawn care.

Geoff and I planted seeds in egg cartons to grow up his marigolds and our morning glories. Last year, I planted four morning glory plants that I bought at the nursery. This year, Geoff planted about 40 seeds of morning glory plants. I may be giving some away. I didn't want to plant two packages. But. Jeesh. Here we go.

Morning glories are some of my favorites. Long time readers know that I enjoy going out to the yard after work and helping the tendrils along fences and up posts. I loved how our fence looked last year with just the four plants and bemoaned the fact that they didn't cover the entire fence... this year they will.

I also will be putting them all along the wire fence on the backyard. I learned last year NOT to plant inside the fence because Brodie dug up the flowers. So this year, I will plant outside the fence and hopefully have better luck.


Saturday I went and picked out what I'm wearing to my sister's wedding. She picked the dress company and we bridesmaids picked the color out of the few that she narrowed it down to... and Jess and I went to get measured and pick out our dresses. Jess is wearing a floor-length dress and I'm wearing a tea length. I can't wear floor length, I'll trip over it. Heh. That'd be fun. I'd be the new flying fattie in the family (long story that I won't regale you with right now...)

The dresses will be pretty, and I'm starting to get excited for this. I made the bulk of the invitations and have addressed the bulk of the envelopes. I have to get some glue and some other thingies to finish it all up with. And then get them in the mail by May 1. That's my deadline. Like I said earlier in this entry, I'm a really bad time manager, so I'm proud of myself for getting this far on April 24th.

And on that note, the clock has spun around and brought us to me rushing around to get out the door. More later.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Guster of a Weekend

"What Ryan Miller is to Guster, David Ortiz is to the Red Sox."

Good gravy, what a weekend. Guster blew into town and brought all the gorgeous spring weather with them. And made my head explode not from allergies, but from awesome rockness that could not be beat.

gusterThe adventures began on Friday when I went to the airport to pick up two people who flew to Boston to see Guster in their native element.

These folks flew all the way from Washington and Oregon. That, my friends, that is hardcore. You think I'm crazy. I'm pedestrian compared to the hardcoreness of Sarah and Bev. I "know" them from a discussion board, and from flickr, and over the past few months felt comfortable enough that I'd even welcome them into my house if they needed a place to stay. But they opted for a hotel in the city, and I delivered them there and we made plans to meet up before the show to chat and eat.

The Guster show that night was tremendous. Another gusterboard member, Crystal, drove up from NJ and sat with us. We didn't put our backends in our seats the whole night, even though we were up in the mezzanine.

They opened the show with a really cool "ESPN SportsCenter" breaking news exclusive film, which was by far one of the funniest things ever. It had the crowd reeling. I give kudos to ESPN for participating in the madness and helping to make this video possible.

My favorite part is Brian climbing through the Green Monster. That slayed me. Watch and enjoy.


I took a million photos but few came out because of the distance to the stage. I wasn't there to take pictures... I was there to enjoy the boys. Jess' friend Lizzy enjoyed herself even though it wasn't her favorite band "30 seconds to Mars," and was disappointed that they didn't play FaFa. Oh well. We promised her phone love for Saturday if they played it (which they did).

They closed the show with "Jesus on the Radio," sung at the edge of the stage with no amplification at all. Just their guitars, their voices, and Brian on the tambourine. Folks in the audience were asked to be dead quiet so they could get through it, and I think that even way out in the last row of the hall the song could be heard. And the audience was really quiet and respectful and they got through all the way to the end before the crowd went nuts. There were a few jackasses who yelled out during the song, but those were so few and far between that I was impressed with the audience restraint and their willingness to not sing along, not clap, and not make any noise. It's hard to get 2500 people to be that still for that long... even though it is a very short song.

I met a few other people from the board like Gustergerm, our esteemed moderator, and my girls Mathmarie and CMM who I always get to see whenever BNL or Guster are around. All told we had a great night, and I was stoked when I got home and could not fall asleep for anything.

Saturday during the day Jess and I went and checked out bridesmaid dresses for the wedding of the century coming up in September. More on that experience at another time.

She, Geoff and I met up with Suzanne, Kayla and Courtney and we headed into the city to meet up with Bev and Sarah, and a few people from the discussion board. There was Cynthiadogmom (who says she's changing her name to Cowbell girl since she lost her dog a few months back) and Crystal and her boyfriend Dom, and a girl named Allison (Its8fas on the discussion board), and Maryanna and the lovely Kristy Rose again. A great meal and good time was had by all. I had made a reservation for 12 and boy am I glad we had more than enough people show up, because I would have felt like a tool hogging up a huge table in a really busy theatre district restaurant...

We didn't bother with the opener on Friday night (Mason Jennings) and I almost wish we didn't bother with the Saturday opener, but they were praised and well recommended by a few people so I wanted to give them a chance. They're called The Format, and I really just didn't like them. Their sound was too loud and distorted, and even if the sound had been good, I don't know that I'd care for them. I liked the first song they did, but after that it was ... meh.

Guster took the stage and rebroadcast the ESPN again blew the roof off the joint. There were some incredible surprises, including the title track to their very first CD (Parachute). They don't play a lot of their older stuff. I've read in interviews that they feel the songs sound sophomoric and dated... but there is NOTHING at all like their layered harmonies when Adam and Ryan sing together. More often now, it's all Ryan and little harmonizing. Which breaks my heart. When I hear things like Parachute or Eden, I just love it. They sound soooooo good together. So my heart leapt when I heard the opening chords, and I almost cried.

Top all that off, Ryan announces that they have a special guest to "take an encore" for the band because they've gotta go.

Bob Saget.

Yes. THE Bob Saget, known by some as the America's Favorite Dad Danny Tanner on "Full House," and the insufferable host of "America's Funniest Home Videos"; known to others as one filthy, nasty, dirty stand up comic who is not at all like that famous dad role, unless Danny Tanner starts molesting the neighbor's kids.

I cannot imagine what people must think if they go to his stand up shows EXPECTING the nice, All-American super dad Bob Saget, and they get the raunchy, dirty Bob. How must they react? It has to be funny to witness.

The crowd thought at first that it was a huge joke, as Ryan encouraged them to chant "Sa-Get! Sa-Get!" over and over. Josh and Scooter came out with this huge Bob Saget banner and pom-poms, and the audience was dying laughing. I thought Brian was going to bust through the banner and then sing for us (oh, how I've longed to hear the warbly tones of the drummer singing a cover version of a Pearl Jam or Prince song...) but when I realized he was still sitting behind the drum kit, I knew something else had to be going on.

Sure enough. Bam. Bob Saget comes jumping through the banner. And the crowd goes wild. He didn't sing, or perform or anything. He high-fived a bunch of people in the front row and then shook hands with the band and left. Photos and discussion to be found here. I don't want to hot-link directly to the Bob Saget pictures, and they don't have a way on the board to break out just the one entry with the Saget photos, so you have to go to page 2 of the thread ato enjoy.

At the end, they dedicated "Happier" to their "good friend, Bob Saget," and it was just a drop dead riot.

Sarah grabbed me at the end of the show and said she'd won a meet & greet raffle, so she'd be going back stage to do so. I couldn't believe her freaking luck. She flies all the way here from the West Coast and wins the meet and greet. I had purchased a print of the tour poster for the show (it is a gorgeous take off of the old Guiness Stout ads with the toucan balancing the glass of stout on his beak, and instead of "Guinness is good for you" it says "Guster is good for you") and it was in my car for safe keeping until after the show, when I was going to stalk the boys. I couldn't go grab it, because she had to go -- but I did have my copy of Improper Bostonian with the "Guster Grows Up" cover story, with them dressed up in costumes in my backpack (thank you Amy for giving that to me). I handed it to Sarah and asked if she wouldn't mind getting it signed. And she did it for me. I so wish I'd had the poster! But this'll do.

The poster is gorgeous and I'm going to get it matted and framed -- and hope to someday get it signed at a show or via stalking the boys ... someday. In the meantime. I'm just so tickled that she scored and got to meet with them.

We stuck around until about 11:15 and Geoff was just beat and whiney. I could have stood there all night, but it was time to be a parent and take care of the kiddies and go. Sarah came out not too long after us (we were just getting on Storrow when she rang me) and we decided that today she and Bev will ride up the train here to come see the north shore and go to three states in 10 minutes. That's the beauty of Northeast Massachusetts. You can cross into NH and be in Maine in a matter of moments. then I'll cruise them back down the coast to check out the ocean and whatnot. Waiting to hear from them now.

Alright. There's non-guster content to discuss, but I'll save that for later. All told -- this was the funnest weekend. And I'm still smiling.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone...

A lot of us are discussing our feelings and thoughts surrounding the Virginia Tech murders that took place yesterday. I have a slightly different view of what happened in Virginia. I actually feel incredibly heartbroken for the family of the shooter and even the shooter himself. That does not take away at all from the families who lost students and faculty and staff unexpectedly. But a deep part of me really feels pain for this loner who signed the log of his class attendance sheet with a question mark instead of his name.

I don't know that I view him as the monster psycho that he is being made out to be. I feel very deeply for him. For some reason, whatever his plight, I feel moved by where he ended up and found himself. A resident alien who came here as a child, probably encouraged by parents to succeed! Be the best! Do your best! Do not fail!

All the while, he most likely struggled with some severe mental illnesses that people tried to address, tried to fix with therapy and medication.

Our society has torn down the walls of institutions, which in some ways sure is great. People who used to be segregated and kept out of society by hospitalization have a great deal to offer those of us who are "neurotypical" or "okay."

But sometimes... there are cases, where people should be away from society, not in the middle of a college campus or a suburban high school trying to fit in, desperately. Or maybe he wasn't. Who knows.

Regardless, this individual sounds like he needed far more help than a pill or outpatient therapy can ever give. While he took the lives of many who most likely did nothing to him, didn't deserve their fates, I don't know that he desereved his either.

I know I cannot read too much into it, I cannot apply what I think of my son and what he may turn out to be like when he is 23.

But all I can think about right now for this guy is what happened to him. How did he get there? Who was in his life? Were there active participants in his mental health? Were there bullies and teasers and people who tortured him? What makes a person get to this place?

In addition to my son, I now look at all the kids, all the boys and girls coming up with both of my kids, and I wonder what is going on in their lives, and wonder who they will become. or Only God knows in the end which ones of us are to crumble to darkness, and which are to rise to shine in power.

I feel deeply for this man's parents. Middle class dry-cleaners who probably wanted the best for their child. Like I want the best for mine. Like you want the best for yours if you are a parent. Like you want the best for kids around you if you are not a parent, because in 20 years, these are the people who hopefully will not be making headlines but will be making differences.

How must his parents feel? Do they blame themselves? Do they question decisions they made when he was 11? Medications? Treatment? Choices?

I don't know. All I know is that the news is filled with the extrordinary tales of what the murdered students were like, and sad tales of what the shooter was like.

And it breaks my heart for all involved.


My husband said something tonight that made me wish he kept his own blog, because I know I cannot do it justice in the retelling... We were watching the news this evening, and he said that he actually isn't surprised or troubled by this event the way everyone else is. He said that the fire at the Station Nightclub in Rhode Island a few years ago disturbed him more deeply.

I asked him to expound, and he said that it does not shock or overwhelm him when people go on these rampages. The way he was brought up, he expects that there is evil in the world. To steal from the chimp in chief, there really ARE "evil doers" and they show themselves when we least expect it. And this man, this is someone who succumbed to evil. No matter what was done to try and help him.

It doesn't shock Doug that someone went and bought a gun and shot a mess of people. If it wasn't a gun, he'd rampage with chemical bombs or explosives he learned to make off the internet, or a steak knife. His hand would be used to weild death, no matter the weapon. What is more shocking is in this day and age dozens of inspectors and authorities are able to turn a blind eye to a firetrap of a little nightclub where several dozen people were doomed to die trying to claw over one anothers bodies. That bureaucracy and payola and small town politics reign when laws or just plain damn common sense would have pointed to the building and said 'um, yeah. This place is going to burn if someone even THINKS of smoking a cigarette inside, not to mention a band shoots off pyro on stage."

That is more shocking to him. And in some ways, he sure is right.


In closing, because I'm conflicted and sad for everyone, I recall a very old song by Peter Gabriel called "Family Snapshot." The song examines an assassination from the viewpoint of the shooter, really getting into the mindset of the character in question. It is one of the most moving songs, and one of the reasons I love Peter Gabriel so much, because he is able to take a topic and view it from the non-conventional point. I almost used part of this song for my quote of the moment, instead of "Subdivisions" by Rush, but both songs lend so well to where my mind is right now and I needed to include both.

It is the only song I know that truly manages to sum up what must have been in the mind of someone who is aiming to kill another, someone who has made that decision, crossed that threshold. Like the shooter in Virginia... and this is how the song ends...

"I don't really hate you - I don't care what you do
We were made for each other, me and you.
I want to be somebody, you were like that too
If you don't get given you learn to take and I will take you."

Holding my breath, Release the catch, And I let the bullet fly...

All turned quiet-I have been here before
Lonely boy hiding behind the front door
Friends have all gone home
There's my toy gun on the floor
Come back Mum and Dad
You're growing apart
You know that I'm growing up sad
I need some attention.

I shoot into the light.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Bitches Ain't Shit." My take on Imus and Vonnegut

This entry may piss some of you off. But. Free speech and dialog are important and I do invite you to read and use the comments and talk it over. Don Imus is an old addled fart who thinks he is funny and entertaining. And for 30 years, he's been paid by people who think he's funny and entertaining... Wanda Sykes said it best the other night when she was on one of the late night shows. She was shocked, because she thought he'd been dead nine years already. So she was shocked not at what he said, but that he still existed.

Now, that's funny.

Imus spoke in a "comedic" way when he called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy headed hoes." I do believe he was under the impression that he was "hip" and "street." He looked at the Rutgers girls and thought they looked ... hardened, instead of like a bunch of scholar-athletes.

He chose unwisely. He really should have said that they look like a bunch of tough thugs... which is what he meant, I do believe. Thing is, he didn't. He talked like he was street. Unfortunately, his skin is the wrong color. And now he's done. He's screwed. And that's how it is.

But if Dave Chappelle wants to make fun of white people all day every day for 50 million bucks, he's lauded as a "genius" by everyone on the planet. And I can be offended but no one is going to listen to me because that genius is a genius and I'm just a fat white girl. Whatever.

I don't think the man should have lost his job. Not over this. Dude has said a lot worse in the past 30 plus years of his broadcasting career, but this one was an easy throw down for those looking for a reason to go after him.

I only wish that if free speech is going to be done away with for Imus, that the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson would go after BET and MTV and rappers who say things like my quote of the moment up there (do go read all the words because they are amazing). Because Imus calling the girls a phrase he heard uttered in a Spike Lee movie (uh, School Daze, hello!) Dr. Dre and Snoop have said a whole hell of a lot worse.

Free speech though, is free speech. If Dr. Dre wants to write the classic ode to smacking women around and ditching them after porking their asses, "Bitches Ain't Shit," well, he can. God bless him for it. And if Ben Folds wants to do a cover version of it on Piano, well by all means. And if Imus wants to shoot his mouth off about everyone, whatever.

Context is everything. And Imus' own webpage on the MSNBC website states it is a comedy show. Comedy. Entertainment. Context. Just like Dave Chappelle. Just like Chris Rock. Just like Howard Stern. He is not a news caster. His schtick for the past 30 years has been just what it was the other day when he uttered the three words of his undoing, and they weren't "I love you."

Free speech is free speech. And as objectionable as some people found "nappy headed hoes," it wasn't uttered in malice, it wasn't combined with a threat, it was just a stupid thing to say.

I don't want to go on and on and on about it. But I do find something slightly ironic and not in the Alanis Morrisette sense.

Kurt Vonnegut died today at age 84. I remember being about 13 and reading Slaughterhouse Five and not getting it. I remember devouring all of his books through high school, and going back to the slaughterhouse and then "getting it." I read Vonnegut, Heller, Bellow, and Bradbury like it was my religion for a while. And these crotchety old white and Jewish men taught me a lot about who we are, from many different angles.

I remember reading that Vonnegut was labeled "obscene," and his books were banned and burned across the country. [sidebar: Hello Farenheit 451 from Mr. Bradbury. Most of the links I found for F451 were Spark Notes or Cliff Notes versions of the book. But I have to point you to this article from Houston TX from Jan 2006 where a parent wants Farenheit 451 banned from the school district because it has objectionable language in it and offends people. End sidebar]. The ACLU stepped up to defend Vonnegut's right to free speech... and now he's remembered as one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century.

I am not saying Imus will or should be remembered as a great thinker and writer. Dude invented Moby Worm and it came and ate my High School one day in 1982. But he should be allowed to not have his career burned in the town square. To quote Vonnegut himself:

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."

Replace listener with "people" and novel with "radio jerk commentary" and I think you've got the situation clearly defined as I see it.


One last thing before I go. I'd really like the iPods of all the girls on the Rutgers Team.

I bet you some nominal amount of money that there are some songs on each of them that make "nappy headed hoes" look like Biblical passages of psalmic praise and love. I doubt they are listening to John Denver. And not because he's white. They're not listening to Charlie Pride either. Dimes to dollars it is 50 cent, Jeezy, Dre, Tupac, and other folks whose songwriting skills have a lot of "Niggaz" rhyming with "Triggaz."

And I apologize right now to the one person I know who reads this journal who is African America for using the Nword there. But I put it in quotes like "NWA" would have on their album cover. Hope you don't hate me for using it, and we'll rock out like mad at the Guster show.

That's it. I'm off to re-read some Vonnegut and think about free speech. And if you disagree with me, I encourage you to use the comments. Because if I disagree with you, I will lovingly address that and will always fight for your right to say, think, believe, and do what makes you happy and brings expression to your life.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Goodbye Easter Bunny, Goodbye Childhood

When I come home from work, I am usually greeted with choruses from both children. "Mom! Geoff spilled milk all over the kitchen and didn't clean it up and I had to!" "Mom! Jessica sat on me!" "Mom! Geoff keeps letting the dog lick him in the mouth and that is disgusting!" "Mom! Jessica sat on me AND poked me with pencils!" "Mom! MOM! MOM!!!"

Today it was different. 

Today I came home to absolute silence. 

Jess was working in her room and I could hear Geoff playing with the out of tune First Act guitar that Jess got for Christmas when she was 10. It only has 5 strings because, well, one of them broke and I don't know how to replace it. He still plays it, and sings, and writes songs... I suppose tuning it would be a good idea. 

After about 15 minutes, Geoff calls out to me and has a question. So I go into his room and see him. He doesn't look happy. Geoff very rarely makes eye contact, but he was looking right at me and was very earnest when he asked "Mom, if you hid a basket of candy in the house for me, would you say it was from you or that it was from the Easter Bunny?"

Oh God. No

"Why do you ask, honey?" questioned I. 

"Jessica told me that you're the Easter Bunny. I don't believe her." 

"Please wait here a second," replied I, and I went to beat the hell out of my daughter.

Long time readers of this journal know that in 2002 Jessie surprised me with thanking me for her basket. Five years later, I honestly thought by now Geoff would have figured it out. 

See, Geoff is 10. And he still believes in all of these things. Easter Bunny, Santa, Tooth Fairy... Jesus. Wait, I believe in the last one too, so before you get sarcastic on me, let it be known. I don't think Jesus is a myth, or like the Great Pumpkin.

I like that Geoff still believes these things, and right now, today, this afternoon after getting out of a really rushed time at work in order to get back here to face all the stuff I need to do to get us out the door for my aunt's funeral tomorrow, I didn't want to have to face him and try and explain that yes, I am indeed said Easter Bunny.

I ripped into her and asked what she was thinking

She said that he was bothering her all day about Easter Baskets and how he'd be found if we were at a hotel, and wouldn't leave her alone and she snapped. 

She just yelled at him, and told him. And he didn't believe her, and she said "Fine. Ask mom when she comes home!"

He sat in his room for hours and waited for me. I wanted to throttle her. I know Geoff can be annoying, but one does not need to blow up his childhood in one fell swoop. 

Returning to his bedroom, where he sat waiting for an answer, I filled him in. I told him that yes, I am The Easter Bunny. And I asked him if he could figure out who ELSE I was. 

"My mom?"

Okay, yes -- who else?
 
"A parent to more than one child?"

Obviously you're missing the connection, kid.

"If I play the role of Easter Bunny, who else do you think I play the role of? How about Santa and Tooth Fairy."

"That's not possible!" And he went nuts and off on a tirade about how it was literally impossible for me to be all those things, and for him to not know it. 

Funny how it's not possible for me to be Santa and The Easter Bunny, but it is possible for Santa to fly around the world in a magic sleigh and deliver toys to children on all the continents on the planet. 

Or for a rabbit to hop around and deliver baskets to children all over the globe. 

Or a little fairy to fly in at night and replace hidden teeth with some cold hard cash (how many times here in this journal did I confess that I forgot to do it or ALMOST forgot to do it...) 

These things make more sense to him than me being the person that gives him the presents, the chocolate or the quarter. 

All these years I fooled him by writing differently. That's what he based his belief on. He knows what my handwriting looks like, so I write in block letters or fancy script when I leave presents "from" the entities. 

I didn't realize tricking someone could be that easy. 

We talked for about 20 minutes about how parents everywhere do this, and that it is part of the role we play. We trick because we love. I asked him if he was mad at me, and he said he wasn't, but he STILL doesn't quite accept or believe that this is true.

I do not believe that I satisfied him in giving him my answers to his questions. I do not believe my explanations were clear as to why we do this. I really think that he is going to hold onto this for some time. 

I know that his learning disability where black is black, white is white, and there never is a "New Black" that comes around. 

Me being the Easter Bunny is the New Black, and it is something that he is going to have to accept. 

He is in his room right now singing a song that he wrote about the Easter Bunny. And I know he is not singing about me, but about that mythical being, that lop eared doofus that hides eggs, that ruse, that trick, that little part of his childhood which is now gone forever. 

He is dressed in all black, because black is the new black for him right now.

Anyway. I have to get to things ready to go. There's a lot to do, and I can't dwell on this right now. 

Bye Geoff's childhood. Been good knowing you. Here we go onto adolescence and all the crap that that implies.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The wish for siblings

When we go hiking, Geoff likes to talk. There are times when I would rather hike silently and just enjoy nature's sounds, but knowing that it could be different (ie: Rob & Schuyler) and that there will come a time in his life when he isn't going to tell me a single damn thing, I treasure these moments. It is often an opportunity for me to listen to him share his rather deep desires and thoughts. Sunday was one of those days.

We took the dogs on a long walk with a Geocache in the middle. On the way to the cache, Geoff told me the following (I wish I had a tape recorder, because my memory does not hold verbatim what he had to say, but more of an overview with details):

I'm pretty happy with my life. There are only a few things that I wish were different.

First, I wish I had a lot more money, or that our family had a lot more money. If we had more money you wouldn't have to work, and you could do stuff at school like the other kids' moms. Second, I wish that we lived a little further south, like maybe Delaware or Maryland or something. Third, I wish I had more pets. I mean, I like the pets I have. I've got three good dogs, a guinea pig, and my own gold fish, and then dad has his nice fish which are kind of my pets. But I wish I had some more. Like maybe another dog, and another guinea pig, a bird or two, and a lizard, and more fish because my fish is lonely.

And finally, I wish I had more siblings.

That last comment was new to me and took me by surprise.

I knew about his desire for us to be filthy rich so we could own an RV and I wouldn't have to work and we could go camping every weekend for more than Saturday and Sunday... like a five day weekend every weekend.

I knew he wanted to live south of New Jersey. He seems to think that the country opens up and it is easier to get west, south, and north from Maryland instead of having to take three or four extra hours just to get out of the Boston States to get going. He's right... we are a little remote up here in the far corner but it could be worse. We could live Down East.

He has been begging for more pets for months now. Especially a lizard and some birds. We'll see. I don't know how I feel about bringing more fauna into our house. He does a good job with his responsibilities, but I think we're close to the threshold of pet population here. The mouse experience and thoughts that went through my head at that time kind of convinced me that it was all for the better that the little guy passed away.

But more siblings? This is new. So I asked him why he would want more siblings. And I honestly think he's been stewing on this one for a long time, putting together his thoughts and reasons.

Sometimes he kind of comes off like Randy on "My Name Is Earl." If you watch the show, you know the reference.

Well, if I had more siblings, I'd have more nieces and nephews when I grow up. Jess is getting older, and she's my only sister. And I don't think that she'll ever get married. She hasn't even had a boyfriend yet and all her other friends have boyfriends or have a bunch of boyfriends. And even if she does get married, I don't know that she'll be able to give me the amount of nieces and nephews that I want. I want a lot of nieces and nephews. I want a lot of them so that my kids have a lot of cousins. So I think if I had at least two more siblings, then my kids would have a good chance at getting more cousins, and I'd have more nieces and nephews.

How do you respond to this? Seriously. I see his logic, but he doesn't see the reality of what it would mean to have more siblings. Especially at age 10 and almost a half. More siblings now means that he'll be getting married before they get out of elementary school. More siblings now means that I'll have less time to focus on his needs because I'll be caring for a baby.

It is almost like talking a little kid out of getting a puppy. "Oh honey, that baby will cry in the night and wake us all up and we'll all be miserable for months and months. Not to mention that it freaking HURTS to have a baby and I don't know if I want to do THAT again. And adopting a baby means you'll be 20 by the time it even shows UP here... and on your first point of us not being filthy rich... well. That kind of precludes us from being able to afford an adoption. Sorry honey. We can't get that baby you want..."

We talked extensively about the cons (my view) of bringing more siblings into the family. And he had a counterpoint, very clearly thought out and planned counterpoint, to every reason for "no" that I brought up. Except for the me having a baby and it hurting and that sucks and I don't want to do that at 41.

In the end, what I think it is, is that he's really lonely. Jessica doesn't play with him willingly. She's rather cruel and mean to him. And I just think that he's looking at his life and feeling rather by himself. More pets would make that hurt less, perhaps. But what would fix things up really good in his little heart of hearts would be a brother or a sister that he could love more than Jess loves him.

Do you know how much this breaks my heart?

That I take the time to provide for him all the things he needs, that I'm his advocate and advisor, that I adore him and lift him up every chance I get -- and the one thing that will make him happy is the one thing I'm not going to give him. Ever.


There is something else that goes hand in hand with more siblings, and this is the reason for this entry. Funny how life ties so many things together.

Last week, my Aunt Mary died. She was my dad's sister, the youngest of a pantload of kids. Huge Irish Catholic Family... textbook almost. Margie, Bart, Jimmy, Buddy, Herbie, Esther and Mary.

That's a lot of siblings... and from Geoff's viewpoint, that means a lot of cousins and nieces and nephews.

It didn't work out that way after several years. The typical dysfunctions of Irish family infighting, fueled by my mom so hating everyone in his family, my grandmother dying when I was around Geoff's age, aunts and uncles divorcing, led to all of us falling way apart.

My aunt Esther moved in next door to my parents when I was in college, so it was nice to see her once in a while and that proximity reopened familial connections... especially for my sister. But I was already gone. Away. College. Never to return.

When Doug and I got married, my Aunt Mary was the only one that I invited to the wedding. I didn't invite Jimmy, Herbie (no one knew where he was), Esther, Margie, or Buddy. I didn't invite cousins. It was all my mother's side of the family, which is okay when you're paying based on headcount but it also sucks because there was a missing contingent that we would have, should have, had there.

I'm glad Mary was there though. And I have a picture to prove it.

I saw her once since the wedding. Basically, in the past 16 years her life trainwrecked and there was a lot of chaos and sadness. She and her boyfriend moved to Florida, mostly to get her out of our hometown and away from drugs and alcohol. But the damage was done.

Mary died last Monday. Not unexpectedly, but certainly as the "baby" of the clan I am sure the weight of outlasting is heavy on all her siblings' hearts.


Siblings...

This brings me back around to Geoff's desire.

In the past 15 years, my dad has lost three of his. One by one. Jimmy died when Jess was about 4 months old. Buddy died last year. Now, my dad has lost his baby sister. Each one takes a slice of his heart with him. And while I am personally surprised he's lasted this long, I realize the burden that one carries when one is "lucky" enough to outlive one's siblings.

Something I didn't impress upon Geoff when bringing up arguments against more siblings was -- the more there are, the more likely you will be burying them, one by one. Until only one of you is left. And I don't know if that is something that you want to consider, but I know for my dad -- it sucks.

Geoff won't understand that at age 10. Looking forward to age 66 when he is losing those around him one by one, this child who does not deal with change well, this child who has a hard time coping with anxiety when we get a new car and trade in the old one, this may not be something he'll want to deal with as an adult.

Perhaps only one sibling is better. Going through this over and over, and still having three more of them to look forward to losing (unless he goes before them) has to wear at one's heart. Only going through it once may be better.

But to be honest... I think it may not.

Like Geoff, I only have one sibling. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my baby sister... Instead of taking a tiny slice of my heart with her should she predecease me, she'll take quite a chunk. I didn't have to spread that love around over 7 or 9 or 11 kids... it's all hers.

Aside from my parents and my husband and children -- that's it. That's it.


This Saturday we'll go to NY to have a small memorial service for my Aunt Mary... I've got the dog sitter lined up and the hotel booked. I wasn't very close to my Aunt over the last two decades. I'm mostly going for my dad. And maybe I'll see a cousin or two that I haven't seen since I left town at age 17.

And I'm going for my sister. The one sibling. The one is good enough for me. And maybe someday my son and his sister will have a closer relationship, and he'll get it -- why she's the only one there to provide nieces and nephews for him.