Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Important

Earthquakes and tsunamis. Hurricanes and floods. Fires burning out of control during the hottest days of the year. There are countless individuals dealing with death, and injury, and devastating loss, just in this year alone. Samoa is in the news. Noel writes about the death toll in Manila (click here).

Me? My scooter is in the shop for a shredded belt, so I have to sit in freeway traffic on the way to work and on the return home. I almost hesitate to mention that. But I mention it in order to illustrate how my own reality couldn't come close to comparing what these victims and survivors are going through. I can only imagine.

And I do. I imagine what it must be like to lose your entire home and all of your material belongings.

The recent summer fires were several miles away from where I live, but they were still too close for comfort. I saw more than one enormous black plume of puffy black smoke coming from the hills in the last month.

I think of the home owners who live frighteningly close to the fires, and the amount of notice they may have had before being forced to evacuate. What did they take with them? How did they choose, how did they prioritize?

The dogs, that's definitely the first thing I would take with me in an emergency, our two pugs. My heart breaks for the animals that did not survive Hurricane Katrina, and also for those who did survive but were homeless and owner-less after. The news showed some rescue boats approaching people perched above water on their roof tops or in second story windows. Humans had to be given priority over animals, so people with pets were not allowed to take their canine companions into the small vessels with them.

I couldn't do that, leave my dogs behind.

At least, I think I wouldn't. It's easy to say that from the comfort of my non-flooded home, easy to think so when I have never come close to being in such a desperate and dire situation.

But if I had any kind of advance notice, I'd try to my take my recorded history with me, my identity. I would take any and all photographs with me after the dogs' safety was ensured (and I would grab the plastic critter cage with the two dwarf hamsters). I have kept diaries and journals since I was in grade school in the 70's, and I would rush to find and rescue those.

I have over two hundred Furbies, the majority of which are still in their original unopened boxes. Sadly, I think I would have to choose to leave them all behind.

What's important to you? What would you take with you in an emergency evacuation?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Miss Heard, the Lyrics?

I love Miss Heard. She helps me fill in the gaps when I can't quite hear or understand the real words of the song. I have been thinking of her since yesterday, ever since the news announced the demise of the real life Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I keep thinking of the other girl referenced in the song,"the girl with colitis goes by" (the girl with kaleidoscope eyes).

Maybe Miss Heard first starts whispering to us when we're very young, shortly after we start learning to talk. I don't remember what lyrics she may have helped me to slaughter before I entered kindergarten. But I still giggle over one of my little sister's interpretations.

"Mister Doo-dah on my fee-nah!" she would sing boisterously from her car seat.

My younger brother and I, also in the back seat of the car, would snicker at her idiocy. We felt superior knowing the real lyrics. "Mister Bluebird on my shoulder," from "Song of the South," as sung by Uncle Remus (Did you know they are not allowed to show or release that anymore? Something about the Uncle Tom character - I mean - Uncle Remus not being racially PC or sumthin' . . . ).

Miss Heard stayed close by during my adolescence, always available. She helped me to sing along with the Police during the early 80's.

"I'm a pool hall ace!" I would sing along with Sting. I'm not sure if I was still in my twenties, or if it was during my thirties when I finally learned that he was really singing "How my poor heart aches," in their now classic hit "Every Breath You Take."

And guess what Miss Heard told me they were saying the very first time I listened to that Salt-N-Pepa hit while dancing in a divey gay bar? You know, when, in the chorus, they say, "Ah! (tsss) Push it!" It was the late 80's. I had reached full-fledged adulthood by that time, but it was an innocent time (*smirk*), and it was still rather shocking to hear the P-word mentioned in a dance tune.

One of my all time favorites, though, is from the early 80's. My youngest brother was singing the chorus of Romeo Void's one hit (wonder!), "Never Say Never," except his version was:

"My mama said sweater would never get better."

Despite Miss Heard's usual interference, even I knew that it was supposed to be, "I might like you better if we slept together." My youngest brother was eight at the time, so I just let him think that Miss Heard was right.

Now, "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."

With what lyrics has Miss Heard misled you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Age Appropriate

I coulda' predicted it, practically, the fact that young men would be wearing black socks with sneakers.

In the early 80's, when I was a teenager, I swore that I would never do that - the way my father did, wearing dark dress socks with shorts and white tennis shoes at the church picnic. I had joked that by the time I was his age, dark socks with sneakers might become the trend for younger guys.

What's that bitter after taste? Oh, yeah. It's from having to eat my words.

Young men today wear this particular look much better, though. Most of them will wear black socks with black sneakers, giving their casual summer outfits much cleaner lines. Fosse would be proud.

I love that younger men seem to have more freedom of expression in the way they dress today. Style options include so many different bright colors, now, starting with just sneakers! These kids have it so easy these days. Why, in the old days (someone cut my tongue out now - now !) we toiled hard for alternate colors. Oh, how we suffered from the back-breaking chore of having to add our own Rit dye to the wash cycle, just so we could have a decent pair of purple Levi's!


I also love the retro look of black shoes with white socks, worn with jeans, of course. But even that look is getting more difficult to pull off as I age.

These days, I look a little wistfully at the louder hues and busier patterns of young men's clothing, but I hold myself back from purchasing any. Sometimes I wish I worked at a fashion institute so that I would have an actual reason to dress more flamboyantly, more outrageously, like those male fashion mavens on "Ugly Betty."

Simple is better, easier to manage. I wear brightly colored shirts but I stick to solids, and basic stripes and plaids. I love hounds tooth. That will never go out of style, not in my personal wardrobe.

And yes, I do wear white gym socks with sneakers, whether it's for cross-trainers, Converse, or Van's.

Hm. I might be getting too old to wear Van's Off-the-Walls anymore.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Gonna Live Forever

Often the anticipation of an event is better than the actual event itself. Happily, the new film version of "Fame" - something I had looked forward to - did not disappoint. I cannot disagree with the reviews that had panned this rather disjointed adaptation, with its inconsistent story lines and lack of follow up on some of the characters.

But I was still determined to enjoy this film.

And I loved it. It had everything I was looking for: dance auditions and dance classes, soulful singing, and excellent production numbers. And of course, it was chock full of emotions. I was looking for feeling, the way a movie like "Fame" makes you feel.

Even if this new version of "Fame" is not as successful as the original, I think it can still reach a large audience in the way it makes people feel. In an intense and satisfying way, a film like this deals with the universal feeling of wanting, with what you are passionate about, and what you are willing to do to gain what you desperately want most out of life.

Yes, the film does deal with the heartache of trying and trying and never making it, the heartache that we feel sometimes. A lot of the time (most of the time?). But it also deals with the feelings of possibility, of believing in yourself despite the odds - feelings that keep you hanging in there and coming back for more, because it provides optimism and motivation.

It provides hope.

I was a little surprised by theater friends who were ready to dismiss the film even before its release. "You can't mess with a classic," was a typical remark, as well as "They shouldn't try to remake it."

I didn't see it as a remake. I saw it as an update and as a continuation, and a belated one at that. It's been almost thirty years since the original "Fame" was released in theaters! I would think that my friends who are actors and singers and dancers would be happy that performing arts is still getting so much national attention.

Maybe we are just too old and jaded, now. Maybe we should leave a film like this to the twenty-somethings and teens. Unless they're already jaded, too.


It's a good film. It wasn't a great film, but I enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of scenes that paid homage to the original, such as the one that shows a dancer close to committing suicide in a subway station, after being told that he doesn't have what it takes to become a professional ballet dancer.

And this new version had qualities similar to what made the original such a favorite of mine. I am grateful for the cover of the title song, as well as for the cover of the ballad "Out Here on My Own," which had also been sung by Irene Cara. Naturi Naughton, as Denise, seems to maintain respect for the original recordings while punching them up with her own deftly controlled vocals. She is no "Coco Hernandez," and she doesn't need to be. Her portrayal of the shy, classically trained pianist/emerging R&B singer is a strong and satisfying performance.

Asher Brook's performance as Marco also appears to be a nod to the original film, if only in the pensive and wistful love songs he sings, reminiscent of Paul McCrane's character, Montgomery MacNeil. His vocal talent seems light and effortless, in a John Mayer kind of way. It is a welcome counterbalance among the many contemporary hip hop tunes in the movie.

I don't know how young people will respond to this new and latest version of "Fame," but it sure got the attention of my Inner Teen. I may not actually live forever, but this 2009 film confirmed that I will be a fanatical Fame-head for the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Passive Pete

I know I'm passive-aggressive. I can accept that about myself. But how passive is too passive?

"Why you not married, yet?" she asks me. "You so handsome." She is the owner and operator of the dry cleaning service. She is an older Korean lady who looks younger than she really is. She reminds me of my mother, except with more make up and a better dye job.

"Oh, no. Marriage is too expensive," I tell her as I pay for my clean shirts. "I just finished college. I have to save up for retirement, now." My excuses sound weak, lame, even as they are coming out of my mouth. They hold for only so long.

"Why you not married, yet?" she keeps pressing, even months later.

Finally, I start to level with her. "You know the other Japanese guy that comes in here, the one whose shirts I pay for sometimes? That's my partner. We are together. He is my marriage."

She seems only mildly surprised. "No, but you should marry woman, have children," she insists. "It not good to be alone."

I remain polite, passive. "But I am not alone. He is like my husband. And it's too expensive to have children. I am in my forties. It's too late to start raising children."

I am not offended. I can take for granted that it's just her culture ingrained into her way of thinking, and that, for her, not getting married is unthinkable. She has grown children of her own. Her Korean daughter has married a white man. I told her that they will have cute mixed babies that look like me.

She continues to ask why I'm not married, each time I come in to drop off or pick up clothes.

Finally, I just switched cleaners. I wonder if she's wondering, "Why you not come here no more?"