Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stupid Boys Ruin Great Moments. (Or My Displeasure at and Underwhelmed Reception to My Current Artistic Obsession.)

I think everybody finds an artist that really speaks to them and becomes somewhat obsessed. I've had several of these: sometimes musicians, sometimes writers, sometimes film makers. It is as if they can do no wrong; everything you take in seems absolutely genius. As they speak somehow directly to your soul you want to share them with all the world and have everyone be as impressed as you are. It's always stunning to find out that other people aren't nearly so blown away, or that they're totally indifferent to being introduced to anything new.

As if my facebook and blog posts aren't indicative of this fact, I have fallen madly in love with Josh Ritter's music. During an incredibly rough year, I can honestly say that there have been times when the only thing that has brought me any happiness is his music. I sound like a teenager making that statement. I sound like someone in high school that's bought a new album and makes everyone listen to it in silence, absorbing every single note with high reverence. It's not like that. I will freely admit that I feel I've found an incredible poet that tells lovely stories with beautiful phrases. The images he uses may not always be pleasant, but they paint pictures that I've not found in other music for a long, long time -- maybe ever. Is there a lyric that gives you a more precise example than this?

My orchestra is gigantic
This thing could sink the Titanic
And the string section's screaming
Like horses in a barn burning up

The first time I ever heard his music was as the closing song of a Bored to Death episode. The song was "Long Shadows." I realized as I listened to it that the selfless speaker was my boyfriend. He was the man that was unafraid of all the darkness in my life, someone ready to protect me from whatever may come my way. The line "If you reach for him and honey he's not there, you can reach for me, I'm not afraid of the dark," was especially profound. I was in the unique situation of trying to reconcile and repair severe hurt from a relationship that had ended very badly nearly 15 years before. The old boyfriend meant nothing to me, but the pain I'd endured was almost as much a part of me as it ever had been. Social media brought him back into my life, along with a resurgence of the pain I associated with him. Trying to reconcile my hurt feelings was never about desire to rekindle any romance; it was solely about finally having a real opportunity to move beyond what had broken my heart so many years before. My current boyfriend understood this completely. It wasn't an issue. There was never even a conversation about it; he knew me so very well that all intent and purpose was clear without verbal explanation. When this song played, I was stunned by how it captured our relationship with an eloquence I never could have provided. I said to him, "My God. This song is all about you. It's all about how much you love me." The boyfriend said, "I'm going to go downstairs to have a cigarette and get something salty. Would you pause it before the next episode comes on?" Any mitigating circumstances that made this reaction acceptable are not important. What is important is this: the beautiful, profound moment was ruined completely.

Anytime someone is on your mind a lot, you will find that there is reason to associate them with anything and everything. I get this. There are two songs, however, that I absolutely associate with a dear friend. One is ""Monster Ballads," and the other is "Moon River." There are lots of little details that provide associations with "Monster Ballads," though most people wouldn't see them. "Moon River," has always been almost a magical song for me, though. I think it's almost a requisite that all females adore Audrey Hepburn, especially as the flawed but lovely Holly Golightly. Before seeing the film, I loved the song, considering it a wonderful contemplation of the wide world waiting to be explored with an ever-present someone, standing beside you physically or in spirit. I finally saw Breakfast at Tiffany's at a revival house with a burgeoning friend to boyfriend situation. The song is an instant snap back to the cotton candy hazy delight of that first date. The boyfriend came and went, but the intense sentiment of the song was never sullied. I considered the lyrics and created my own definition of a huckleberry friend. It was George Peppard adoring Audrey Hepburn. What others saw as flaws he saw as frailties she valiantly tried to overcome. A huckleberry friend was one that stood with you in the rain, searching for Cat, never telling you he told you so. This was the person that needed no words; they got you through pure connection that naturally occurred. To hear a new friend casually call me his "huckleberry" was jarring. I already felt like he could burrow into my thoughts and unravel ideas that no one could possibly know. Now I understood why paranoid people where tin foil hats. There wasn't any possible "tell" with this; my benign thoughts were so unimportant I'd never voiced them to anyone. Clearly, though, this idea meant a great deal to me. I asked, "Why do you use that phrase?" and he said, "It means that you're the right one for the job; you're the right one to be my forever friend." It was a totally innocuous exchange, but it was one that floored me. Yes; this is all coincidence. We apply these big, fanciful meanings to simple, throw-away statements. Moments of eerie similarities are really just random commonalities. They don't mean that you are genuinely guaranteed a forever friend that will be your constant. But goddamn. You have to admit, this exchange was pretty remarkable for two people that scarcely knew one another. This very lengthy back story does have a Josh Ritter connection: Flipping through YouTube videos I was delighted to find his version of "Moon River." The spoken intro talks of his association between the song and Mark Twain, the same association I'd always made. Two songs, two strong associations with my best friend. I've shared both of these with him. I didn't expect him to pore over lyrics or feel deeply touched by my thinking of him, but I figured he'd at least listened with the song links I'd sent. Maybe he'd even thought, "Aww, that's sweet. My huck remembers the damnedest things." I posted to facebook a very teenage-ish "I am so excited about this new album!" after an announcement of a forthcoming release. My newsfeed showed good ol' huck had responded. I figured it would be along the lines of, "That's awesome. I know you love him." Instead, the best friend posted, "Who?" Great moment totally ruined.

I gave a co-worker a copy of Ritter's book Bright's Passage for their birthday. It's WWI historical fiction, an era with which we work. I thought they'd be interested in it, maybe see it as a way to get a younger generation interested in the topic. It sat on their desk, wrapped in the bow I'd tied on, for well over three months. Ritter came to town; I went to the show. I made the suggestion that an invitation to our institution may be well-received, (basically because I selfishly thought it would be awesome to meet him should he choose to accept the invitation.) At that point, no one had read the book or looked into Ritter's following to see that this was actually a pretty good opportunity. After the show I was overheard telling another co-worker how great it had been, and how it was really one of the few times I'd felt a sense of calm and joy that summer. The reaction was, "It would have been really good for us to have contacted him and had him visit. This could really be a great partnership." Peaceful, reflective moment ruined.

The things we want others to get excited about will often be deemed unworthy. The sentiments we attach to ideas, whether they be ours or someone else's, aren't always going to strike other people as truly profound. You can't make someone appreciate what you find extraordinary. It's okay; I get that. One great friend has tried for some time now to make me see that Frank Zappa is a musical genius. Another friend is determined that I will one day see that Janis Joplin's heart cries for me. Maybe I will see these things someday, but I doubt it. We've all got widely varied ideas to which we attach significance. For some, these are sentimental. For some, these are poetic and thought-provoking. For some, these are finite and fact-based, devoid of emotional interpretation. With that in mind, it will be easy to do the following things:

1. Stop sharing all the things that I find really, really fantastic with people through FaceBook or this blog. It's like the episode of Roseanne where DJ starts going to church and Darlene says, " Yeah, I mean, maybe he'll take after your cousin Jesco. Isn't he the one who sent us the Bible with every single word highlighted?"

2. Realize that not everybody has as sophisticated palate as I do. To each their own.

3. When little tiny moments of zen are ruined by dismissive statements, recognize that this shit is really a prime example of a first world problem. I'm an over-emotional girl that attaches way too much meaning to just about everything. I find that most men are devoid of an ability to find connection with anything unless they force a moment to its crisis. Women are from Venus; Men are from Mars.

I don't find Rocky Balboa "filling gaps" to be some amazing moment. I don't find a last minute time-out that pauses a football game simply to prolong the wait for an inevitable win/lose to be a great achievement. The development of a new video game system does nothing for me. I consider a mobile phone upgrade pretty meh. This probably irritates the shit out of people that find these things fantastic. They can have their moments. Stupid boys can unwittingly ruin great moments, but it doesn't mean they can't still be appreciated. I'm still more than willing to keep my moments and do my best to ward off interlopers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blogging for Spite.

I felt secure about a number of things in my life until the last few years.  You mix in just a few new factors into any situation, though, and anything can change.

Over a ten year span, I'd seldom questioned my relationship.  Situations emerged that reminded me of the feeling of being in love.  I saw my relationship for what it had become.  I was living out Will and Grace without Will being a homosexual.  What happens when what you need isn't necessarily what you want?  When emotions run high, do you even know what it is that you want?  Now I question everything, and I can't seem to arrive at an answer.

I spent six years in the world of higher education gaining a B.A. and a M.A in History.  .I'd majored in something I was interested in rather than something that was practical.  When I grudgingly got my teaching certificate as a back-up plan, I made the wonderful discovery that being a teacher was what I was meant to do.  I loved it.  Then the economy went south, I got laid-off, and that seems to be that.  I've tried for the last three years to find a new teaching position.  I can't even get an interview.  I should be able to remind myself that I'm an expensive hire with my education and experience compared to brand new graduates.  I ought to consider that social studies department positions are always competitive.  That's not what occurs to me.  Instead, I now question if I was ever any good at what I loved doing.  It sounds pathetic, but between schools continuing to cut jobs and competition, I can't say with any certainty that I'll get to work as a history teacher again.  I most certainly question my decisions about career preparation.  Were I to do it over again, I think I'd go for the sure thing instead of following my real interests.  In a world where you can look up anything on Wikipedia to satisfy your curiosity and desire to learn, I really wish I had student loan debt over an MBA instead of a liberal arts degree.

I've never been one to have a lot of friends.  I like having a number of close friends that I know very well, that I trust, that I enjoy, and with whom I truly feel comfortable.  Maintaining these friendships has never been a real issue.  Things evolve, people change, and sometimes roles get filled with new people, but there's never been a period of profound loneliness and loss in my life before.  Over the course of the last three years, this is all that seems to have happened.  I lost the people that were dear to me at the high school where I taught; out of sight and out of mind.  I had re-established relationships with some people through the magic of Facebook.  These were friendships that I foolishly believed would be stronger because of age and maturity.  I thought these were going to be "forever friends."  This proved not to be the case.  Now I don't fully trust anyone to hang around.  I was always cautious about sharing too much of myself with others.  I may share any fact with someone, but allowing myself to connect with someone emotionally is rare.  First of all, it has to be something that is naturally there.  You can't make connections occur; they are there or they aren't.  Then, you have to be willing to let someone in and reciprocate.  There's a great level of trust that is involved.  It hurts way too much to when your trust is dismissed to extend it without caution.  I let myself trust someone that had hurt me terribly in the past because I truly believed it would be different as adults.  I let someone new come in because it hadn't felt so unbelievably right to do so in literally decades.  I question if it's been worth it all the time now.  Is having a partially wonderful situation with someone worth the intense agony of being injured by them?  It's sad to question the practicality of allowing yourself to have meaningful relationships.  It now seems foolish to do so too willingly.  To quote a song, "I've traded all the innocence I ever had for hesitation."

I may not have always been in love with jobs 100% over the years, but I feel like I've always been good at them.  I've never felt like I was a disappointing hire.  Right now, every day when I go to work I question how long it will be before that thought is beamed my way.

Maybe it's a phase.  Sometimes the planets don't align.  People go through periods where they're in a state of flux, and it takes some time before things straighten themselves out.  I feel like I don't have a lot of control over my own life right now.  It seems as if external forces have the bulk of control over what happens and how I live.  I do what I can to not let myself fall prey to this, but I have to admit it's not always easy.  Things will change; it's just a matter of when.   I can do things that need doing, and no one, including myself, will question them.  There are things I can do just because I want to, and they don't have to be questioned.

I've always liked writing.  I claim no prowess.  I don't fancy myself a poet for the ages.  The Pulitzer Prize is not calling my name. I realize there is a difference between formal and informal writing.  There are significant differences between an essay and a purely informational piece of writing.  Academic papers and personal reflections are not the same thing.  Because you prefer one over the other, however, does not mean that you are incapable of producing a satisfactory piece in any of the genres.  As of late I have been informed that I cannot write for shit.  This is not the precise spoken statement, but it is the message.   Who does this?  Who tells someone that the thoughts they have are inadequate and shouldn't be recorded?  Needless to say, the point of anything I put to paper, or type into an electronic device, is absolutely questioned. Regardless,writing is something I like and others indicate they like reading the end product.

I'm really fucking tired of the feeling that everything I want is out of reach or something I shouldn't put time and energy into.  I now don't care that I write things for a cyberspace forum that goes unread.  Occasionally I have things I want to write down.  I think things.  I can say them. I don't need anyone's permission, and I don't need to question myself about doing so.

It may be tiny and insignificant, but if I'm blogging for spite, it suits me fine.

Men of a Certain Age.

Through the magic of Time Warner Cable, Netflix, Hulu, You Tube, (and so on, and so on, and so on) we can now watch basically anything we want to see. It doesn't matter if it's an old MTV video, a movie, or a TV show.

A couple of years ago I fell in love with Men of a Certain Age. Its cancellation was incredibly disappointing. (Apparently, TNT does not know drama.)  I found it On Demand a few weeks ago and I've been watching it repeatedly since. If it's any indication of how great I find this show, it only aired for two seasons. They weren't especially long seasons, either. I've basically been on a twenty-two episode loop for the last few weeks, and it hasn't gotten old.

The show opens with the Beach Boys:
When I grow up to be a man 
Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid? 
Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn't done what I did? 
Will I joke around and still dig those sounds 
When I grow up to be a man? 

You see the main characters as care-free children.  They grow into teenagers, hanging out on the beach with girlfriends.  The final shot of the opening is the three best friends in a convertible, driving down a highway with the wind blowing their hair.  They've got nowhere to be.  They've got no one to hassle them.  There is no one else with them -- no girls to distract them, no other friends to impede on the special bond they share -- it's just them, with the California summer sun beginning to set and an open road ahead.  My vision is totally idealized, I'm sure.  Anyone else could tell you that I'm overlooking fathers that harass them to get a job, girls that deflect offers to go to the movies, or questions about what to do after high school.  There's plenty of that in life.  I like the ideal vision much better.  I like thinking these guys appreciated being guys without complications.  There is plenty of time for the complexities of life down the road.

The show is, as the name indicates, about men as they hit a transitional age. It takes on the exchange I think every one of us plays internally at some point: Am I a grown-up now?  How the hell did that happen?  I sure as hell don't feel like a grown-up, but I do feel old.  Shit.  What happened to all the things that I was supposed to do?  What happened to all the things I wanted?  Is it too late for those things now?

The writers of Men of a Certain Age did an incredible job of creating a story about three best friends who represent the variety of Every Man:

Joe -- The Ne'er-Do-Well
This is a man who wants to do everything right.  The goal is to avoid temptations and  live a life that he's supposed to live. He's settled, and he doesn't mind it. The rewards of his efforts are a perfect family with one girl and one boy, a business of his own, a beautiful wife, a hobby he loves and is good at, and two best friends that have been in his life since he was young. The house Joe thought he had in order is really a house of cards that tumbles. His marriage dissolves. The daughter becomes a promiscuous teen. The son develops an anxiety disorder so profound that he can barely socially interact. Joe's gambling addiction becomes so intense that a $25,000 bet  is justified as reasonable since the money would go for a down payment on a new house.  Joe's story is one of What Happens When You Have to Start All Over Again?  You think you've done everything right, and then it all goes to hell.  Trying to explain his failed marriage Joe describes emails with an old girlfriend.  Though the emails were not romantic, they were filled with things he didn't share with his wife.  When she found them, things changed.  He surmised it was at that point when her infidelity began.  Joe says, "You're happy.  Then you're mostly happy, but not all the way.  Before too long, you find out you're not even together anymore." The series takes Joe down a path of discovering who he is, now that he's given a chance to find out without the "oughts" and "shoulds" guiding every decision.  Unfortunately, it seems like Joe really needed those in his life.  The gambling becomes out of control.  He ends up handing over almost all of the responsibility of his Party Store to recent high school graduates and stock boys that don't speak English.  Attempts to relate to his children devolve into threatening to beat up a kid that called his daughter a whore and communicating with his anxiety-ridden son solely through golf.  Attempts to improve his golf game to make it to the Senior Tour are impeded through a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.  On his first post-separation date he is so nervous the comes before he even gets the condom on. Joe's trying, but getting it right is going to take some time.

Owen -- The Waiting Game
This is a man that really does seem to have it all. He's got a beautiful wife with three fantastic young kids. The marriage is genuinely happy and meaningful. While his home life is great, all the things he believes he is supposed to have are missing.  Owen is constantly in his father's shadow.  Dad was a pro basketball player and still strongly believes in winners and losers. Working at his father's car dealership does Owen no favors in gaining his father's approval.  Actually, he has to compete with others for attention and is far from the favorite employee. He's constantly given shit by his dad and the guys he works with for being overweight and an underachiever. Owen can't seem to catch a break.  Contractors bail on his house remodeling, leaving him without a permit and stuck to move any further.  Reasonable requests with the city are moot.  In a speech that seems to resonate as much for himself as the city worker that hears it, Owen details the impact the failure will have on his relationship with his father.  He describes all the times he's aimed for success just to come up short, and how the feeling of simple accomplishment has always eluded him.  The show's final moment of Owen's triumph holding the permit is as profound as someone who's just won a first place prize.  To be out from under his father's thumb, even for a little while, is a major victory.  Dad taunts son at the dealership, first by favoring other salesmen and then by toying with his son over a "will he or won't he" retirement game. The struggle is one that Owen seems determined to win, but there's no certainty.  As always, he's at the mercy of someone else.  Owen is the loser waiting for his shot at life that never seems to happen.

Terry -- The Peter Pan
Terry is a mostly unsuccessful actor that never fully grew up. He's charming and handsome and has probably never encountered a woman that has turned him down.  It's never occurred to him to settle down, at least not seriously.  There's never been a relationship that lasted more than a few months.  Despite these tendencies, there are attempts to avoid a completely shallow life.  There's philosophy, yoga, health foods, zen activities, and retreats. In reality, Terry deludes himself and ignores all the aspects of life that his friends indicate are what life is supposed to be about. He may be have a different 25 year-old in his bed every night, but he's at a point where he's starting to realize there really ought to be more.  His application to become a Big Brother is declined.  Acting jobs don't pan out.  Promises to stick around are broken and potential relationships are lost as a result.  "Grown-up" jobs are not met with maturity, and the price is paid.  As an apartment complex manager, Terry fails to keep up with requests.  This leads to literally being covered in shit, no small metaphor for an empty life whose facade is fading fast.

Between the acting and the writing, this show is truly fantastic.  Episodes run on a general theme with each of the characters, but without the feeling of  being hit over the head. Music is woven throughout, perfectly wrapping scenes. Real things happen. Real situations, real conversation, real awkward feelings, real portrayals of real men. It's the little things, the subtle things, that make the show exceptional. After a genuine moment of reflection on the passing of time and a friend's cancer diagnosis, Joe looks out onto a female player on the golf course and says, "That is a nice ass, though."  Owen waits for the family to go to bed so he can raid his hiding spots of junk food that's been banned due to his diabetes.  When Terry first spends the night with the woman he finally feels he could have a relationship, the Realness of the situation is expressed with a simple glance at the cat on the end of the bed who watches him with wary eyes.  It's just a show about real life.  Real life plays out in a much more enjoyable way when you can watch it on TV instead of living it yourself.

"Getting older. It all gets real. You know?" -- Joe

I'm not 50, like these guys are. Regardless, I feel the words of the intro song.  I feel the quote by Joe. The past few years I've felt the pains of middle age. I'm not 40 yet, and this may seem premature to a lot of people. It doesn't feel that way to me. I look at my life, and I feel like I'm at a point where I'm supposed to be over my youth. I'm supposed to be finished with all the silly fun things but be able to look back on them with fond affection. Instead, I feel like I didn't ever do the things that create those memories. I feel like nothing I was supposed to do ever got started. Everything seems stalled.. These guys share the real side of their stories at a antiquated diner or over hikes in the hills of California.    Maybe no one has life figured out, and no one is really pulling anything off other than an illusion.  Perhaps my frustrations at a stalled life are typical.

I feel so incredibly immature, and yet so old.  I'm Terry, but without the fun he's had exploring life and fucking around.  I'm Joe, with the anxiety and peculiarities.  I've always tried to do what I'm supposed to and I've ended up sub-par, with a flailing career and personal life.  When I've sought out some spontaneous joy, it's been a failed experiment.  Is the best I can do to wait for something that must come along simply because I've wanted it for so long, like Owen?  Comparing myself to three fictional 50 year old men is most likely not the best way to figure out my existential crisis.

It's still a great show, though.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monster Tubulum Doctor Who Cover

via I Have Seen The Whole Of The Internet

Always wanted one...

Today’s quote – “In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir, Gopher.’”

I've always found the feeling of "leave them wanting more" to be almost unbearably disappointing.  There are times when I'm talking with special friends and it makes me very sad because I know that it will be a long time before it happens again.  Not really a fan of being satisfied with what I'm offered.  I'd much prefer to be satiated than merely tantalized by a small portion of gopher.

 I seem to mourn the loss of any thing that I adore.  Take away my Doctor and I turn into the same Weeping Angel that just tried to send an entire village back in time.  When Buffy ended I actually went outside and cried. It's not like I was a teenager.  I wasn't even the same age as the Buffy characters.  The re-runs were on their way --syndication had already begun -- but it wasn't the same.

Nope. I want trivia nights with former co-workers to go on until the wee hours.  I want drinks with gossipy girlfriends to extend far past the end of a work day.  I want prolonged telephone calls filled with nonsense and silly jokes, just as if we were really together hanging out.  It doesn't happen, but it doesn't stop me from wanting it.  I am hopeful that I am able to hold my disappointment of "until we meet again" in check; that it's not as painfully obvious as it is inside my own head.

I'll try to pretend I'm content enough, but it's not really true.  Just let me be selfish.  I don't want a gopher sampling.  Find me a whole damn gopher village.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How shall Dr. SpaceTime and you be screwed on this adventure?

It appears as if I will be fighting off the Daleks with an iphone, a tile coaster and a bottle of Mexican Coke.  It shall be an old-fashioned record player that saves the Tardis.  The torn shirt I'm wearing and the shorts with a hole in the butt should make up for what's lacking, though.  Not screwed at all.  I believe in the MacGyvery power of minimal technology and a sonic screwdriver to survive any situation. (Unless emotions are involved.  In those situations the Doctor tends to pretty much screw everyone around him, either by killing them, obliterating their mind, or totally crushing their heart.  No iphone or record player's going to fix those issues.)

Contagion of Empathy.

"So there I was, killing them softly with my song.  Or rather being killed.  And not that softly either.  I was singing with my eyes closed.  Was I frightened?  I was petrified."

I love this scene.  It's from About a Boy, a film I was initially pretty lukewarm about.  I found Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult to be too strange looking and Hugh Grant was too cloying.  (Yes, I know this was the point, but it was much like my hatred of Frank Burns on MASH when I was a kid.  You're supposed to hate him, but my hate for him made it impossible to see beyond it.)

When I saw the film again a few years later I found it quite charming.  I was able to overlook what I'd found vexing before and see how right the film makers had gotten it.  I love how the jaded Will somehow lets himself fall prey to a misfit kid.  I love how the suicidal mother that is supposed to be so self-aware and determined to take on the world is oblivious to the way that same world actually works.  And of course, what is there not to love about a clueless lost boy being the one to make the maladjusted fit for public consumption?

This scene is one where characters sacrifice the need to look cool.  They throw it out the window because it will please someone else.  It's masochistic, really.  Such an act would've been devastating for a kid like Marcus that was already a social pariah.  For Will, such an act could've made his mind explode with self revelation.  Because of the magic of movies, however, it all turns out just fine.  Marcus is not the biggest freak on the stage, so he wins a few points with the loser boys in the audience.  Will's willingness to drop all pretense makes his dream girl realize he's not such a shallow lost cause after all.  The mother in the Yeti jacket is left pretty much unchanged, but even cinematic efficacy can't win them all.

A variation of a theme.

People give Coldplay a lot of shit, and that's okay.  We all have our preferences.  These are most likely the same people that are terribly vexed by Morrissey, finding him to be a whining malcontent. 

For John Waynes out there, the concept of letting someone else protect and love you is just too foreign to bear.  For some of us, the desire to fix all of those we come across with secret pain is a pull we can't resist.

The truth of the matter is that at some point in life, all people will need someone to try to fix them. This isn't weakness.  Wise choices about those we love is a feat of great strength.  Trusting someone to assuage vulnerability isn't weakness.  Offering trust is a risk so intense that it is really one of the bravest things anyone can do.  Loving with a heart so big it can withstand someone else's heartache is the quietest form of fortitude.  

If you wish to neither be fixed nor fix someone else, that is up to you, but be aware that it doesn't make you an impervious hero.  Living a lonely life within an impenetrable fortress shows only that you need someone to fix you.

"Light will guide you home" - it takes on a whole new meaning when sung by an 83 year old man.

Equine Marmalade.

This horse can totally take on a unicorn any day.

As a kid I thought nothing could possibly be better than a dancing horse.  I'd heard about them but never seen any proof that they were real.  As one of the most amazing birthday gifts I've ever received my boyfriend surprised me by taking me to a Lippizzaner show.  As brilliant as that was I don't think anything could possibly top the horse here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Can love and joy be proven by experiment?

Mr. and Mrs. Feynman

I love the idea of this couple.  I love the way they choose to give one another the world.  Through science and reason they give one another love and beauty at every turn.  It is a tremendous treasure to be given an aurora.  

Lisa hearts Jeff. Jeff is pretty "meh" in return. A match made in cinematic heaven.

A most romantic film.  The main character chides a beautiful woman for being shallow and inept.  He falls in love with her after she is nearly murdered trying to win the attention he'd been paying to a neighbor's flowers.  He could be spending sensual evenings with this devoted woman but instead gives his focus to the newlyweds next door, the showgirl across the courtyard, and the desperately lonely wallflower that pines away in her basement apartment.  The loneliest person in the film is the girl that's supposed to have it all.  Fret not.  In the end all is well.  The beautiful socialite gets her man, knowing she can prove her love by risking her life to satisfy his whims or by tending to him as an invalid.  With his permission she is permitted to be smitten with this wonderful, wheelchair-bound voyeur. All that he asks in return is that she hide every part of her that he doesn't like.

This version appropriately shows the time it takes for the giddy magic of new love to become something sustainable:

Monday, November 5, 2012

A small huckleberry salute.

...And I was thinking about my river days 
I was thinking about me and Jim 
Passing Cairo on a getaway 
With every steamboat like a hymn 

Out on the desert now 
I'm feeling lost 
The bonnet wears a wire albatross 
Monster ballads and the stations of the cross 
Sighing just a little bit 
Smiling just a little bit...

A small Veteran's Day salute.

Blecch. (But in the most wonderful way.)

Pet Sounds

Ah, Snoopy.  One of the very finest sounds.  His "bleahs" and "blecchs" and giggles and groans fill me with a very peaceful sense of delight whenever I hear them.

(I used to watch Inside the Actor's Studio all the time.  You can't do this and not have a list of answers to the questions asked at the end of every show.

These 10 questions originally came from a French series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot. 

          1. What is your favorite word?  Recursive
          2. What is your least favorite word?  Lots of words are pretty vexing, but today I'll say it's "snot"
          3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?  Genuine, unsolicited positive attention
          4. What turns you off?  Being unkind
          5. What is your favorite curse word?  Motherfucker
          6. What sound or noise do you love?  There are two: 1)The sound of a doggy drinking water from her bowl; 2)The noises Snoopy makes
          7. What sound or noise do you hate? Female high pitched voices
          8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Arts critic
          9. What profession would you not like to do? Prostitute
          10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "I'm sorry."
(I'm always very curious about others' responses, but most of the time when I've asked people to play the game they've declined.)


I ran into an old friend at work this weekend.  He was there with his six year old son.  He explained to his son that we'd gone to high school together and were friends a long time ago.  Appropriately, there was no mention of how this had become a much-more-than-friends situation, but this fact is important to this story, so I will mention it now to you, the invisible reader.

I ran into this old friend for the first time since high school about three years ago.  Because of some loose casual common circles, I've seen him a handful of times since then.  Each and every time he has offered up some memories of things we'd done together when we'd hung out as teenagers.  Each and every time now he has been incorrect.  These conversations have resulted in my saying things like:
"Maybe you're thinking of the time we were at the zoo.  We didn't ever go anyplace where there were ponies."
"We never went there together."
"No, you saw that film with Jennifer."
"It was Jeremy that gave you that.  He made it in art class and since he'd given me something the day before he gave you that one so you wouldn't feel left out."
"Um, no.  I'm quite sure that we had sex more than twice.  Glad it was as important to you as it was me."

Initially, I was really perturbed by these errors of memory. I took them really, really personally.  If I'd remembered all of these things with incredible ease, plus much, much more, then how was it he'd forgotten it all?  Or worse -- confused it with someone else?  Then I finally realized that my memory is simply different than that of others.  It's been pointed out to me that my memory is absurdly keen.  It was ridiculous to have ever felt hurt by any of his forgetfulness in the first place.  We'd not spoken for more than fifteen years, and there'd been no lamentation on my behalf over that.  Why would a few mis-remembrances affect me at all?  Feeling at all miffed is absurd as well.  I've learned that in the world of multiple-intelligences that I score highest on inter and intra-personal levels.  It should have occurred to me that my head being so full of specific memories about all the experiences I've had with people was a result of that.  (Perhaps this wasn't obvious to me because my Logic intelligence score was not all that hot...)   It freaks people out that I can tell them what they were wearing and where we were when a certain conversation was held.  I've got to bear that in mind and stop myself from saying things like:
"It was the art fair we went to.  It was raining and we were holding hands.  You kept your hand on my knee as we drove back to your house and we both knew your parents were out of town.  That's how it got started."
"Popcorn instead of cotton candy because you said all the sugar would make you throw up when we rode the Ferris Wheel."
"Your favorite dress was the vintage black linen with white piping.  I didn't own anything with a herringbone pattern."

It's quite funny to me now since I see it for what it is.  It's ridiculous on both sides, is all.  His memory is crap, and my memory is way beyond the normal realm. So now, it has become a funny game for me when I run into this old friend.  I like to see what detail he'll offer  up and marvel at how absurdly incorrect it is.
"Yep.  Still not me."

Useful information from unexpected places.

A few years ago I would have totally scoffed at looking at something like this seriously.  I'm by no means sold on this man.  I can't help but admire his work ethos and keen determination, though.  Inspiration comes from all of sorts of sources.

Someone is needed to water the plants.

Adventure vs. Normalcy.  Loss vs. Gain.  Life vs. Death.  Goodbyes vs. New Beginnings.

This offers all of these things at one time.  It's overwhelming, but as allegedly ridiculous as science-fiction is , when it captures genuine human moments it's also incredibly real.  Life truly is made up of all of these things.  They do frequently happen all at one time.  It is completely overwhelming.  At least in this case Rory was thoughtful enough to offer explanation.  He provided closure, often the most generous gift a person can give someone they love.

The Price is Righteous.

As long as we're on the topic...  I had this posted momentarily on fb.  An acquaintance almost instantly chastised me for it.  Political Correctness is highly over-rated.  Pfffft.


I think we all understand the importance of Price is Right.  This fellow's understanding is simply a little more intense than most.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mid-Summer Angst.

I used to think that the time between the Fourth of July and mid August became the doldrums because it was a quick slide into heading back to school. There was plenty of reason to think this: Kindergarten through high school; college; grad school; teaching high school. June always seemed to go in nice normal speed, but once July fourth hit, it all flew by.

I was under the deluded impression that this summer would be different because I'm working a normal job, like a normal person. I'm indoors almost all day, from 8:30 until 5. It's freezing inside, and hot as hell outside. Beyond the heat when I leave work, I wouldn't really know that it was summer. And yet... somehow, my mind and body just know.

My normal summer routine has always been to stay up with insomnia and watch bad television until it is the time most people are getting up. Then I've gone to a pool and absorbed sun-rays that I have always believed made me look sun-kissed and glowing but have probably just sped up my aging process and will lead to some type of skin cancer later on. I've read -- sometimes great things, sometimes absolute drivel. I've done countless crossword puzzles. I've felt no guilt about simply enjoying myself with friends, hanging out or traveling.

Most people get a little depressed thinking about pending winter. For me this year, it's been the on-set of summer. As childish as it sounds, I don't want to be working. I want to do what I've always done. Though my summer routine is definitely different this time around, I am still feeling the angst now that the season's on a downhill race. It feels the loss of opportunity. It feels like all your chances to be carefree and have fun are disappearing. I feel like Demeter.

I lamented the season coming on, and now I guess I'm mourning its loss. I think this is a sad sign of "growing up." You want what you don't have, and you feel guilty because you wanted it in the first place, knowing it made you somewhat childish and selfish in your wishes.

Growing up kind of sucks.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The final scene of the UK's Skins, Season One.

Not new, and not attached to anything in my life right now.  I heard the song earlier today, though, and I'll never hear it again and not think about how it was used in this show.

I'll never argue that I don't have a penchant for age-inappropriate programming.  I was recently told that I may as well watch One Tree Hill all day long.  (For the record, I haven't ever actually seen this show.  But, to be fair, I may find it appealing.)

There is something very moving about adolescent angst.  As a teacher, it was something I empathized with and tried to assuage.  I always seemed to take to those who were on the cusp -- those who were overwhelmed by all the things life was throwing their way, but struggling to make it through.  Learning what life is really like and having to find coping mechanisms to keep moving forward is damned difficult.  I wouldn't go through my teenage years again for anything.  I have nothing but respect for those that do it well -- and "doing it well" has a lot of definitions.

“Africa” performed by Mike Massé and Jeff Hall on 7/17/10 at the Pie Pizzeria in South Jordan, Utah.

I found this via Buzzfeed. (Apparently Buzzfeed is my new best friend... Funny how you know about a site but then disregard it for a long time because other things seem more important. Now, during some more laid-back summer months, I have remembered: it is awesome.)

These guys are pretty amazing. Obviously. And they're playing in a pizza parlor. I don't know a thing about either, but I do wonder why it is that they're incredibly talented and not doing something more profound with their talent. There are plenty of possibilities. Day jobs. Familial responsibilities. Other things that happened in life first, and this dream of making a life of a bigger talent had to be forsaken. Maybe there wasn't faith that the talent was big enough. Maybe there were a few stabs made at becoming established and they were given a lukewarm reception. Dunno.

I occasionally receive "quote of the day" messages through email. They're pretty random. I think the person responsible really just stumbles across anything at all, highlights it as a copy and then pastes it in something sent my way. Today's was "life is pain and the slow erosion of everything you've grown used to loving by the steady stream of time".

I feel like this is a quote I am a little too comfortable with most of the time. I just accept that the things I've loved and lost, those people or dreams I had and watched die, are just gone. I tend to think that opportunities have passed, and lament that I didn't make a bigger effort to enjoy life when it was an appropriate time to do so. I'm at a place where I do not want to do that anymore. It's been one hell of a rough year. This spring in particular was simply endured rather than really lived.

I don't know Mike Masse's story, and since he has a website, I could probably find it out pretty readily. I don't know about Jeff Hill, either. At this point, I kind of like it that way. I like just imagining their situation, and looking at it with the eyes of someone who wants to be inspired by the back-story I've invented for them. I like them serving as inspiration for making inroads towards something I genuinely love regardless of all the things I've done before because I thought it was right, or expected, or easy.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

People Can Really Be Assholes.

Today I was driving out of a parking lot.  In the crossing area, there were two guys walking.  They were gesturing wildly and clearly yelling at someone behind them, laughing.  I expected to see someone their own age that they probably knew.  Instead, I saw a very old woman struggling down the street.  She was looking over her shoulder at them.  This woman had to have been in her 90s, and she was so bent over that she was basically her own right angle.  She was carrying two grocery bags, making her way down the sidewalk.  Occasionally, she'd stop and rest for a few seconds before moving along again.  The guys I'd seen going past had not only not helped her, they'd also been yelling at her and making fun of her situation.  Then, a passenger in a passing car threw something out the window at her.

What the hell?

Being insanely generous in trying to justify such behavior, I suppose I could see this response if this woman was a known insane resident of the neighborhood that had escaped justice for murder or similar crimes against humanity. I'm going to go out on a limb and say I don't think that supposition is accurate.  What I really think is this old woman, belittled as a crone by passing strangers, was simply alone in the world and an easy target.

I pulled over and got out of my car.  I caught up to her (which clearly wasn't a challenge) and asked her if she needed a ride to wherever it was she was headed.  She told me that she was basically home.  I then asked her if I could at least help her carry her bags for her.  She declined my second offer, too, saying that it wasn't a big deal because she could take the elevator.  She then told me, "Thanks a million, though, honey.  You're awfully sweet to an old woman."  Even though it was clear she had not wanted my assistance, it felt strange to leave her on the sidewalk, still holding two bags of groceries outside of her apartment building.

I'm not suggesting that my stopping and offering some assistance makes me any sort of special person.  I'm certainly no "boy scout."  But, seriously... what the hell is the matter with people?  How is it that humanity can be so uncaring?  And then to top it, why would anyone add cruelty to the mix?  I don't know their reasons, but some people are just assholes.  You can hope that they'll someday have a revelation about the things they do and discover they've behaved in a totally unacceptable way, but you'll probably be disappointed.  I don't hold out a lot of hope that the people that openly make fun of an old woman or through refuse at her on the street are going to be met with enlightenment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Disappearance of Awesome Things

Not that this isn't something I haven't considered before, but this buzzfeed post got me all riled up about it again this morning. Who do companies offer you some wonderful, magical product and then snatch it away  think they are? They are lousy bastards, that's who they are.

There are plenty of things that I love that still exist. I will not make the claim that every single consumer product I've ever cared for has been cruelly taken away. But I think I shall rant just a bit about those that have departed from our lives.

Cosmetic companies seem to be the worst offenders. Lipstick colors I find I can't live without? Poof! They are gone. I've started buying the ones I really, really like five at a time. Though it may seem excessive, it's actually proven wise a few times now. Fool me once Oil of Olay's Rio Red, shame on you. But just like The Who, I won't be fooled again.

Perfumes have gotten me a few times. Not a whole lot you can do with this one. If you buy too much and don't use it, its scent alters. Then, you just have a bunch of bottles of liquid that don't smell quite right and leave something akin to a chemical burn/rashy looking thing on your skin if in desperation you apply it. So -- a big F You to The Gap for getting rid of Om and to Victoria's Secret that got rid of Sparkling Cassis and Victoria. (Even as I'm typing this up, I am filled with longing for a bottle of Sparkling Cassis. It was my most favorite perfume of all time. I've tried finding something similar elsewhere. I thought I'd really stumbled upon a dream come true when I found a perfumerie in the town of Cassis.   It proved to be a day of sad results despite a very, very patient salesgirl. She tried very hard to make me happy despite my poor French. I've also tried having it reproduced at places that specialize in such things, but those efforts have failed, too. It's sort of become my version of Determined World War One Flying Ace Snoopy... "I'll get you yet, Red Baron!!!")

Why do restaurants change their menus all the time? You find something you positively love -- it's the reason you go there -- and then it's gone. Obviously, this doesn't apply only to real restaurants. It's actually far more common with crappy fast food chains. I became reacquainted with an old friend that I hadn't spoken to in years and years after he made a facebook post about his outrage over Burger King's decision to take away the Chicken Parmesan sandwich. I'd just discovered it myself, and it had become my "I don't want to cook" staple. (I mean, come on. When you're clearly so intertwined in like thinking, how do you not reconnect?)  I sort of pride myself on the fact I've never eaten one, but I know a vast majority of the United States feels a surge of joy (and maybe something akin to sexual arousal) when they see big banners posted at McDonald's announcing the return of the McRib. I'll always associate it with an episode of The Osbournes when Sharon, Kelly and Jack were driving. Kelly was quite upset about something, and everyone was listening attentively, but Jack just couldn't contain himself. It was as if he simply had to shout out the amazing revelation -- "Oohh! The McRib is back!" I've got a great friend who regularly posts on facebook about the cyclical ebb and flow of the McRib's presence. I initially believed this to be done ironically, but then discovered I was wrong. He really is that happy when the McRib makes its annual return. And now, Taco Bell has a Dorito-shelled taco. Anything this inspired is doomed for extinction. You are truly deluding yourself if you think it's going to end any other way. (A friend, the same one insane over the McRib actually, has said of this taco that it is (to paraphrase) like cunnilingus of an angel of the most delicious cheesy kind.) Don't get too attached, dear (and kind of creepy in your similes) friend. Your naive little heart will be broken, I am certain. My note to restaurants that behave this way -- You've toyed with me enough. I can no longer abide by your fickle ways. You are dead to me now.

What started all of this pent up anger (of which I am actually a little alarmed to discover I've been harboring), is, as I indicated, the buzzfeed link above. I only ate one of the foods mentioned, but when I saw its sad, lonely little photo I realized I'd been missing it. Oh, Apple Newtons. I am so sorry that I didn't recognize you'd been banished out of my life. Please don't think I didn't love you. I did. I really and truly did. I even loved your advertisement of the little boy in his dandy clothes and his fuss-budget nanny. She told him he could have no cookies and he retorted that his favorite snack was not a cookie, it was a newton. And how could she disagree? They then shared newtons galore -- two distinctly different generations; two different mindsets; two different socio-economic classes -- bound by one delicious snacking treat.

For good measure, I will add my other commercial food industry losses to this very sad list:

Number One: Nabisco's Swiss Cheese Crackers.
For those of you to whom this cracker is a stranger (and I am so, so sorry for you if it is because you missed out on something truly remarkable), it was something like a Chicken in a Biscuit or a Veggie Thin cracker, but it tasted like Swiss Cheese. (You can try to persuade me that White Cheddar Cheez-its taste more or less the same, but it simply isn't true.) Each cracker was even made to look like swiss cheese, with random holes in it. They were both delicious and aesthetically clever. Clearly, I loved them. And then the Sons of Bitches at Nabisco got all uppity and took them off the market. To hell with Nabisco.

Number Two: Keebler Elves Soft Batch Sugar Cookies.
Yeah, they still make the Chocolate Chip cookie kind. But I don't like that kind. I want the other kind that I did like. Since I'm not all that fond of anything else the Keebler elves make, I really enjoyed the beginning of Elf when the little fellows had their treehouse bakery catch on fire.

Number Three: Fruitopia.
Loved, loved, loved Fruitopia. It was sooooo good. I completely associate it with one of my very best summers. I'd go to the convenience store around the corner from my best friend's place, then go hang out with her, delicious drink in hand. Fruity and/or lemon-aidy. Snapple already existed at that time, but the two weren't really the same. You had your Snapple people; you had your Fruitopia people. Not exactly birds of the same feather. Fruitopia was sort of hippy inspired. There were psychedelic ads for it on TV; there were little comments on the caps (not to be confused with Snapple's bizarre facts -- these were two different things.) Despite the goodness of this wonderful drink, Fruitopia has gone the way of the Mastodon. And perhaps the saddest part of this for me is that it was a product of the Coca-Cola company. No matter how many times I've tried to give Coke up, I end up like a Brokeback Mountain character, "You are too much for me Coca-Cola, you sonofawhoreson bitch! I wish I knew how to quit you."

Number Four: Doritos First through Third Degree Burning Chips
The most recent of my junk food losses.  These fantastic chips came in single size or the slightly bigger 
Grab Bag size.  As the name indicates, these were hot chips, and in the most fantastic ways.  You'll often hear teachers say that they learn just as much from their students as students learn from them.  This may not be precisely what that statement is meant to portray, but it was a favorite student that made me aware of these wonderful Doritos.  (Though one may wonder, he was a favorite before this, but the sharing of the information did not hurt my sentiments.)  He knew of my love for them, and would buy theGrab Bag size at a convenience store on his side of town.  He would bring them to me.  I felt like a refugee in a war receiving contraband chocolates.  I wasn't too daft on this go-round though.  I had the sneaking suspicion from the start that these burning Doritos would see only a brief flickering flame. Sometimes, being able to say, "I told you so," isn't met with any satisfaction.

Undoubtedly everyone has their own litany of lost products. Some corporate monster gets us hooked, then snatches away the things he made us love. As Joss Whedon likes to tell us, not so subtly, time and time again: Corporations are the Devil. Whether your loss was Surge, or Zima, or the red M&M, I'm sure you understand.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"I'm really grateful to have you."

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(I don't care how Molly Ringwald/Andrew McCarthy this looks.  
This is how I actually met someone I will love forever.)

Memorial Day

I had never attended a truly traditional Memorial Day service until this year. There had been plenty of picnics and family gatherings, events with friends to kick off the summer holiday season, and laments with co-workers at school that we did indeed have two weeks left before summer break. Honoring veterans, however, had not been something I'd officially done. This Memorial Day was different.

At a ceremony dedicated solely to respecting those who had fought for the United States and for those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect the liberty of the US, I passed out programs to attendees, heard their stories about being there to honor family members that had lost their lives over the course of the last year, and listened to speakers who extended respect for men and women who served the nation.

All of the stories told were of the valiant efforts of the military. The items that made the greatest impact on me, however, were the tales of local soldiers that had been killed in action. The speaker did not only tell of the circumstances of their deaths, but also of the details of their lives. Each and every one had families that they left behind, passions they had pursued in their private lives, and goals for the future. The reminder of how very precious life was hard hitting to say the least.

A Brigadier General concluded his speech with an incredibly difficult fact for me to hear. He said that every day of the year, at least one soldier commits suicide. I knew that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was something very real, and I knew that its effects on military was far more serious than I probably imagined, but I did not know this statistic. It made me think about a variety of discussions I'd had with people in recent years.

The first was a discussion students had in my Current Events class when I taught high school. Each student was asked to bring in an article of their choosing from a current magazine or newspaper. The class would read these independently and then spend the rest of the hour debating their interpretation of the issue. One day the topic was how soldiers leaving the military were treated. A junior ROTC student was incredibly opposed to the idea that the military was in any way faulty. He said that PTSD was completely made up and anyone who said they had it was "a pussy that couldn't handle being a real man." Obviously, this attitude was offensive to a lot of the other students, and to me. He refused to back down, though, even when other points of view were presented. He was adamant that there was nothing that a strong personality couldn't witness or endure that would permanently affect them in a negative way. This kid riled me like none other ever had. It was unbelievably hard not to light into him with all of my own beliefs, with all of the facts I knew, with all of the personal stories I knew that contradicted his naivety of having never seen any sort of combat, or even real training.

The second talk I thought of was an incredibly recent one. Just a few days prior to the holiday, I'd talked with a 24 year old that had become a civilian just a few months earlier. He'd been in the Air Force since he was 18. Heserved all across the world, including two tours in the Middle East. He said that the six months he'd been out of the military were ones of adjustment. Then he quickly clarified, "It's not like I mean PTSD or anything. I didn't see my best friend blown to bits in a battle. I just mean it's hard to go from having all aspects of life dictated to you and then being on your own to figure out the rest of your life is all." I considered how he seemed to feel the need to disassociate himself from the idea of PTSD, as if it was something shameful. It was also something that he seemed to consider incredibly serious, and he wanted me to rest assured that he wasn't afflicted.

I spoke with a retired military man about the topic. This man is someone for whom I have nothing but the greatest respect. He was an artillery specialist, and saw combat many times in many wars. Today he still works as a consultant for the Army, and he volunteers with veterans. We'd both attended the Memorial Day event, and I told him that the quote about regular suicides had really bothered me. He has always been philosophical about military issues when I've talked with him. (For example, when discussing the use of gas or chemical warfare, he'd said "Many consider the use of Agent Orange to have been one of the worst things the US ever did. The truth of the matter is at the time, we didn't know that it would have long-lasting effects. At the time, we used what we had at our disposal to save American lives and win a war.") With the concept of suicide, he said, "There are lots of ways to look at PTSD. Lots of people attribute what I'd consider small things to it. Sometimes it's far more serious, sometimes it's just part of having waged war. I went to the VA hospital not long ago, and they gave me a questionnaire. Some of the questions were things like 'Do you ever have bad dreams related to your service time?' Well, hell. Of course I do. You don't go through combat and not. You see things there that no one ought to ever witness, and of course it stays with you for the rest of your life. If it doesn't, you're not human. But some people are more steeled for it. Some people have the ability to put it out of their mind. Some others just can't do that. They're not weak; they just can't deal with it the way other people can. The number one reason for the suicides is the sense of guilt people experience. They wonder why so many of the people they were friends with died while they survived. It doesn't make any sense to them and they feel too much guilt to keep on living." It was a fascinating conversation for me, and I could have talked to him about it all day. I want to know from the people who have lived it what experiences I will never have were really like. But I also know when others have had enough of a topic and when to let them be. I've discovered quite by accident that relatives who served were involved in the Tet Offensive, or in other incredibly terrible situations in Korea or Vietnam. In both instances, these facts basically slipped out, and it was made very, very clear from body language and a quick change of topic or leaving the room that these things were never to be discussed. Some things you learn to leave alone, and you have the respect to never refer to the information again.

The suicide statement really made me think, however, of a story that will never leave me. This story is one that will stay with me as long as I live, as both a testament to the power that an event has over our lives and to the need to share our humanity with others. I was in San Diego. I love San Diego; it's one of my very favorite cities in all the world. I was staying with a friend, and he was at work for the day. I decided to go for an independent adventure. I took the train and decided to head downtown. What I hadn't bothered to do was look up train schedule times, so when I arrived at the transfer point that would really head to the city there was a two hour wait. I hung out around the station -- went to grab some food; went to the dingy little beach down the way -- hung out by the platform when the arrival time drew near. I asked a guy that I'd seen earlier if I was waiting on the right side of the track (I'm incredibly directionally challenged -- even the concept of basic North and South can confound me in an underground station). I sat down and he asked me where I was going. He told me that he was going to work; that he worked as a security guard during his down time, but that he was really in the military and stationed in San Diego for the time being. I asked him how he liked it, told him that my father had been life-long military and had been stationed there for a while. I will never know what prompted him, but he looked at me for a few moments, really looking at my face, intensely looking into my eyes. He said, "I'm actually from here, or at least pretty close. My best friend and I went to high school together. We were about a year apart. We did ROTC together so we could do basic training together when I was done. He got deployed to Iraq, but he never saw any real action in the sandbox. He never said too much about it. I mean, he didn't love it or anything, but he never complained really. He came back changed, though. He'd gotten married, had two kids, and at 21 he was already done with his youth and just a war veteran. We were on duty together, bringing in aircraft. So, we were bringing in a HUEY -- do you know what that is? So, we're bringing a HUEY, and he says, "I got it. I'll be right back." Instead of signally it in though, he walked right into the rotors. There was a down-wind spray, and I was literally covered in my best friend. Then I got assigned to cleaning up the airstrip. I was the one who told his wife. And it didn't even register with me until a month later what had really happened. I was on the same duty, and I just freaked out. The other guys had to grab me to keep me from doing the exact same thing." He was quiet for a minute, and I asked him how he was now. He said that he'd had about six months of mandatory therapy, and it had actually really helped. I asked him if the military was supportive of providing psychological help or even medications in situations like this or if there was a big stigma attached. He said that there wasn't -- that they really were trying to help where they could. As if on some sort of pre-planned theatrical cue, the train arrived at that moment. We boarded, he headed to a different car, looked over his shoulder and said, "Thanks for the talk."

This kid made a huge impact on me. He was 19. He wasn't legally able to drink off base, for shit's sake. This kid had experienced more trauma than the typical person ever will, and it probably was nothing compared to that of his best friend who succeeded in killing himself. I don't know his name; I wouldn't recognize him if I saw him again. But I am going to think about him for a long, long time. He doesn't just represent the military to me. He represents humanity to me. I don't know if this was a situation that happened in his life that he needs to talk about all the time and does so at random moments, or if it was something that he never spoke of. My guess is it is the latter. I had the impression that something about me made him feel like I'd understand and that I'd let him just tell the story without any judgement or without interjection. Such terrible things happen in life -- the fact that people have to go through it is a part of being human. The perseverance of going on after you've experienced it is part of being human. The greatest part of being human, though, was his need to share it with someone else.

We seem to honor those who keep things inside. If a person underwent great hardship and kept it inside, they are revered as a strong hero. But are they? Does it make someone "less than" if they voice a traumatic tale and make the admission that it haunts them? I'm not suggesting that we dwell on events or let them dictate the rest of our lives. What I do suggest, however, is that we recognize the need to relate to one another in meaningful ways. The freedom and liberty celebrated on Memorial Day means nothing if we're really a nation that keeps its love, honor, respect, mourning, lamentations, and genuine emotion for individuals and personal events to itself, never to be revealed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Overheard... Anywhere.

You need not be on the streets of a large city, in a museum, at an art gallery or at any specialized location to be privy to a dolt's commentary.  Yes, they make cute little snarky books sold in gift shops as fairly cheap souveniers,  but really they're just the stuff any experience outside the house is made of.  Visiting a local "place of interest" recently, there were a lot of exhibits to look at.  Each one had labels with artifacts and descriptions for context.  There was a timeline to keep events in perspective.  A man said to his daughter, "Really?  Ten bucks for this?  Hell, this ain't nothin' but a bunch of stuff to read."

Down with Literacy.  Bring on the Picture Menus at McDonald's.

Incorrect Lyrics.

There is a most wonderful musician named Josh Ritter.  Alternative.  A little alt-country at times, maybe.  And I am sure that he's been around for awhile and those that are in the know have loved him for a long time.  I, however, did not know about him until one of his songs was used to conclude an episode of Bored to Death.  It was instant love.  (The song in question was "Dark Shadows.")  I downloaded iTunes Essential songlist, adn I've loved it.  I must say, while it was pretty perplexing that the NFL chose to use his "Change of Time" to promote the 2011 football season, it was still pretty nice to hear the song on the tv during commercial breaks.

Part of what makes these songs so fantastic are the lyrics.  Ritter is wonderful with words.  (And I am nothing if not a sucker for a man who is wonderful with words.)  Somehow, though, I have discovered a few instances where I've heard lyrics incorrectly the first few times around, and I've actually preferred my mistakes over the actual words.  I think my versions give the songs a sweeter notion.  Most likely, I am simply making these songs fit me a little more closely,  but I like them better all the same with my alterations.

In "Right Moves" the lyric is "Am I giving you the right moves?  Am I singing you the right blues?  Is there a time when I can call you, just to see how you are doing?"  But I like it much more with the second line as "Am I sending you the right clues?"  I like to think of this song as one about a couple that keeps missing opportunities to be together because of timing.  I don't want them to have hurt the other in some former stage of a relationship.  I don't want for him to have pined away for her, thinking that she'd never return and fearing a renewed relationship with her as much as he is looking forward to it.  If he refers to the right moves and the right clues, then it's a song of remembrance.  Do you recall when I used to drive you wild with this?  Does it still work?  Can you see how I never forgot?  Can you see that my body never stopped wanting to be with yours?  For me, it's a much more romantic, much less forlorn song with a single line in the chorus changed.

And then there is "Bright Smile."

The actual lyrics are:

Now my work is done
I feel I'm owed some joy
Oh Imogene and Abelard
I'm your homeward boy
But there's another one
Who brings me to your door
And the boat she weaved from the tidal reeds
Was always tied to shore

With bright smiles and dark eyes
Bright smile dark eyes
Everywhere I went, oh
I was always looking for ya
Bright smile dark eyes

It's a really lovely song about a search for a girl who has always been his to find.  And though the names in the first stanza are Imogene and Abelard, I like to hear Elosia and Abelard.  Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Can't I forget you so I can move on?  Can't I be rid of your presence?  He's heading home, but it's not for them.  It's for the girl he loves. I also assume it has to do with Tennyson's Lady of Shallott -- the notion of being so intense a force that all else is forgotten, just for the chance to be together.

 The real intent of the song?  I don't know.  Who ever really knows a poet's intent?  A song writer's intent?  Anyone who is an artist has a very specific intent when they create their work.  Maybe other people hit the nail on the head when they regard it, maybe they don't.

But this is what I like to hear.  It alters the songs to suit me.  If Ritter's going to appeal to me so much, I may as well really make him mine.

Always Happens in Three's.

Celebrity deaths are a strange phenomenon.  No one really stops to recognize that except for a very select few, the world doesn't actually know these people.  They are not our friends.  They are not our family.  We have grown up with their work, been influenced by their personas, been enamored by their talent -- but they do not know us and we do not know them.

Despite this, we all seem to take it so personally when a celebrity passes away.  I've heard all my life that "it always happens in three's."  (Never does a famous person's death occurs without my mother making this statement.) There does seem to be a lot of famous death going on this spring, though.

If memory is serving me properly (it's been a little crazy with work; I think I'm getting this right), the first was Dick Clark.  An icon.  An icon for a million years.  There's an apocalyptic gatherer at work who tried to prove his point that the world was destined for destruction by using Dick Clark as justification.  "There can't be a New Year's Eve without Dick Clark, can there?  So there, you go.  No new year, so 2012 is clearly the end."

And then Davy Jones.  Sweet Davy.  I wasn't old enough for the Monkees first run, by any means.  But in Junior High, MTV aired the series.  And I fell in love with the show!!!  I hated Mike; Mickey sort of annoyed me, Davy didn't do anything for me, and I loved, loved, loved Peter.  With time, though, I realized it was Davy that had the best sense of who he was.  He embraced who he'd become.  He didn't fight it; he didn't fight the fans who wanted him to remain the sweet little guy who had wacky adventures and showed up at Marcia Brady's prom to save the day.  I actually saw Davy Jones in concert once.  There was a mentally challenged man dancing with delirious delight in front of the stage.  Davy seemed concerned, and right before the man fell to the ground, Davy had called out for someone to bring up some water to help the guy who'd become over-heated.  I don't know that this necessarily makes Davy Jones some sort of great humanitarian, but it does say something about him not being a big asshole.

MCA.  How many times have you heard "Sabotage" in the last month?  Who didn't love this song?  Who didn't love this video?  Who didn't come to embrace the Beastie Boys?  If you were of a specific generation, it was just unavoidable.  He was so young.  Death is always pretty tragic,  but when they go so young, it makes it all the worse.

Donna Summer is the last in this line.  I was pretty stunned to see her added to the list.  I certainly never participate in the Death Pools that others seem to be obsessed with.  Even if I did, hers would not have been a name I'd have thrown into the hat.  You think back to Thank God It's Friday, and she's just a sweet young thing with giant frizzy hair, a disco ball shining over her, and a dream.  I always really dug Donna Summer.  Even when it was decided that disco was devil's spawn, I kept a very soft spot for it in my heart.  Donna Summer lived there, for sure.

I know I didn't actually know any of these people.  I'm not sitting about crying over their passing, mourning their loss with any serious grief.  But it does mark a passage of time, and it definitely makes you aware of your own mortality.  That, and make you wonder a little about the Mayans.