Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Still Want My MTV!

"Remember when MTV actually played music?" How many times have we all heard that question asked? For those of you that do remember, you're very lucky. It was pretty amazing when MTV first started, to actually have visuals to go with some of the best songs being played on the radio. My kids can't even wrap their heads around not being able to go to YouTube and watch what they want, on demand let alone having videos not exist at all!

Those early years of MTV were pretty magical for everyone involved on any level. It was cool for the artists to finally get to bring their lyrics to visual life and it was equally cool to be a 12-year-old counting down the days until the hotly promoted "World Premiere" of whatever music video. Then they'd play it on the hour for an entire weekend just to make sure that we all saw it a couple dozen times.

How many times did you watch the clock while outside playing so that you could be in front of the tv at the top of every hour for when the hottest videos would play?  We all did it, right? I wish for one solid week my kids could go back in time to the early 80's when MTV was something to really look forward to. Now it's just a parade of reality shows with people destined for parenthood, divorce and rehab- all by the age of 21!

It seems to take the death of an iconic artist such as Prince or David Bowie for MTV and VH1 to just play videos. In times of crisis music television instinctively drops all regularly scheduled programming in favor of, that's right,  music videos. A few days of non-stop Prince videos made me realize that I still want my (old) MTV, every day!

It's In The Music

This past Saturday afternoon was spent like so many others before it, in one of my very favorite places on earth. As I left the car and started to walk down a familiar street in what has been dubbed "The Coolest Small Town In America" I felt an excitement bordering on anxiety running through my veins. I can't quite reach the front door fast enough, yet once I'm three steps from the shop I instinctively slow down because I don't want to seem too anxious. I open the door, step inside and immediately calm down. I smell musty old vinyl records, incense burning and I hear the old floor boards shifting beneath my feet. It could be a hot summer day in 2017 or one back in 1987. Time is irrelevant because either way, I'm home.

When I was a little girl way back in 1970-something I would spend plenty of time with my dad while my mom worked nights. He worked for an up-and-coming rock radio station and so much of my time with him revolved around music. Visiting his friends while they were on air. Opening big boxes of brand new albums and previewing them on the spot or running to a newsstand every Friday to grab one of the only copies of Billboard magazine that they would get in each week. Saturday afternoons were spent in a record store- at first the little hole in the wall and then eventually in a bigger chain. The smaller shops were always the best and before I could even read I was flipping through albums and analyzing cover art. Dad would be talking music with his buddies and I would be running stuff by Blue Oyster Cult over to him because I loved the colors of visuals

These trips went on for years until I was way too old and far too cool to be caught dead with a parent. Then I went to the record store by myself to buy a mixture of hair band and freestyle dance music on cassette. Everything from Whitesnake to Expose` was bumping through my Walkman and I never left the house without some sort of music on me. It was my happy place, my escape and my salvation I'll wrapped into one four minute and thirty second song after another. Music was my normal and for years it never really occurred to me that it was actually a gift and a language that not everyone else spoke.

As I stand in front of tables full of vinyl, I'm at peace. The kind that my dad must have felt all of those years ago. The kind that you can't talk yourself into, it's either gut level there or it's not. As I pour over bin after bin, all of my real life problems seem to know better than to cut in. I'm left present in the moment and somehow connected to all of the positive things that come from melodies, harmonies and deep lyrics. Things like hope, faith, connection, joy and a reminder to my dark little heart that there is still an enormous amount of good in this world.

My dad taught me how to dig for album gold and how to find comfort in something that is always, without fail, there for each and every one of us. That need to belong and fit in somewhere- it's always in the music. Most importantly, he showed me the natural connections that form while looking for that elusive record. The reality is anyone hanging over a bin of vinyl for more than five minutes will intuitively understand how at least part of my brain works, without us ever having a conversation. So why not have that conversation? Music solidifies things before people even exchange first names.

I know that vinyl has become the cool" thing again and I love the fact that my teenagers are spinning records even more than they are using a streaming service. I just hope that once the trend cools off and Urban Outfitters stops pushing the same record player in 25 colors, the love of vinyl continues with a bunch of beautiful young faces to nurture it.

As a parent you instinctively understand that it's your job to provide for and teach your kids the things that they need to be decent and successful adults. As an older parent that has settled into life, I understand now more than ever that the biggest gifts that I have to give generally don't include a monetary price tag. When I watch my kids flip through albums now I wonder if years from now, they'll really get "it". Have I unknowingly lead them towards a lifetime of emotional understanding just as my father did me? No matter what your heart needs, it's in the music, so you might as well dig in.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016...

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
~C.S. Lewis

2016 id overwhelming to look back on. It was a mixed bag of life changing, fantastic moments and gut level lows. December has felt like a nonstop bitch slap to the face, one that I've learned from. Somewhere along the way sleep and self care was knocked down on my to-do list and boy have I paid. After a month of struggling to work and speak through bronchial pneumonia, I get it.

I will pace myself better in 2017. Good things will continue to come even if I take a day off and the tough stuff will feel easier to handle with extra rest.I hear ya 2016, loud and clear.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

George Michael's Death Feels Like Slamming the Door on My Childhood

I can still see my dad coming through the door with a big grin on his face. It was the summer of 1984 and he was carrying a record in his right hand. That sight was actually quite familiar because back then dad worked at a radio station and he made a habit of “borrowing” records overnight. He would tape them on a scrap tape and then add the song to the mixtape in his expansive musical library where he thought it sounded best. The next morning he would slip that record back into the pile at work and act as if he never had it in the first place. On this particular occasion it was a group called Wham! That had put the smile on his face. He was barely in the door when he began telling me about the song and how I had to hear it, right then and there.

I followed dad upstairs and curled up in his big green arm chair as he fiddled with his turntable before turning to put his headphones on my head. I had just turned thirteen and was already familiar with Wham! It was that pretty boy George and the other guy. They wore short shorts while dancing around in big “choose life” shirts. Bubble gum pop wasn't exactly dad's thing so I was a bit shocked by his excitement, until the music started. I sat listening, just melting into the saxophone and the smokey vocals of “Careless Whisper”. I looked at dad and he knew that I totally got it. I couldn't put my reaction into words any better than him, but I shared his excitement. Thirty-two years later nothing really compares to the feeling of finding a piece of music that, for whatever reason, resonates. It's private and it's personal, yet it's a feeling that millions of people understand without any explanation ever being needed.

Learning of George Michael's death was like a knife piercing through my thirteen year old heart. It's a feeling that 2016 has brought my way a few times too many.

Musicians like David Bowie, Glenn Frey and of course, Prince. Sitcom parents like Florence Henderson and Alan Thicke. Hell even fake villains like Stefano DiMera on “Days Of Our Lives” wasn't safe from the grim reaper that this year ultimately turned into. Online conversation echoes what has been said at work around the proverbial good old water cooler- and that's that 2016 needs to just stop already. Those of us that came of age in 1980-something need the sadness to stop and we need to roll into 2017 with at least some of our childhood icons untouched.

I mean, have you really thought about why the collective loss of so many celebs seems to be cutting so many of us to the core? I don't know about you but I feel that with every death I feel just a little bit older. The sometimes harsh reality is that those of us that were teenagers when Headbangers Ball was first a thing and when dressing in the perfect mix of neon, lace bows and rubber bracelets were a fashion “do”, aren't getting any younger. In fact, we are teetering around age fifty, give or take a few years.

Fifty. Remember when thirty sounded absolutely ancient? Now add two decades. I can still rap right along with the Beastie Boys, but I have a husband, kids, a house, grand babies, work stress and all sorts of daily multitasking to accomplish. I'm at an age where I'm fortunate to still have my parents but many of my friends have buried theirs. It's also a time in my life when so many around me have waged their own life and death health battles that I can't help but wonder when it'll be my turn. Sometimes the only thing during the day that takes me back in time to when finding the perfect shade of Princely nail polish was my only care in the world is spending four minutes in the car listening to “When Doves Cry” on blast.

Adulting is hard and we naturally hang on to every thing that takes us back to an easier time. Watching as 2016 has systematically picked off parts of my own pop culture history has felt like slowly shutting the door on my own childhood. Every generation has watched as their own icons have fallen, but never
like this. The internet, with its' developing stories, instantaneous tributes and social media platforms that allow us to grieve side-by-side with complete strangers has also made the death of Michael, Bowie and Prince that much more palpable. It hurts to think that there will be no more new music, interviews or live appearances and it's now okay to admit that hurt, because it has become a hugely shared experience. One that actually seems to somehow help.

Why is it that we appreciate people a little more after they draw their final breath? I've been listening to George Michael all morning long- wondering why I don't do it more often. How is it that people end up being placed on a glass pedestal after their death rather than being fully appreciated while they are here on earth?

I'll be just as glad as everyone else to slam the door shut on 2016 and I'm going to cross my fingers and hope really hard that January will be the start of a gentler year. But the lessons of this ones haven't been lost on me. Nothing and no one is permanent. I'll appreciate people and their talent while it's unfolding in front of me. Assuming that they'll always be there when I have more time or feel like paying attention is just foolish. Oh and that bucket list? Well, maybe it's time to buy the damn tickets rather than waiting until the next tour... next year... or eventually. I added George Michael to my concert bucket list after Prince died and well, I should have seen him when I had a chance ten years ago. I regret not doing it now.

Next year I will buy the tickets, spin the vinyl lining shelves in my office and be grateful to have experienced the likes of Prince, Madonna and George Michael in their heyday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If You Insist on Knowing My Bliss...

The other day we took a ride to do some shopping at a mall about 25 miles away. There are outlets about five minutes away but ironically enough (especially for a house full of book nerds) the nearest big bookstore is at that mall, so off we went. We moved to this area well over a year ago and there are a few constants in "the salt life": there is humidity even during boots weather, deer, raccoon's & ducks do coexist in our backyard and last but certainly not least, Hall & Oates is always on the radio.


We noticed this pattern after a few months. Every time we get in the car there's a Hall & Oates song. Eventually the kids were sold on this duo and when I started to rebuild by record collection we "had to" get Hall & Oates. Not that it took a lot of convincing.

I was raised on Daryl and John. I think my dad had all of their early stuff and by the time they were making slick videos in the 80's I was totally sold. I mean, does any 80's child NOT remember Hall & Oates "Private Eyes" video, complete with trench coats and claps on the beat? I didn't think so. I remember my mom's best friend running a day care out of her home back in the early 80's and I went to help her for a day. I loved Rita and would use any excuse to get to hang with her so sure, I had no problems reading stories and making sandwiches. 

On this particular day though, Rita had the new Hall & Oates album (the one with "Maneater") on, It eventually was my job to keep flipping it over after the final song on each side. Hall & Oates were big back then, way big and not just in music. They also had their names attached to a lot of different products and you can find them in nearly every magazine pitching something.

Apparently it's not just our family that still loves Hall & Oates either. There's a reason that they are constantly on the radio here, I found that out last summer when they were scheduled to play a local festival. Tickets sold out in under ten minutes. Who didn't get any? This girl. It was also one of the few times that my media request fell on deaf ears too! Next time around you better believe that I'll be on a mission.

So anyway, back to yesterday. We spent 20 minutes in the car, stopped so that, as usual Starbucks could bungle my name

So incredibly close, but no. I now understand that "Cate with a C" now makes me instantly a Jenner. Finally, the inevitable did happen, "Kiss On My List" started to play about 2 minutes before we hit the mall and the whole family took an audible sigh, in unison. Funny how people you may never meet become such a regular part of daily life, isn't it? "Kiss On My List" has always been my very favorite Hall & Oates song. Why, I'm not exactly sure. I think it's a 4 minute example of how my childhood can collide with my kids.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Anyone Else Feel Like a Shot of Bleach is in Order?

So, I'm gonna go here even though I originally promised myself not to do it. Do not comment on the election. Don't get into a long-winded, heated debate over something that can't be changed. Don't add to the aura of negativity that has permeated everything over the last several months. But here's the thing, I'm a writer by nature. It's not just what I do but it's who I am. I space out, words appear and if it's good then I usually have no idea what I even wrote. That's a true writers brain for you. 

But you guys. This is the first time that any election has left me genuinely concerned. I'm admittedly neither a Trump supporter nor a Trump fan and in years' past if the wrong (for me) candidate won, well it didn't feel like that big of a deal. This one does. My issue is that he treats people in ways that I don't want my kids to ever in a million years imitate. We thrive on kindness, grace and tolerance here, but that's just us. That aside, I've come to realize that my issue isn't even with Trump. He is just a man with bad hair and a family that basically functions only as a business (sorry y'all have you really looked at their body language?). He is flesh and blood with numbered days, just like the rest of us.

I guess it's the rest of us that my issue is with. I totally get the desire for change and the need to shake up the things that have failed us for far too long. But do we need to go about it in such a vile and hateful way? How do you flip a switch and choose to unite a nation that has been methodically broken down for months on end. How do we teach our sons to respect women when our leader clearly does not (unless they are willingly subservient to him)? How do we encourage our daughters, sisters and friends to speak up about sexual harassment in the workplace when our president believes that if there is enough money in your pocket it entitles you  to whomever you want, whenever you want?

How do we find ways to unite as a people for the greater good when if you look over your shoulder you'll see people purposely left in the dust because their skin is the wrong shade? I agree with the concept of no free rides but do we have to dehumanize our own based on the shade of their skin or who they choose to curl up with at night once darkness falls and time seems to stand still? 

I'm not going to sit here and pretend to have any answers at all, because I don't. Hell it has taken me all day to be able to even formulate questions. What I do know is that one man cannot actually break a country. We're already fractured into pieces and it's up to the people that live here to actively choose to be different. The leader of the free world doesn't determine your capacity for love, kindness and empathy. We don't need to mold ourselves after someone just because they hold a position that comes with instantaneous and often undeserved respect. To some last night's election was cause for a victory lap while others woke with fear of the unknown. Hopefully by tomorrow the majority of us will find a way to wake with a resolve to continue trying to leave this world a little better than we found it. After all that's something that is in our own hands, right>