Saturday, December 31, 2011

...The radical freedom my daughter embraced created a form of imprisonment for me. Even though Marissa assured me I had nothing to do with her choice, for that year and a half she was away, I was locked in the feeling that I had failed her. The sense of safety I had provided at home clearly hadn’t been enough. 

Or maybe my vision of her future was what she ran from. I had said, stay in school, get a job, buy a house, and you’ll retire securely, even though that hadn’t worked out for me. When she said she wanted to break free, at first I gripped tight, imposed new rules and higher expectations. I insisted that she turn away from wildness, even in this wild time. Eventually... I loosened the reins and trusted to fate. Neither approach brought her back. Marissa said she was going toward something I wouldn’t, couldn’t, understand. After a year of trying, I see that she is right. This life she and her friends led was not worse than I imagined, but it was more dangerous than I had wanted to believe. I can describe it, but understanding still eludes me. 
I read Danelle Morton's article on the eight killed in the December 28, 2010 warehouse fire and am still struggling with my reactions and the responses of others to the sympathy she exhibits for the dead and her attempts to understand why they made the choices that lead to their deaths in a fiery inferno that likely resulted from their attempts to keep warm on an icy cold night. The knee-jerk impulse for us all - myself included - is to roundly condemn these kids for being there in the first place. Raised in good homes by the families' accounts (though there may be some things they aren't sharing), who in their right minds would think that family conflicts during the teenage years could get so bad that hopping trains and engaging in Darwinian-like struggles for day-to-day survival could be a viable option?

It rid the world of some extra weight. What would kids like that ever contribute to society anyhow? Cruel, yet comforting (on some level) thoughts, designed to insulate oneself from the idea that it could ever happen to one's family. The scarier thing to contemplate, after all, is that it could and does happen indiscriminately. You could still do everything you're supposed to do as a family in rearing your kids and they could still choose that kind of life...and, short of having them committed to some sort of institution against their will, you'd be stuck in the same kind of limbo Morton describes, forced to trust fate will somehow keep smiling upon your kids as they embrace body and soul this idea of freedom that is so far outside what most of us think of when we contemplate the same thing - familiar, but far out.

I guess there are times when I could've gone the same way myself, most notably when I ran right out of grade school around 4th or 5th grade in frustration with the near-constant bullying I got from my peers and got as far as the railroad tracks down the block before realizing I'd make a terrible runaway. Any frustrations I had with my family as a teenager - and believe me, there were many - were mostly neutralized by a strong sense I had of simply tolerating it all because I'd be out of the house before I knew it. It was, in the end, the values I had and a sense of guilt over hurting my parents' feelings too much that held me out of the life of a traveler. I didn't want to do anything drastic that would kill my family emotionally. Not until I was out of their house, anyway.

I look at my son who is now halfway to eighteen and I wonder about the choices he will make, and the kind of world we currently have a hand in creating that might give him the impression that being a traveler is a good idea. Would it be in rebellion at how much we are spending our lives plugged into technology? In recoil at how much we pay and pay and pay in health care, education, and overall homage to consumerism? Or would it be as simple as we'd be cramping his style and, in the face of a serious lack of coming-of-age rituals and/or starter employment for young adults, he'd rather hop a train and squat in an abandoned home? Yes, my fears are colored by this past year's events worldwide, which constantly drive home that this world needs a lot of work. But is the best way to help it all along found in completely dropping out of it all in this way? I don't know, I can't bring myself to willingly find out, and I don't know what I'd do if my not-so-little guy decided to take that path. What I do know is that if things don't change in another nine years priority-wise for our entire country, more of our kids will head down that no-holds-barred road with only our love - if these kids even have it (horrible to contemplate, but some households are like that) - to prepare them for any uncertainties.

No one is completely blameless in any of the business that led to eight people dying in an abandoned warehouse over a year ago. At those tragic times, it is simply driven home how little control we have over the decisions of others, no matter how much we care for the decision-makers themselves. We can only lay some foundations, set some good examples, and stay alert for the possibility that these wild souls will return in one way or another - and, if they do, our doors and hearts will be open to what they bring.

X-posted at Humid City

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Indulge me, please. I gotta post this about Bushwick's own House of Soul, which has now hung around for ten years. Gotta love where the Amy Winehouse Back To Black platinum record is in the house, too:

What can I say? I still wanna be Sharon Jones when I grow up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My brain is full these days, and I kinda need a bit of a dumping thing to happen, so here goes:

It's simply too, too easy for me to be on Twitter. I have a serious habit that is enabled by my trusty Droid, and I have to face up to being able to "stop anytime I want" as being the ultimate in personal delusions. I think I recently pledged to form a Carnival subkrewe through it, for crying out loud - in light of Will Ferrell being named as this year's Bacchus, a few of us speculated as to why Christopher Walken was never tapped for that bastion of celebrity Carnival royalty. He would be the most badass Bacchus ever...but he deserves his own twisted legions. Think of the debut of the Walken Krewe: a bunch of stylishly dressed marchers with these sorts of moves. Throwing cowbells of their own. Perhaps a watch or two. Or just engaging in some subtly and not-so subtly dirty old man antics. Perhaps all the Walkens can do the suave Bond villain thing, psychotically destroying carnival even as they participate in it. The possibilities are nearly endless at this point...

I look for distractions - the more powerful, the better - to mainly take my mind off the pains of my ankle getting used to the lace-up brace I'm supposed to be wearing (and I do wear it, for the most part, if I'm going to be walking around. The physical therapists I've had couldn't believe I hadn't tried some walking without Das Boot before the brace, but I want it so that I don't want to deal with this ever again if I can help it.) I've fallen into listening to lots of music again, with the help of many music streaming sites and apps - it's been like discovering college radio plus some of the best indie record stores all over again. It's mind-blowing, the amount of music that is currently readily available at your fingertips if you are web-savvy and have little fear of exploring what these sources have to offer. It's a world that places even greater emphasis on a plethora of individual opinions over the tastemaking of a select few, which consequently contributes to the number of ways certain institutions like the Grammy awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee choices can be bashed, not to mention which top music lists may matter more than others. Some things never really change.

What I wish would change for the better would be how we consider education. Yeah, yeah, same ol' same ol' from me...I should just give up any feelings of concern over schools destined to fail, schools in the process of having staff jump ship in anticipation of their closure, and the pratfalls of semi-autonomy and just let it go because current proponents of community involvement in and local leadership of the schools have already had their chance. When even some of my own basic assumptions about education and the supposed importance of the socializing elements of it are called into question, however, I wonder. Maybe we should do away with teachers if they don't value creativity. Maybe parents should avoid the very institution that is the public or private school if continued bullying cannot even be countered by those meant to guide the children in that environment (I know if my own parents had thought similarly about my grade school experience, seven years of my life might have gone very differently.). And let's all turn back time and forget about birthing any more babies while we're at it.

All of this makes my head spin almost as much as this holiday "wreath" I saw at a too-spiffy-looking new bagel place in town:

Good bagels. Questionable decor.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This year, I had one of these on my cake.

It would've been nice if we'd been told about that wire to cut off the bazillions of times the thing was playing "Happy Birthday." The following ensued instead.

This doesn't happen every time we go to our pal Edie's house to watch the Saints games, but it was fun. And now we know what to do when we can't shut "Happy Birthday" off.

And Das Boot is finally off my ankle. But this lace-up ankle brace I have on now is giving me strong deja-vu.  Like getting used to Das Bootie. Urrrrrgh.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Well, hello, mangling of any and all rock n' roll genres in the name of a Jewish holiday! How are you this morning? You're moving like Jagger? Really?


I don't wanna say what you sound like.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Childish Things

When you spend a good chunk of your morning on Twitter debating the validity of a few choice phrases with Nicholas Payton and some of our Twitter followers, things are gonna go, well, downhill. Specifically, all the way back to my college days when we art students took out our frustrations in the all-day foundation studios at the ice rink tormenting anyone from the opposite team who happened to find himself in the penalty box, cheering on the Zamboni man, and shooting off the occasional bottle rocket while the college's president happened to be in attendance (oops).

What's especially funny is that a version of these t-shirts used to be hard to come by, and now they're sold in the college store, along with those of the basketball team that was formed after I graduated.

These days, I'm definitely feeling my past. Part of it is certainly my son turning nine today - another part of it is seeing how much I get het up over things I swore I'd never go nuts over if/when I had a kid. It all paints my husband as the optimist and me as the pessimist - hey, at least I married well in that regard. 

"He can't seem to really focus," I said to Dan on hearing one of the little guy's inner-yet-spoken-aloud monologues in progress instead of the subdued sound of pencil against paper completing his homework. 

"Oh, he can sure focus on books he likes and LEGOs he wants to build," Dan replied. "It's all about what he wants to focus on. He's perfectly capable," he said with a smile.

"And you really want to have more kids?"

"We've already made all the mistakes we're going to make, right?"

"But with another, we'd probably be making different mistakes," I said grumpily.

"Fail, then fail again differently, huh?" Dan shook his head.

Okay, so my reproductive system isn't exactly screaming for one last chance - and if it is, I can't hear it over my constant mantra of "Kids are a crapshoot." For every person who walks up to me and asks if I'm going to have another as though I've found the Angelic Child Formula with the little guy (it's so easy to fool people when you resemble Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone" and you have a sense of humor to match), I have to restrain myself a little more from detailing how much I dread a developmental phase in his and my roads that will suddenly make me and Dan "the enemy" somehow. Until that day, though....

I don't brag about this kiddo of mine too much because 1) I'm biased and 2) I tend to roll my eyes some when others do it concerning their kids (I've been working on 2). Like you wouldn't believe.). However, he's a bright little character who once asked a friend if her stuffed panda was snake intolerant. 

Although he has problems picking up after himself and seems to have inherited my husband's inability to really look for things he needs to find (I think it's a Y-chromosome thing, anyhow. Try looking under things, guys.), there's a good heart in there that is curious about the way the world works - it's a curiosity that I wish I could explore more with him, but things in our house already resemble one giant science experiment...perhaps we can get going on that crystal-growing kit soon. What the hell, another addition to the mess. 

He loves baseball, and I wish I could get the damned Das Boot off my ankle so that I could drive him to one of his fall ball practices or games just to see him getting into it. He loves to dance - in fact, this past Halloween, he danced so much to the live band at the neighborhood party he neglected the candy part of the night, much to Dan's yen-for-chocolate chagrin. He also gets very conscious of rules for certain things, and about abiding by those rules: "We can't use the internet on this homework, Mom!" he admonishes me when it comes to another of his research projects (we probably deserve some of that considering how we showed our displeasure with one of his assigned subjects). "That's my character," I say.

But wow, the general intolerance for bright guys like him is increasing out there in the big ol' world. The pressures to conform may not be as great in some ways and in some places - and we're already on the wrong side of a lot of it anyhow due to our Judaism - but I worry for the kiddo as he gets older and the schooling situations change, which they will. At the same time, I know these are battles that he has to largely muddle through himself, as we all had to in our childhoods, but I don't want to be completely indifferent. The impulse to throw up my hands and unleash a string of curses over it all is nearly overpowering - but I largely leave the cursing in front of the little guy to Dan.

We're not totally ready to put away childish things in our house, at any rate. It's still worth it to giggle with the kid over the Katrina refrigerator-esque scene in The Muppets where the Swedish Chef simply takes a torch to the moldy Muppet things inside. If that's some kind of liberal/lefty bias, well, fine. I personally find it more childish not to have a sense of humor.

Happy 9th birthday, little man.