Sunday, February 24, 2019

an Oscar blog for 2019

It’s Oscar Sunday, or as it’s known in my family – Christmas.

This year, I’ll be spending it with my father…and a bag of 100 calorie popcorn.

I’ve seen only three of the movies, but that’s never stopped my enthusiasm for the experience.

I’ve been obsessed since early childhood with the whole event, although in recent years, the Golden Globes have become fun to watch because most of the people are drunk. At the Oscars, they’re just hungry.

I have no idea what tonight will be like without a host. It’s like throwing a party where no one takes your coat at the door and sees to it that you have a good time.  I don’t get it.

As for me, I have always wanted an Oscar. While most kids were probably fantasizing that their big win would be the coveted Best Actress award, my dream has always been Best Original Song in a Motion Picture.

I was a kid, mesmerized by the songs and how they made the movie experience something greater, something more than it would be without it. I don’t know if The Way We Were would have still been The Way We Were without the song. It would have been something, but I’m not sure it would have been that.

I was the kid who read album liner notes, and I’m the adult who sits through all the credits at the end. I think respect should be shown for all the people who made the movie, no matter what you think of it, love it, hate it, whatever – it took a lot of people a very long time, effort, energy, blood, sweat and tears to make it. Respect must be paid. 

I know everyone will be giving their own blow by blow, complete with “what were they thinking?!” While I definitely have my own opinions, I only like posting things that are positive. It's destructive to be mean. No one can undo a dress or a performance. Everyone’s trying their best, and frankly, I’m here to celebrate movies and all the people who make them.

I’m keeping the blog short this time and wishing you a happy Oscar night. Whatever your dreams are, I wish you a renewed sense of passion and possibility.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

...a parking spot, a metaphor, and that damn tambourine

I can take pretty much anything and make it a metaphor for life.

It started with ballroom dancing in my twenties, when I realized that how I danced was a perfect metaphor for how I lived life, and I longed to do it with greater abandon…and a lot of sequins.

From time to time, these kind of parallels have popped into my little noggin, but most recently it’s happened while working with my band, The Inspire Project, and trying to find street parking in New York City.

My band is getting ready to record a six-song EP, and in preparation for it, we were working with our producer, crafting new arrangements to songs we’ve been playing for a few years now.

I play the keyboard on all but one song in our repertoire, and on that one I play percussion.

To the untrained eye, none of this sounds earth-shattering, but to my image of myself, being in a band at all requires a shift in perception for me.

I’ve spent a lifetime as a lone wolf. I’ve taken to the concert stage with the company of a Steinway or a Bosendorfer, but never with a band, for God’s sake. That requires a whole different mindset and skillset.

Somewhere in all the rearranging, I started to realize that I was being tentative, and even though practice would take care of most of that, the emotional piece was mine to look at.

Here comes that metaphor for life thing, again. Where else am I tentative? Can I adapt to something new or will I cower in my old, familiar corner of the room? Can I embrace a new part or a different role? Can I step confidently forward and leave tentative behind?

Nothing is more attractive or appealing than authentic self-confidence.

For the sake of the work that day, I decided to accept that I might be tentative in the moment, but I would address that inner issue and deal with it before the red “record” light goes on.

And what about the percussion on that one song?

From the moment I got to pick up a tambourine for the first time, I became as giddy as the happiest child playing with a new toy on Christmas morning.

Why this is, I still have no idea, but I can tell you this: you can’t be tentative and play percussion, not even the tambourine on one song. I mean you cannot physically play the part without using your whole body and diving entirely in. There’s no dipping your toe to test the water with percussion. It’s all in or nothing.

There we were, reimagining a song’s arrangement, me with my trusty tambourine and Lorraine, our regular percussionist, at the keyboard. And that’s when Everett, our new producer, decided I should add shakers to the tambourine. So shakers in one hand, tambourine in the other, and Ilene singing harmony, with a few new parts thrown in for good measure.

There was no time for me to talk myself out of doing it. I had no time to play the tape inside my head that goes, “Jeeze, I have a hard enough time clapping on 2 and 4.” Nope. My left hand held the Latin shakers, my right, the tambourine and off we went. And I did it. Well enough to know that it would be doable and I would enjoy the hell out of it.

This got me thinking about what else I talk myself out of that might be doable if I wasn’t so afraid to try.

And that brings me to the parking spot. I had a gig Sunday morning in New York City, and I decided that this time, I was going to find street parking. This is not an easy get on a Sunday morning, because no one wants to leave a coveted spot that’s legal until Monday.

I circled the same block three times, determined that I would find a space close enough for me to drag my keyboard and stand by myself to said gig.

The third time around, I decided I was going to “make” a spot out of one that actually wasn’t big enough. New Yorkers understand this concept. It involves parallel parking prowess, pissing off the person you’re parked too close to, and fingers crossed that a cop doesn’t decide you are, in fact, too close to a fire hydrant or partially eclipsing a driveway.

So my third time around, I’m doing my fancy jockeying, when a man across the stress starts waving his arms and yells to me, “There’s a big spot up there, go get it!”

I pull out of the one I was trying to make happen and pull right into a huge spot waiting just for me. I thanked the man profusely and I was absolutely gleeful as I schlepped my gear to the venue.

Again, it got me thinking about life. How many times is the big, roomy spot waiting just for me to take it? Could it be that what I want in life is waiting for me to stop putzing around and go get it? Will I take my space, without apology or apprehension? Could it be that the universe is saying yes to everything, but I’m the one not going to get it when it’s right there?

What am I denying myself because I’ve been unwilling to see myself differently, or because I wouldn’t just go and seize what was waiting for me? What new life might I have if I take the limits off the story I’ve been telling?

I want to be untethered from my past. I want to allow for what is new and great and fun. I want my response to be, “Of course, I can!”

I want to take the big parking spot without hesitation and dive into the unknown without reservation. I want to play the shakers AND the damn tambourine. And you can bet I’ll be resurrecting those sequins again, too. 

Thanks for stopping by and spending some time with me. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, February 3, 2019 annual Super Bowl blog 2019!

Every year I write an annual Super Bowl blog, which I think is only fitting, because I cannot overemphasize the ways and amount I do not care about the Super Bowl.

But it’s an American pastime, this sport which celebrates grown men jumping on each other until they cause traumatic brain injury, while spectators eat vast quantities of artery-clogging foods in the name of, well, I don’t know what it’s in the name of, really, but everyone seems to do it.

Me, after my obligatory mention of the only football players whose names I know – Joe Namath, Tim Tebow, and the Manning brothers – I’d like to talk with you about another American pastime, but one that seems to be in short supply these days, and that’s unity.

For a country with the word “united” in our name, we seem anything but that right now, so while we’re deciding which team to root for today, maybe we can also decide which team we’re rooting for every day and how we plan on making it known that we are doing so.

We’re okay with athletes making obscene amounts of money solely for our amusement, but teachers who shape the outcome of the people in whom our country’s future rests – no can do.

Surely, if we’re willing to don a jersey and yell and scream at the outcome, we can do that to secure that our next door neighbor can get medical care without losing their home.

Surely, we can put as much energy into protecting clean drinking water as we do into buying a six-pack.

And certainly, if we can stand up for our national anthem, we should stand up for those who cannot walk down a street in this country without their physical safety being threatened because of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

Surely, the pastime we celebrate must be about something greater than a bag of Doritos, a shiny trophy, and a trip to Disneyworld.

Enjoy a day on the couch, absolutely. But when it’s over, do something else American and take one action that helps a person or a cause outside of yourself. It could be anything – helping a neighbor with a physical task, volunteering at a shelter, visiting a local senior center one afternoon.

It is harder to be divided when you are helping someone who does not look like you. It is more difficult to be inhumane when you see the humanity in someone else.

My favorite American pastime is greeting a complete stranger, holding a door open, remembering that we are a community of friends, just passing through for a short time.

It doesn’t take that much effort to pass the kindness along with the chips and root for each other, because regardless of the jersey we wear, we are on the same team. All of us.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.