Friday, April 22, 2016

"Like a Bird without a Song"

Okay, I’ll say it.

Knock it the fuck off 2016.

Seriously. This, taking all the artists in the same year thing is just cruel. I get it that people are born every day, that someone else will eventually grace us with the pleasure of their artistic contributions. I also fully understand that I didn’t know a single one of the magical beings who have left this earth since this calendar year began.

But it doesn’t matter. I knew many of them inside and out. Because they all gave pieces of their souls for the entire world to share. The characters they played, songs they wrote, all become the fragments of the part of the life we in the public get to experience.

So yesterday, 2016, when you just couldn’t resist robbing us all of another entertainer, I will admit that I absolutely lost it.

Prince actually brought me to tears.

Yes, I sat in my house, listening to Purple Rain, and I cried.

It might sound weird because, like I said, I didn’t know the man. Thing is, I don’t think I’m really crying for him. Which, again, might sound really weird since the guy just died.

What I’m mourning for more than anything is the loss of what we’ll never get to hear him produce in the future.

And, that sadness? Is something that can never go away.

I can listen to all 39 of his albums back to front, the songs he helped with for The Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, or Stevie Nicks, but it isn’t enough. The world was essentially robbed of future brilliance and that’s just wrong.

A friend of mine shared something yesterday and I’d like to share the text here because it essentially says what I’ve been bumbling over for 300+ words now:

For people who don't understand why others mourn the death of artists, you need to understand that these people have been a shoulder to cry on. Our rock. They've been family, friends, leaders, teachers & role models. Many have taught us what we need to know and what to do when times get rough.They've helped us move on.They've pushed us out of bed.They've helped us live when nobody else had time to.Artists have inspired us in endless ways and have been with us through stages in our lives. We've made memories with them.So when they die, a part of us dies.

And that’s really what it all comes down to. It doesn’t matter to that person, they’re gone. It’s everyone left who have to grapple with that. Loss and mourning aren’t rational.

When something or someone leaves a lasting imprint on your heart, mind, soul, but then leaves the world far too soon, we long to find other people to surround us so we can share in the broken pieces and somehow try to put something whole back together.

I never had the pleasure of seeing Prince live. When he first hit big in the ‘80s I was a bit too young for a show like that. Hell, as I spent the day listening to Purple Rain yesterday I realized just how much I probably shouldn’t have been listening to that album on my 11th birthday.

At age 43 I still blush at a few of his lyrics.

Okay, many of his lyrics.

But I digress.

When I was old enough to take myself to a show, I was mostly broke. And then I just sort of moved on into different music. Never away, because I always liked everything the man put out there, just on to something different.

But I still have this:


You’ll notice in the upper right hand corner is a puffy Santa sticker, indicating when I got the album back in 1984. Also, you’ll notice Apollonia’s face is missing. Yeah, I was an 11 year old girl, that’s the kind of shit we did when we were jealous of the beautiful woman on the album cover.

Sorry, Apollonia.

When I went to my iTunes yesterday and pulled up the soundtrack to listen straight through the entire thing (when I should have been writing), I pulled the vinyl out of the dusty recesses of my closet and smiled as I held it.

Our little family of three was still living in the apartment in east Arlington when the album and movie came out. My sister and I shared a bedroom, slept in bunk beds surrounded by the clutter of two tween girls, and shared a record player.

In the constant rotation? INXS, Jack Wagner, Toni Basil, The Police, The Stray Cats, Huey Lewis and the News, Duran Duran, Culture Club, The Grease soundtrack, Madonna, and Prince and the Revolution.

According to my record collection, 1984 was the year I discovered popular music.

In those days music was heavy on the synthesizer. Prince’s Purple Rain is very likely responsible for the first shredding of electric guitar I’d ever heard. Few could do it like he did.

And in honor of that guitar genius and eerily poignant songwriter, Rogers Nelson, I share this as my sign off, thanks, and Kiss to the Purple One.

Thank you for reminding us all back in 1984 that life is short and to strive to be the most excellent version of ourselves that we can be.

Every. Day.

 

Let’s Go Crazy
By Prince and the Revolution

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor

If you don't like the world you're living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends

You see I called my old lady
For a friendly word
She picked up the phone
Dropped it on the floor
(Ah, ah) is all I heard

Are we gonna let the elevator
Bring us down
Oh, no let's go!

Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Let's look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!

We're all excited
But we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause
We're all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)
What's it all for (What's it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!

Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!

C'mon baby
Let's get nuts
Yeah
Crazy

Let's go crazy

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!
Go crazy

I said let's go crazy (Go crazy)
Let's go, let's go
Go
Let's go

Dr. Everything'll be alright
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children

He's coming
He's coming
Coming

Take me away!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Don’t Forget, we’re supposed to be Free and Brave

I had a conversation a short time back with my mom. It went something like this:

"My hair is a mess so I’m wearing a hat to the game, I just hate taking it off for the Star Spangled Banner."

"But they say: gentlemen remove your caps, so you don’t have to because you’re a lady."

"I always take mine off. Why wouldn’t I? Just because I’m a girl I don’t think that should allow exemption."

She replied with a thoughtful, “huh, interesting point” and that’s where the conversation ended. But I was still wondering about the significance for a couple weeks so I started looking into the issue. Turns out, I can’t seem to find a concrete answer as to why we take off hats during the anthem other than it allegedly signifies respect.

But I can’t seem to uncover who, whom, what we are all respecting by letting the world around us see our hat head. Soldiers who died for freedom? The flag itself? The singer of the anthem? Winning a war?

I’ve never really questioned why I sing the words, why I take my hat off, and perhaps that’s a good segue into where this whole conversation of country, people, and respect is going.

Is it perpetuating a double standard for gentlemen to remove hats but not ladies? I’m a lady at the same sporting event. I’m singing along with the national anthem too. If I’m wearing a hat I don’t think it matters if I have a penis or not, out of respect – like I was taught as a kid – I’m taking it off.

And that’s the crux of what I want to talk about today. Double standards.

I’ve been mostly quiet on the whole NC bill that made it almost scary to be anything other than what those lawmakers want people to be. Which I believe is nothing more than “figured out” and has everything to do with fear, and nothing to do with getting to know who those people are.

But I’ll get back to that.

What I want to discuss is this whole Curt Schilling debacle. Before I go any further, I need you to understand that I fully support the communities which were negatively impacted by what the man wrote on social media. I also have a certain level of respect for Curt because of what he did in Boston in 2004 and beyond.

I would also like to point out that, in response to all of this, there are about a million people out there saying things like:

“Grow up, stop being offended by everything, we didn’t used to have these problems…”

And to those people I say, that is the problem. Because the reason we didn’t have these “problems” in the past can be summed up in a few facts:

  • Many people who were outside the “normal” way people “should” be, were afraid to be themselves for fear of persecution or in some cases, even death.
  • Submission was the key element we were all taught – children are seen and not heard, do as I say not as I do, loose lips sink ships – and then some.
  • A grown adult tries to be who they know they are and then is told they’re not allowed to do that, no matter what the reasoning, if you aren’t offended by that kind of oppression then you’re part of the problem.


And probably a charlatan because I guarantee when it comes to your own crap you’ll be the first to yell and scream that you don’t get to do/say/be what you want.

Just like every human being. Welcome to your wake up call, we’re all oppressed by something. Take a number and get in line.

Consider this: I’m a pretty embracing person. I don’t care who/what you are just don’t be a jackhole and we’re probably cool. Maybe not BFFs or anything, but cool. But I shake my head when I remember that back when I was a kid we ran around using words like queer, gay, retarded, as insults. And why? What do those labels really tell us about a person? That they’re “different” than we are? Why does different constitute insult?

If we don’t pay closer attention to our freedom of speech we’re likely going to offend someone.

Because the entertainment industry is a good place to take a stand, a lot of those people are swinging so far in the other direction to show how “tolerant” they are that nobody is considering how both sides are coping. I think there has to be some kind of line.

I don’t agree with what Schilling posted. I think it skates down the razor blade of intolerance and ignorance. But who are the rest of us to tell him he isn’t free or brave for speaking his mind? A right afforded to everyone in this country.

Right?

Because that’s my point – does it matter who faces the wrath of intolerance? Because while we’re all busy lashing out at Curt for something he chose to publish in a public forum we’re missing the part where we’re all just as bad as he is for yelling at him for doing it.

Because, isn’t that backlash against the man nothing more than, well, intolerance, too? Intolerance of his potential ignorance?

What makes it any better when we persecute one person because of what they said about a specific group of people?

Consider this: we’d yell at someone for leaving a hat on during the national anthem but then start cheering and clapping in the middle of the song. Everyone thinks their way is right. The internet gives all of us a platform to say whatever we want (hell, I’m doing it right now).

Curt Schilling allegedly did what he did in response to the NC HB2 law that was recently passed (for a brief explanation read this article, for the full text go here). The meme he shared and comments attached were too much for ESPN to bear. He was promptly fired.

And he did share something truly awful (in my opinion) but, let’s be honest, ESPN knew exactly who the guy was before they hired him. It isn’t like this is his first offense on social media. Google his name and any or all of the words – evolution, buttclown, nazi.

But, yeah, this is the one that gets him fired.

Why is it okay in today’s society to all but light a flamethrower on one person who perhaps makes a mistake in his wording (or not) but his freedom of speech is somehow supposed to be limited for the sake of the general public because he works, essentially, as an entertainment reporter?

How else is a conversation supposed to begin? How else can a person learn to tolerate if they’re told they need to be perfect from the start, that if they make any mistake at all they’ll lose their job?

Nobody is perfect but we sure do expect a lot more from our public figures don’t we? And we have zero tolerance when they fuck something up. So instead of helping someone learn the benefits of tolerance we treat the person like they need to be voted off the island.

We’re a bunch of hypocrites.

Schilling is a public figure. So is ESPN. So are all the transgendered people who spend their days and nights trying to live how they feel they were meant to live. Nobody should bring discomfort on purpose. But then again, my question is this:

Who wins?

If we’re not allowed to speak our mind anymore (no matter how reprehensible some people might perceive the words coming out of it) then who really wins? Isn’t it the freedom of speech that makes this country a terrific place to live?

I mean, I don’t agree with what the guy posted but I also don’t agree that he should have been fired for what he said. ESPN missed a glorious opportunity for inclusion and a lesson in tolerance with this one.

Because, suppose for a moment the internet goes into full-on tizzy over his post, but, instead of firing him ESPN uses the moment as an opportunity for teaching. Teaching Curt as well as their television viewing audience that it’s okay to be who you are no matter what profession you work in or state you live in.

Get an openly gay player in the studio. Male. Female. Both. Talk to a team full of transgendered people (I’m sure they’re out there somewhere).

Bring awareness. Celebrate differences. Teach. Learn.

Division of people is what’s gotten us into this mess to begin with. It’s time to embrace, not disgrace.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Finally, I can Breathe Again

Last weekend I had the total pleasure of sharing in the surprise birthday celebration that I planned for Matt and 23 of his relatives and friends.

Before I go any further talking about this particular soiree, it will help to understand the title of this post if I back up to about 3 months ago when this party first started taking shape. As a manner of comparison, for my 40th birthday all I asked was to be let in on the day and time I had to be wherever I was being taken. Matt obliged me that information but I knew nothing else.

He never asked for the same.

And I knew what I wanted to do for him as the words…

“I don’t know what to do for your birthday, you have to help me, tell me what you want.”

…came out of my mouth back in early 2016. Because this year he’d be turning 40. This year was a huge milestone birthday. And I knew just how he was feeling about hitting that magic number.

In one word, freaked.

I remember when I was getting closer to the big four-oh. In the months leading up to my birthday I swear to you I was convinced I would just up and croak before I ever got there. Now I know everyone says ‘forty is the new twenty’ or whatever other platitude they like hearing themselves say out loud, but to me it was hard to imagine myself getting older.

Yes, despite the graying eyelashes, sagging boobs, slowing metabolism, I somehow managed to delude myself that I was still in my twenties or something. So when Matt admitted that he was kind of losing it over the upcoming day, I was just glad the party planning was already set in stone.

Because nothing makes a person feel younger than getting together in a room, filled with people they love, to laugh, cheer, eat, drink, and do all that ‘be merry’ stuff that makes life the best thing ever.

I chose to surprise him with renting a suite at Chase Field, on opening weekend, then filling it with 12 of his good friends, and get his dad and step-mom in from California, and get family in from Tucson, and get his mom in from Mississippi, and somehow manage to convince his sister and her 3 boys to make the trek out here from Boston.

And by some miracle of chance, all 23 of us (plus the handful of people at his office who also knew what was going on) managed to keep the layered secret since I first asked people to express their level of interest in buying their ticket to the game, and celebrating Matt, back on January 5.

Can I just for one second take a minute to acknowledge just how difficult it is to keep that much awesomeness inside your body? Especially considering:

  • I’ve never kept secrets from Matt in the 17ish years we’ve known each other.
  • He’s usually the first person I see at the end of the work day and I like recounting my day with him.
  • I work at home, alone, so I like to yammer on for a while after he gets home.
  • I just don’t lie. Ever. To anyone. Not anymore. I mean, when I was a kid, sure, but as an adult that seems pointless.


Boy was I ever wrong! The good news is I only had to tell one lie during all of this scheming and plotting. Amazing to say the least.

So are you ready to relive the whole experience along with me? Here’s how the timeline went…

January: Who’s in?
January: Holy crap, everyone is in?
January: Start thinking about where to house people.

February: Collect money from everyone – PayPal, shove cash in my pocket at a happy hour, stop by after work and drop cash just moments before Matt gets home (there was a lot of that kind of stuff).
February: Pay the first half of the suite rental fee / repeatedly hunt down the ticket rep.
February: Start the process of our home’s refi (meaning we shouldn’t put new, expensive purchases on our credit card and obviously the extra added challenge I really needed during party central planning stages).
February: Start formulating how I/we would get Matt to the ballpark. Deposit the last of the money from outside sources. Pay a huge chunk of the credit card bill & pray it won’t be an issue for the refi.

March: Email Matt’s boss/our loan officer to fill her in on the situation (AKA: don’t ask Matt about huge charges on the card, ask me!)
March: Final payment to suite rental. A small lull in party stuff ensues.
March: Close on the refi and (because Matt doesn’t know we will have people sleeping here), start doing construction again all around the house. Silently curse at my ladder every time I walk by it.
March: See about 100 new gray hairs starting to sprout while I try to maintain my composure because despite all the running to pick up/drop off, plan, email, etc. back and forth on party business, I still have to work every day, clean the house, do the life stuff I always do like there’s nothing else going on. Develop twitch over left eye.
March: Watch as my frayed nerve endings start jumping out of my body and realize there’s nothing I can do about it. Sweep dead nerve endings under area rug to be dealt with in April.

April: Finally! But wait, my in-laws, I hear, have plans and can’t house family. I start texting and making calls. Nobody responds in the ten seconds I expect them to respond in. Sheesh, how rude!
April: Oh shit, where will my SIL stay if my in-laws aren’t free? Agita takes hold.
April: Calls back and forth with my MIL – we can split the cost for a hotel stay. Begin researching hotels with a shuttle from the airport and/or are walking distance to Chase or our house.
April: There are zero hotels available in greater Phoenix. This is high season. You can stay in Scottsdale for $400 a night, but only 4 of you, not 5.
April: FIL & StepMIL save the day, the plans they had are altered, all 4 of the Boston fam can stay at the RV, plus I don’t have to lie about where I’m going at 10PM on a Thursday night because they have a vehicle big enough to pick up SIL and the kids at the airport.
April: I manage to exhale just a bit while I start doing the happy dance.
April: I tell Matt my mom is also coming up for the weekend and have to lie when he questions why – the one lie!
April: Coordinate with my sister and mom to be the drivers to the ballpark and arrive for early set up.
April: Consider hugging my friends and not letting go when they agree to put up my MIL for the night before the party as well as agree to be the carpool loading station for the bulk of the group.

April 6: Create an actual flowchart for the timeline of Friday’s events because I’m afraid of forgetting some small detail that will throw off the entire thing and cause my already thinning skull to implode.

April 4-7: Finish the small construction projects that need done for safety when family is in town, work, dry run to the ballpark so I don’t get lost, ensure Boston family is in safe and sound. Drop tickets for friends who won’t be able to meet up with the carpool caravan. Drool on myself and pass out on the sofa at 9PM just about every night.

8:20AM Friday April 8: Matt leaves the house late for work, like really late, for the first time maybe in his life. The moment the garage door closes I fly through a shower because I need to get to Sky Harbor to pick up my MIL, which happens with no drama but lots of traffic. We get breakfast then head to the mall to waste some time and catch up (this was really nice, I don’t always get time with my MIL because she lives pretty far away). My mom arrives at our house to drop some stuff. MIL and I head over to meet mom (praying Matt doesn’t come home for lunch or something). Mom and MIL take off for the afternoon. I haul ass up to the Musical Instrument Museum to drop tickets and a parking pass to FIL, StepMIL, SIL & nephews. I haul ass back home so I can clean before the rest of the Tucson family arrives for our “normal weekend” routine.

4:18PM April 8: I sit down on the couch with a snack, finish it, and go to get up to put my plate in the sink when I realize my legs will literally not move. Sit staring at the wall for about ten minutes while my brain does a hard reboot. Cannot compute. System failure. Switching to back up brain for next 24 hours. Running at 11% capacity.

5:00 – 5:15 April 8: Pray my mom remembers how to get to friend’s house to drop MIL, get text from Matt – he’ll be out 15 minutes early! Text friend to make sure my mom is on the way back.

5:22 April 8: Stare out front window praying the mom mobile rounds the corner before Matt. She does! We get bags inside approximately 4 minutes before Matt rolls into the driveway. Wendy & BIL roll in about 6:00. Drinks and a fun evening ensue.

Until Saturday mid-afternoon our weekend contained nothing out of the ordinary – Matt made a couple runs to Harbor Freight to do a project that morning, the family got showered and ready, and when Matt booted the compressor they all took off to go meet the crew of peeps at our friend’s place.

Then it was just the two of us.

And I knew he was going to want to lie down for an afternoon nap so I had to tell him something.

“Do you love me?”

“Of course.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.”

“Okay, then you have 15 minutes to finish this project before you have to be in the shower.”

“I knew it! I knew something must be happening this weekend!”

And at 3:06PM on April 9 we were on our way to Chase Field. I took a weird route to throw him off. But it’s impossible to hide a ballpark. He started getting really excited. He knew there would be at least 3 people at the game because they left our house early.

I text Wendy to tell her we arrived.

We head to suite level and he about loses it because he never sat in a suite at a ballgame before. I text Wendy that we’re a few minutes out.

We arrive at Suite 5 and I tap then he enters the room…

Countless phones are up recording his reaction as 22 amazing people yell SURPRISE!!!!!

And let me tell you something right now. All the stress, panic, exposed nerve endings of the last couple months? TOTALLY worth it at the sight of his face when he scanned the crowd and discovered just who was there to celebrate him!

As the day wore on (into the wee hours of the morning with the after party back at our place of course) small bits and pieces of the planning and scheming were revealed but mostly it was a time where Matt could be with so many people he loves. People he doesn’t get to see all that often.

My work was done. He was pretty much over the moon. And as far as I’m concerned, that sounds so much more fun than being over the hill.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.