Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday night and Sunday Morning Music

I play the guitar and sing at a local wine bar a couple of times a month. For two and a half hours, I am unplugged background music for an upscale crowd of everyone from 20-somethings to 60-somethings. I, myself am much closer in age to the latter. The music I play is mostly 60s and 70s acoustic stuff, James Taylor, Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Everly Brothers, Cat Stevens, et al.

People like it, or so it seems. Folks call out requests and more often than not, I can send out at least a stanza or two of what they want. What is remarkable is that the 20-somethings know all this old music too. With the advent of iTunes and other online music snatching sites, the generation my children belong to has claimed, not only their music, but also mine, as their own. This is very cool.

My 23-year-old son also plays at this same establishment sometimes. And sometimes we play together. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Oh, how sweet is that!, mother and son singing together!" And it is sweet. I love singing with him and we are not bad, you know. Many of my friends come, as do his, to hear us and hang out on a weekend evening. This gig, however small and really, insignificant, has come to mean a lot to me.

I also sing in the choir of my local Methodist church. I have been a steady alto presence for over ten years now, and, even though my religious views are, well, shall I say, HERETICAL, it is a great group of people and we have fun. Singing hymns and religious anthems every Sunday morning is at least as inspiring as the Saturday night stuff. To me. I don't analyze it. I just feel it and go with it.

Emily Saliers, one half of the Indigo Girls wrote a book a few years back with her father Don, a reknowned hymnast (rhymes with gymnast) for the United Methodist Church and co-editor of that church's universal hymnal. The term 'music of Saturday night and Sunday morning' was stolen from them.

Some of us worship at the altar of the pub. Others at the church altar. Some of us manage to fit in both. For me, one is not complete without the other. So.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow Day (or not)

Everyone who has ever been a child in this country can relate to the excitement of the possibility of the ever-magical SNOW DAY!. We here in my town have had two already this winter. Now, I used to be president (actually CO-president) of my local PTA and as I recall, our school district only built one Snow Day in to each year's calendar, in order to reach the state's proscribed (or is it PREscribed? Idk.) number of school days in the year. I recall that if we fell short of the 185 or so days of school, the state would withhold all funding, take our buses away and remove all monkey bars from the playgrounds.

So. today it is snowing big flakes. It is sticking and the forecast is for snow through the next two days. My daughters, their friends and my significant other sat by the fire, looking out onto the white wonderland outside when the phone rang. We recognized the number of the office of the school superintendent. Excitement built to a frenzy. We turned it on speaker. "Good evening," the serious sounding pre-recorded voice said. "This is Dr. Gideon, the superintendent of schools. Due to the inclement weather and the threat of increasing precipitation in solid form and with concern for the mental well-being of all involved, I, Dr. Gideon, superintendent of schools, on this day, February 24, in the year of our lord, 2010, being of sound mind . . ."

Tension mounts in the room. We are all straining to hear the magic words. . . . "keeping our eyes glued to the latest weather reports and carefully studying teachers' contracts as to entitled days off, will let you know tomorrow morning whether or not you have a snow day."

We let out a collective groan. "What the hell!?" several of the girls shouted. We moms did not correct their language. "That message said absolutely nothing!"

True, no? The politics of school administrators reaching into the sanctuary of our homes and wreaking havoc with our minds, our hopes and our dreams.

Snow Day tomorrow? Maybe. If there is one, I think they will have to take a day away from spring break in late March. The teachers would not like that. Well, I probably wouldn't like it so much either.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trying Me On for Size

I thought I was the only one who did stuff like this. But in a recent conversation with a friend who I consider entirely normal and rational said she did many of these same things too.

So. When I was a kid, I used to try out different things to see if they fit me - my image and all. I tried out different styles of walking, talking, writing, standing, and even positioning my hands, to see if I could re-create myself in a more cool way.

Take walking. I was naturally a little duck-footed, walking with my feet turned slightly out. Now, I understand this is a healthy and normal way to walk. But Alex, the boy across the street, and my true love, walked a little pidgeon toed. Alex was skinny and wore Levis and white Hanes-type tee shirts. A six-year-old James Dean. So for several years, I deliberately walked that way too.

Okay, talking. With the advent of the Beatles, really, didn't we all speak with phony British accents, at least for a while? And how about writing? In Catholic school we were taught the 'Palmer' method of penmanship, or what I familiarly called 'nun writing.' I broke with Palmer and the Sisters of Mercy to try different slants, loops and the selective use of print or block letters mixed up with the cursive or 'script' writing we were supposed to be mimicking. I even tried imitating those poor lefties in class who were forced to turn their loose-leaf way sideways and curl their hand around up to the point where they looked like palsy victims.

Even my posture was up for manipulation. For a while, I tried slumping a little when standing, so as to look like that broodingly handsome Russian spy, Ilya Kuriyakin. I even wore the requisite black turtleneck. To top off my authentic look, I had a plastic shoulder holster and detective gun that shot out white rubbery bullets.

Later in life, I noticed I had a tendency to clench my hands when not using them for some specific purpose. So I deliberately practiced relaxing and opening them when at rest, as if to impart how chill and zen I really was. I tried different ways of crossing my legs (at the ankle or one knee over the other were ladylike and acceptable. I dabbled in the more mannish Tee cross, when one whole leg rested on the other. I alternately disdained and envied men who, taking up more than their fair share of public space on the train and in the theater, sat with their legs spread far apart and arms hogging any available armrests. Now and then, in the subway, depending on how grouchy I was feeling, I would spread mine to, fighting for precious inches of leg room.

These mannerism manipulations do not deep-down define me. They were and are akin to a kind of 'Design on a Dime' makeover for my persona. Try this color. That strut. Those expressions that only really impart a perceived first impression.

They say we are what we eat, and that is so. But a little of us is also what we wear, the timbre of our voice, the tilt of our head and the gainliness of our gait. Not superficial, I say. Its just us figuring out who we are and where we fit in.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New York City has changed in the last 30 years. I used to live in Manhattan - oh, around the late '70s up to the mid '80s. It seems more crowded (huh, big surprise), cleaner and, actually nicer. Times Square sure is nicer and Penn Station smells better. When I lived there, E.J Korvettes was across the street from Macy's. I remember being told that 'E.J Korvettes' was short for 'Eight Jewish Korean War Veterans'. The discount store was supposedly started by eight army buddies. Idk. It seemed like a pretty clever name. I lived on Eighth Avenue and 34th Street and worked on Fifth Avenue. There was a way to travel underground from home all the way to Herald Square via subway walkways. It seemed like a good option for bad weather, since I always walked to work. But the smell in those walkways always made me sorry I tried.
Manhattan seems better now. Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down With the Dogs

Work. I work at Petco. I am their on-site dog trainer. That sounds cool to some, and it is, sometimes. Hard to make a living there. I make $9.50 an hour, plus a small percentage of each person's tuition. 6 weeks to the perfect puppy! Although I have some experience training dogs at the animal shelter where I volunteer, working with the owners is new. Hopefully I can wean away from Petco and develop my own business, training dogs privately. Big bucks, baby! We all know lots of wealthy dog trainers, don't we? There's Cesar Milan, and . . . hm, oh, that skinny British woman with the tight pony tail. That's about it. Dogs like those foreign accents. When I train dogs, I try different accents.
Actually, I am also adopting a new (to me) dog this coming tuesday. His name is Charlie and he became homeless when his owner died. Charlie is a cattle dog mix kinda thing. Furry and fat. I've had him out a few times at the shelter and today I took my dog Sammy to meet him. Tuesday can't come soon enough. When I say his name, I invariably slip into, "Chaaahley. Chaaahley bit me. And that really hurt, Chaahley and it's still . . . hurting." Fortunatley for my Charlie, he has bitten no one and never will.
Dogs are the best, aren't they? Like goofy angels in disguise. We humans need all the angels we can get.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow is falling. Softly, yet determinedly. It has been so since last night. We had a snow day here today and, according to the recorded message left on my cell phone a little while ago, are having another one tomorrow. Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday. She is turning 18 and wants to do all the things one can legally do when they turn 18. Where we live, that is pretty much limited to registering to vote and buying lottery tickets. Next year she will be able to buy cigarettes and when she is 21, she can buy herself a drink. Or maybe I will.
I remember when I turned 18. That birthday, I heard my first lecture at a Unification Church Center (read 'Moonie') outside Philadelphia. 1973, it was. I stayed involved for many years, really until just a few years ago. Did the mass wedding thing and all. It was an interesting and different life to be sure. I have no regrets, really, I don't. Although I never loved my husband of 27 years (we were strangers, matched by the good Reverend in 1979), we did become friends and had five kids who I consider lucky to have us as parents.
For the last eight years or so, I have gradually weaned myself away from the Moon church and all its trappings. Partly because I came to think it was all wrong, but also because I could no longer stand to live a huge lie.
I am gay.
In the Moon church, this is the worst possible thing to be. I fought it in myself for, really, my whole adult life. No more.
I have found what I feel is a true love. She is an aquaintance-turned-friend-turned-lover. I am over the moon (pun intended) about it. There's lots to tell, possibly in random order, I'm just warning you in advance.