To All You People Still Kvetching.

I graduated from high school years ago. It was long enough ago that people should see it as the distant past and not something still haunting their present life. Now, tonight was another night, in which former classmates came up in conversation. It took me quite a bit of time to actually place them in my memory bank. And when I did, I had little understanding as to why they are still so mad.

In high school, I skipped my junior year and became a senior. I suppose, in most schools, this is completely normal behaviour. In my school, it was something never done. I had the option of doing my senior year at a college, but I didn’t want this. I wanted to sever my ties completely. I asked for permission to graduate with the class ahead of me, the same class I studied with in advanced science and math courses. I didn’t perform any sexual services or offer monetary rewards for this priviledge. You know what I did? I worked. I worked very hard to take all the classes needed and did every thing I could to excel. My academic success was my token out of that bucolic town.

So here we are so many years later and I’m still getting “memos” (if you will) from former classmates. See, they somehow think it’s unfair that through hardwork and good grades, I managed to be the valedictorian of the class ahead of me. I worked for that. I dreamed of that and I made it happen. To the people who are still pissed off- GET OVER IT! Life is too short. Focus that energy on making your own life pleasant and following your own dreams. Utilize some of that angst towards positivity and completing your own goals. I felt shameful and excessively modest about receiving something I worked for. That’s the only regret I have.

And you know what else? I graduated college two years ahead of schedule. I was 19. And not one of my peers complained because I did it by my own drive and determination. I wish I had the same capacity to care less when I was 16.

Jealousy is a wasted emotion.   

Humanity At It’s Finest

Location: Columbus Circle.

Details: I’m hired to hand out free Godiva chocoiste bars. The retail price of these fine chocolates ranges from $3-4. There’s no obligation. People even receive a free coupon that gives them a free gift with a Godiva store purchase. There are four girls, including myself, sampling the candies.

One of the other girls is handing out the chocolates while I reload from our Godiva-mobile. I step onto the sidewalk as a whining woman approaches me, clutching her free loot.

Whining Woman: Ma’am I don’t want this one. Give me another kind.

Me: Sorry, I can’t trade. You can see if someone else has what you want. There’s a coupon and you can get whatever you want at the store.

Whining Woman: But I don’t like caramel! And I don’t want dark chocolate!!

All the samples we have 1. contain dark chocolate or 2. contain caramel or a similar caramel flavour such as praline or toffee.

Me: I have other people who want chocolate.If you don’t want it you can give it to someone else.

In fact, I’m swarmed. Ever see a mob scene on a street corner and hurriedly walk by? Not wanting to be a part of it? Well, I was at the center of that ring of folks. And if one person gets to choose, they ALL want to pick and choose and argue.

Whining Woman had a few options. She could give me the chocolate back. She could give it to someone who wanted it. She could walk away and go about her business and save me a little sanity. Instead she stormed to the Godiva-mobile and complained about my bad attitude, walking away with the chocolate bar in a gold wrapper. Yes, it still contained caramel.

Still disastisfied, she felt the need to find me on the street and wave the shiny bar in my face.

Whining Woman: Miss, I just want to tell you that you have a real nasty fucking attitude. You should learn to be nice to people.

Me: Right. Because giving away free Godiva chocolate to ungrateful people just isn’t nice.

She marched away and I was left irritated. I guess I should follow her example of “being nice” by cussing out people everytime I don’t get what I want when what I want doesn’t even exist.

My life provides a good examination of human behaviour. Most people don’t get out of the behavioural patterns of a four-year-old. In fact, two little girls with their doe eyes and freckles came up to each of us, claiming they didn’t have a chocolate bar when they’re tiny hands barely concealed the chocolate they clutched. The parents just laughed at the behaviour. Most people walk by, in their own world and will then turn around when they see someone else say yes. People are sheep. Some demand another and another, with an unwarranted sense of entitlement. Some people walk into me, without apologizing, as if I don’t exist. And some people, yes a select few, with stop and smile and say, “Thanks, you really made my day.”

The most I hope to glean from this is that I never become like Whining Woman or the other 97-percent of the population.


On Ghostly Friends and Solid People

My sister came over last night, after I slept a solid 20-hours straight with some horrific headcold-flu-fever-inducing-nightmare. All the while my little Scarlett slept curled next to my head, occasionally reaching a paw to my face to see if I was still alive. During her visit we scanned through all the photos of the past few years I have in my files, noting how many people I once considered close friends had just disappeared. The majority of them were gobbled into their own life problems and despair, circuitous cries that brought some of them into fifty years of being miserable on this planet. And every one of these disappearing acts had left a rather good friendship for the sake of being in a terrible romantic relationship with someone that brought them nothing but misery.

I received a voicemail from one of the solid people in my life, who in spite of his heavy load of life’s challenges, is always there if I need something. He articulated, “Michelle, your outgoing message is just too cyncical for a young person. I don’t like it. You should really consider toning it down.” Quite an amusing comment from a man who tops my cynicism tenfold. And I thought I was being sarcastic- there’s a mild difference in delivery there. But instead of taking the time this morning to feel lousy about the people who have been lackluster friends and human beings, taking what they can when they want it from me and disappearing when I may actually need them, I decided to reflect on the positive. The incredible people I’m lucky to have in my life. Some of them I’ve watched face life or death scenarios in the past few years, some of them still recuperating, and who in spite of their struggles with health and recovery have been far less in professing their misery and despair that friends of mine who’ve had life fed to them on a silver spoon. Some people are just solid and loyal to the core. Their faith and determination are blinding. When I get on my own self-indulgent whining, particularly when trapped in my apartment and getting over a cold, I look to their life paths with admiration and gratitude. Thank God for the solid folks, or I may not have endured all the ghostly ones so easily. Actually, it was never easy… maybe easier because of the good souls in my life. So thank you, solid ones.

Two Things.

The google ads that run above my blog are hilarious and everychanging- but for one mainstay. There seems to always be a link to a Stevie Nicks site and that makes me beam. The rest, however, often link to relationship counseling, divorce in Ohio, and raising your baby right.

Secondly, although I know most people don’t leave comments but the hits on this site are constantly on the rise, I know some people are listening. I received so many silly and kind emails from my “room with a piano and a goat” dream. Below are some of the photos someone sent me for the goat and room.

 

How Sweet It Is: Under the Brooklyn Sky

A thunderstorm darkened the skies and passed through the Upper West Side just before I hopped on the downtown-3 train to Brooklyn. The hour-plus trip brought me to the Grand Armory stop, where I exited to see a seemingly endless sky. It’s rare to exit a subway train and witness a majestic sky, as the sun broke through the remaining storm clouds. I walked what felt like miles along Prospect Park West until I met the entrance to the concert seating for tonight’s event: Joan Osborne.

Unlike the hordes of patrons that fight through the gates of Summerstage in Central Park, the atmosphere was tranquil and welcoming. I felt a comrade in the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood. There was also an array of actual seats, in addition to an open lawn, and the views from all areas were incredible. I cannot believe how well produced and intimate the setting was- and did I mention free (although a $3 donation is recommended). Joan took the stage after a brass-jazz group covered a number of hits by the Supremes. When she first took the stage, in her t-shirt and high-waisted jeans, I thought to myself, “Wow. She has this unbelievable voice and absolutely no stage presence.” However, about three songs into the set, it became apparent that she was just battling nerves and from henceforth she felt at home and completely rocked out.

The band was tight- with an acoustic bass player, plucking through melodic arrangements in tune with a live heartbeat. The setlist was a diverse array of material from her first album, her “country” album, and the r&b hits albums she released most recently- Breakfast in Bed and How Sweet It Is. The eclectic audience of seniors, families, trendy gay guys and lesbian couples, college-aged girls, and commuters from Manhattan, was in the palm of her hands. The highlight of the show came when Joan begin her bluesy rendition of “War” and the wave of spine-tingles and goosebumps passed through the rows of people. As she sang, “War… what is it good for?” her voice was met with a unity of voices that answered, “Absolutely nothing.” The song was a perfect segue into her next song and major hit, “One of Us.” It provided an answer to the “War” lyrics… if God was one of us, it would be one more soul opposed to the war.

I heard a critic once say that Janis Joplin didn’t just sing notes- she sang chords. With her deep, raspy, and original voice… Joan Osborne is another songstress that manages to sing entire chords. I’m truly in awe of the power behind her voice and vocal control. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever attended, without all the glitz, smoke, and mirrors, her talent carried the show.

 

The Underscore

Okay, so I know the complaints are going to come in because I didn’t really publicize my gig last night at the Underscore. I basically left it open to anyone who managed to come across the poster online and wanted to attend. It was a very low key night and we closed the showcase. Thanks to everyone who came out- there was so much warmth and support in that overheated room. Now, I’ve taken my share of Bikram Yoga and I spent a summer living in the desert but I don’t think I’ve ever “glowed” as much as last night.

I fully intend to bother the hell out of everyone to attend any and all upcoming shows, but for my first time with this band, it was a solid and well-enjoyed show. I dared to perform “Rhiannon” last night, after seeing Stevie Nicks the night before at Jones Beach. Her show was an incredible inspiration, as I felt my own wave of nerves upon arriving at her concert and envisioning that day I take that stage. My waves of nervous energy were matched by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean that took over the entire orchestra section with the high tide. It was one of the most entertaining and unusual concerts I ever attended, as we had to bum rush the guards and hop over thirty rows of seats to avoid getting soaked in the bitter cold water.

It’s been a productive and well entertaining week… one of those weeks that I realize the destination may be sweet, but this journey isn’t so bad after all. I tried to leave commentary underneath the images, but xanga is not cooperating today. Basically, this place needed scarves and next time we gig, I’m bringing an array of scarves to create my own ambiance. Really. Thank goodness I wore some colour. My boys- Scott Slater on bass, Craig Bromberg on drums, and Ben Tabler on guitar.

Sunday Night Caller

Just as I was questioning my present existence and transitioning into more satisfying and fulfilling jobs, I received a call at 9:40 on a Sunday night.

Me: Hello?
Female Caller: Is this Michelle? Hello?
Me: Yes.
Female Caller: I’m not sure if you remember but you answered an ad on Backpage or someplace, but I wanted you to come to a casting tomorrow.
Me: Okay. Could you just refresh me on what this casting is for?
Female Caller: Oh. Okay… um, it’s for sensual massage.
Me: What?
Female Caller: You know. Sensual massage.
Me: What exactly does a sensual massage entail? (I really wanted to ask, “Are you talking about hand jobs?”)
Female Caller: (now nervous) Um. Well it’s sensual. Could you hold on a minute?

Female caller covers the mouthpiece ineffectively and I can hear her every word.

Female Caller: (to boss, as I overhear) What do you want me to tell her? I know you don’t want me to say everything. Can I just say a little.

A pregnant pause.

Female Caller: (to me) Miss? Okay, it is a sensual massage so you would be topless. And that’s it. Just topless and giving a sensual massage. This is for very upscale and important clients.
Me: I really don’t think I’m a good fit for this but thanks for calling me on a Sunday evening to discuss.
Female Caller: Don’t you remember the ad? Did you just spam all ads? It was very clear (ie. the ad read “Need Model for Upcoming Assignments in Midtown.”)
Me: Right. It must’ve been my other personality. This one doesn’t want to partake.

Female caller continues rambling as I hang up the phone. I suppose the job would be perfect if I wanted to switch fields and work in politics. I’m sure many a senator and congressman walks through those “upscale” doors.

Sweet Adeline and My Melting Heart

“Old trees they just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wider everyday… but old people. They just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, ‘Hello in There. Hello'”

~From the song, “Hello In There”

Last night I volunteered for a bi-monthly dance held at a nursing home. I didn’t know what to expect, remembering footage from a senior dance that was shown at training for NYCares. Getting lost in the maze of the massive building, I eventually made my way to the auditorium. Inside, an eleven-or-so-year-old boy and the team leader were dancing around in circles, pushing wheelchairs as seven or so elderly folks snapped and swayed in their wheelchairs. I felt mildly uncomfortable at first, but it was soon changed when a man in a yamulke and wheelchair waved me over.

“Miss!,” he assertively declared, “It time to dance with me.” I wheeled him around to an upbeat Ray Charles standard and parked him at the end of the song. The room filled with more seniors and I was introduced to Adeline, one of the few attendees who relied on her walker and not a wheelchair. The team leader formally introduced us and we became dance partners for the evening. Adeline was once a Broadway dancer and when I asked what shows she danced in, she stated “You name it. I was there.”

Her agility and timing were incredible and she explained, “My feet can still move but it’s my head that gives me trouble.” With the height disparity, Adeline’s eyes directly ahead of my bosom, and so began our repeated conversation. We had this conversation about twenty-thirty times, with little variation:

Adeline: You have such a nice figure. How old of a girl are you may I ask?
Me: 24. (I lied, for the sake of preferring 24 to 25).
Adeline: Oh. Double that. That’s how old I am.
Me: You’re 48?
Adeline: I’m 60.

As the evening progressed, with the mambo and tango between us, my true age was revealed and Adeline’s age went from 60… to 65…. to 75… to 85… to 90. My guess is that she’s at least in her early nineties. I gather that women may always lie about their age- starting with knocking off a year, and eventually knocking off three decades. Sometimes she’d inquire how old I thought she was.

Me: I think you dance like you’re still in your thirties.
Adeline: Ha. I’m an old lady and you’re a young lady. You’re such a beautiful girl. Do you need a job?
Me: I’m always working a different job. .
Adeline: I don’t think you should be in the background. When I recommend people, they become stars because people listen to me. I’ll give you a slip of paper and you can give it to the right people. How would you like to make double?

Of all the memories Adeline may retain, her days as a dancer were the fondest. I asked if she ever had stagefright and that I have a terrible case of it. “Why, no!” she answered. “I’ve been on the stage my whole life. Sometimes they even still ask me to dance! Can you believe that? I think I’m too old but they still believe I have it. And they pay me a lot of money.”

I felt pieces of my heart begin to melt, listening to Adeline relive her days as a dancer and her true love for performing, as we held hands and swayed to the music. Adeline’s intentions were in my best interest, as she said, “I want to find you a good husband. You should have twelve husbands, you’re such a nice lady.” Her advice for marriage is that the woman should marry someone with money but she should also have all the money. Quite a progressive thought for a woman, but she knew the gratification of being the breadwinner. She still beamed with pride for her own independance and accomplishments.

When we finished dancing, she told me,  “I would like to have a daughter like you.” There was such an innocence and kindness in her exchange, and I would watch her mimic my movements to fit in. I realized it was easiest for her to deal with a troubled memory.

At the end of the dance, I walked Adeline to her room and felt heartbroken when she asked what she was supposed to do now. She didn’t recognize her bed or her stuff, with a wall adorned with photos of her and her husband in their younger days. It moved me deeply to see the development of a life and Adeline’s good heart and love of life. I asked her as we parted, “Did you have a nice time tonight, Adeline?”

“Why, I always have a good night. I go to the best of places and I know how to have fun.” We parted and I sincerely hope to see her at the Senior Prom in two weeks. I never attended my own prom and am certain this will be far more enjoyable.

On Being Rich and Fainting Goats

Yesterday I schlepped out to Jersey for an assignment and was paired with a like-minded chap. We were on the same telepathic channel as he asked me what I would do if I had all the money in the world. I have been thinking about this question for the past week… and there was my opportunity to answer. The most immediate things to come to mind were as follows: a large room over looking the ocean. I’m not particular on the coast or the setting but I see endless water. And in this room, a black Bosendorfer grand piano layered with candles and scarves. I’d like to be alone in a room with a piano for weeks on end, opening the windows and listening to the sea.

Now, this may come as a humourous addition, but I’d also want a goat. Growing up, my grandmother’s relatives had a farm where “my” goat lived. She was a full-sized, furry beast named Stella. Today I came across video clips on fainting goats and it made me long for the day when I have it all. It may be easier to move to a poorer country to accomplish this desire.