Monday, October 24, 2011

Just showing up doesn't cut it anymore

So today, I am officially the parent of a teenager. Actually, I feel like I've been one for quite some time. But today is the day, in fact, as I post this, we're down to the minute, that my boo-boos (don't dare call her that in public anymore) turns 13.

Oy. It's cliche to say how time flies, but it does. It was just yesterday when I was shopping around for grade schools to send her to, (here in Milwaukee, you can actually pick as opposed to "you live here, therefore your kid will go there") and now I have to make appointments to look at high schools. When I was in highschool, you just went to a high school for your district. You didn't have to pick. You didn't have to apply and hope you got in. You just showed up.

Stella's at a point in her life where just showing up doesn't cut it anymore, and that's a hard lesson for a teenager to learn. She's never been a girly girl (well, maybe in kindergarten), but she's mostly been athletic ( but not competitive), tree-climbing, get-her-hands-dirty girl, but she is turning into a young woman. She's trying different hair colors (in my day, you would have never heard of such a thing), but her adversity to needles steers her away from pierced ears (or anything else), tattoos, and other arguments I don't have to make with her. She's been begging for contact lenses, not believing me when I tell her that she's one of those beauties who actually looks good in glasses, so she's got several packs of disposables and has gotten the hang of getting them in and out. She doesn't wear makeup (yet) so my advice about putting your makeup on AFTER the lenses goes in is unnecessary. She has a fashion sense -- not a girly or slave-to-Vogue sense-- but a fashion sense nonetheless and I think I have a good feel for her style. It's part Goodwill finds, part basics plus a flair for accessories, and not tacky ones, part, I'll-splurge-on-one-excellent-piece and augment that with basics, and it's always comfortable. She doesn't wear heels, she doesn't have time for things that she can't lounge around in comfortably. She wishes her hair would stay flat and straight, but I've told her, if she's going to mess with haircolor as much as she does, her hair is NOT going to look like a Pantene commercial. She accepts this.

And yet, some things don't change. We had girls over for a slumber party, and a game of Truth of Dare was taking place, with the dares being having to drink some disgusting concoction that they'd created by raiding my spice rack and that shelf in the fridge where one keeps their bottles of rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, jerk marinade, some salad dressing I bought that looked better on the bottle than it did on the salad, and those three leftover olives (and their juice) from an old martini party. I'm not sure if I wanted to impart my advice to Stella about how to survive Truth or Dare or not, which is, of course, to lie. "Do I have a crush on Billy Johnson? Of course not. Don't be ridiculous." But the reason that i didn't bother was a) Stella can't lie to save her life and b) it's not like she's going to take my advice about anything.. Maybe about the contacts, but that's about it.

And that's where I have to accept this growing up part. I can give her advice, but I can't make her take it. She has to make her mistakes herself-- they're the only way she's going to really learn life lessons. It's always been this way, but before, the life lesson was, "Trust me, don't spend your money on this stupid Barbie set that's only going to work once." Now the life lessons are harder, and the mistakes are ones I wish she didn't have to make to learn. I'm having to accept this is a time in her life when my ability to protect her is going to be less accessible, yet more needed.

It helps a lot that fundamentally, she's a good kid. She's a whiner, but she capitulates and does her homework and academically I'm not worried at all. She still calls me on it when I -- or anybody-- uses vulgar language, and while she whines about the rules, she follows them. She cares for her animals (she has two adorable rats named Finn and Jake) as carefully as a new mother cares for a child, and the neighborhood kids -- all younger than her -- follow her around like the pied piper. She's not perfect, but she's a darn good kid who's hitting a hard part of life. And she's all of thirteen, on the brink of turning into a young adult. It's scary and exciting, but, deep breath, here goes.

Happy Birthday Boo-Boos Stella! I love you, even though you may not believe me about that, or anything else!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's a nice Punk girl like you doing in a proggy place like this?


I'll tell you what I was doing-- remembering my high school years before Devo knocked me upside the head and taught me about deconstructing music, that's what I was doing. And the Rick Wakeman/Jon Anderson show at Potowatomi started out with some deconstuction. The lights dimmed, and we heard this most godawful version of Also Sparch Zarathrustra I'd ever heard, like a grade school band warming up and not quite yet in tune. (The same house music that was played during the intermission and ending convinced me it was willful retardedness, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Residents had something to do with it). But members of the audience behind us in the rafters were asking "Are they serious?" and that's when I knew I was in a housefull of purists, of fans, of people who never heard of Devo, much less would get anything less than perfect rendering.

That's why I was somewhat charmed when the pair, great as they are, but on whom we can blame Rush, started off their set with a gentle, acoustic guitar and keyboard version of Starship Trooper. These guys know exactly what they're doing, they know how old they are, heck, they know how old we are. Anderson's voice  is amazingly intact, what with a severe asthma attack a couple of  years back, years of admitted smoking, and, well, heck, he's in his 60s. Aretha can't hit her high notes anymore, but wow--Jon Anderson still can.  And Wakeman? He obviously can do his old keyboard runs in his sleep.

They alternated their set between brilliant re-takes on Yes hits (a major highlight for me was a reggae-protest arrangement of Time and A Word -- worked wonderfully) and sappy new  stuff. I mean, really sappy sweet new age love songs that would make Barney the Dinosaur look like a support act at Ozzfest. The crowd of fans ate it up, and the only thing that kept me from going into a diabetic coma was realizing that Anderson probably is one of the Nicest Guys on Earth. He really is into all that new age stuff, crystal meditation, "we are the keepers of the garden" philosophy. You get the feeling that he could just as easily slip into Fred Rogers' sweater and furthermore, you'd trust your kids with him. Wakeman, on the other hand, also helped balance out things with gentle ribbing frosted with lots of corny jokes that,  as the show went on, streamed into Dirty Old Man territory, reminding me a lot of Les Paul's show at the Pabst a fewyears back. Wakeman's deep british voice, as he told his increasingly corny jokes, brought to mind the kind of banter you hear on Top Gear or something.
The whole thing also reminded me of Les Paul's show in that feeling throughout the gig -- the first on their tour (so everything was as indeed as fresh as it felt) -- that one had been invited to their basement, or barn, or garden, or wherever the hell it is they practice, while they teased each other, told us stories, and played their songs. There was one moment when Anderson completely blanked out on remembering the lyrics to a song, but it came to him, and every musician in the audience panicked along with him (we've all been there.). Particularly touching was Anderson's telling of the story of how he and Wakeman and the other members of Yes had found an old church, spent time in it and the whole (oh, dear, I'm getting new agey about this) karma of the place helped them to write "Awaken" -- the epic suite on my favorite Yes album, Going for  the One. Anderson basically said the music was already there, they were simply the catalysts for it. He tapped away this arpeggio on his acoutic guitar that comes in the middle of the piece, and as he told the story his sincerity won me over, and I was in the right frame of mind for the work. Part of me was sitting next to my old college buddies in  the rafters of the Northern Lights Theatre who had invited me along to this whole thing to begin with, the other part of me was  suddenly in the Chicago Ampetheatre, 1978, slightly stoned from a contact high (I was after all, a teenage goody-two shoes who would have never consciously took a hit), watching Yes In The Round. I remember "Awaken" had hit me then; and it was lovely to see that it wasn't just a WKLH "Deep Cut" to these guys, or obviously, to this adoring audience. I felt all happy afterwards, and duh, it finally hit me that Yes was a very well-named band. As Beavis and Butthead would say, "They're positive." But it was a good positive. I think that's why out of all the prog groups I was into during my proggy phase, they were my favorite.
OK, back to my punk roots. Tonight is the grand opening of Stoney Rivera's new art gallery. I'm on it. Back later.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How 'bout those First Person Plurals?


Well, this weekend I'm going to be writing about a bunch of things I normally don't write about. Let's start with Baseball.  Sixthstation readers know I normally am a basketball girl, but in fairweather fashion, my attention has turned to the Brewers and their postseason performance.

Actually, I used to be a huge baseball fan. My highschool girlfriends and I would pick a few days in the spring to ditch school, ride the IC into the city, catch the L up to Addison, and spend an afternoon in the friendly confines. Anybody from Chicagoland knows exactly what that last sentence was about. It didn't matter that the Cubs sucked. That's just a part of being a Cubs fan. You just enjoyed an afternoon ballgame. And thousands of Chicagoans have that same experience in their memory banks, giving us a commonality that transcends economics, politics or religion.

Wisconsin, my adopted home, is sadly divided. That sumbitch stinking up the governor's mansion is only a small part of it. This economy and war and everything else is making people  downright mean. When something unfortunate happens to somebody, all I hear is people grousing that the victim probably had it coming. If something good happens to somebody, I hear those same people resenting it like they didn't deserve it. It's the poor's fault  that they are poor; unemployed folk should be happy to get a job making minimum wage to clean up dogshit; we should just  let uninsured people die; and let's punish teachers...oh... because we need somebody to blame this all on and it's politically incorrect to use minorities for this purpose like we used to.

The postseason Brewers have done a remarkable job of taking the edge off all this. It's  not making me forget that as I write this, there's thousands of folks occupying wall street the way #wiunion occupied Madison last winter, scaring the piss out of right wing conservatives and their purchased media (as evidenced by the smear job they're attempting). But the Brewers are finally giving us some return on our investment in the form of giving us all a common ground.

It was last Friday night when this hit home for me, in that game against Philly. That one inning where we were in danger of throwing it away-- and we squeaked on by. As you know, the Brewers are no longer "They." In the postseason, the Brewers are "We." Amazing how quickly you can go from third person to first when you're winning, eh? After that third out, you could feel a collective sigh of relief across the state. It registered on Twitter and Facebook, and I just had to step outside and catch a breath of crisp autumn air.

And, it seemed, so did everybody else in my neighborhood. Every porch was occupied by folks just standing outside, smoking a cigarette, cracking open a beer, checking on the kids who were running around our collective yards, saying hi to the folks in the  old-man-shot-and-a-beer joint next to my house. And it was like we were programmed to know, without looking at our watches, exactly when the commercial break ended and it was time go back into the house and re-clench our buttocks for another excruciating inning.  At the end of the game, the neighborhood kids all piled into my living room while I re-wound the DVR so they could see that 10th inning slide into home. (Because of this, I missed the F-Bomb drop, which was probably a good thing with a bunch of kids in my living room).

And so, throughout the week, it's been wonderfully inclusive that wherever I went, I overheard/participated in conversations that had echoes of "How 'bout those Brewers." As much as people claim they think baseball is boring, we all still know all the terminology such that in the evenings, while we're going about our business, we holler to each other across yards, cars, in the  middle of classes, at intersections, paying for gas, picking up groceries, getting a coffee, on a bike, in between calls at work, "Middle of the 7th, we're still down." We end conference calls with our cleints/customers saying "How 'bout those Brewers" with our 'Sconnie accents, while our colleagues from Philly and Arizona and St Louis give us a friendly laugh, put themselves on mute and use unprofessional language.  I walked into the end of my son's taekwondo class last night after watching the game on the stairmaster. Everybody looked at me, eyebrows raised, and I knew what they wanted to hear: "End of the 4th, tied up!" We hurried to the car to turn on the radio so we wouldn't have to wait until we got home to be updated.

We shared a collective outrage on that call at first base Monday night when he was clearly safe; we all looked at each knowingly, admitting to each other that play at the plate last night could have  gone either way. It matters not that the person I agreed about this with was a concealed-carrying Tea Partier. We agreed about something, smiling and finding common ground as we  did so.

Gee, I don't remember  teaching Sammy all these  rules. I remember trying to teach Stella when she was four years old, helping to coach her T-Ball team.  Pro tip: you can't tell 4 year olds to "Go to first with it!" You have to say, "Throw the ball to first" or they will run to first base with the ball.  No, make that, "Throw the ball to the person at first base" or they will just throw the ball at the bag. No, make that "Throw the ball to the person at first base on our team" or they will throw the ball at the runner. Oh, and you have to add, "Our team is everybody with the blue hats." Oh, fuck it, the runner ("Run! Don't just walk! Run! RUN! RUN! OK, stop at the base. STOP!") is safe. Somehow, though, this season has taught everything Sammy needs to know about baseball. Just watching the games with his dad he knows all the nicknames of the players, he knows what "scoring position" means, he knows what a "sacrifice fly" is. And Stella knows that those oldschool uniforms favored by the Axman and his ilk are classic: the nickers, the belted pants, the stirrups, all giving a classic, and uniquely American feel to it all. These are just kids, and yet they are experts on this complicated game. (And if you don't think it's complicated, try explaining the rules to a foreigner like I  had to a few years back. My Russian friend had no clue as I sketched out a field and told her, "OK, the object of the game is to score. But here's the catch...") And our own Wisconsin touch-- not just the sausage races, but a hearty chorus of Roll Out the Barrel after Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Where else but Wisconsin could a polka fit in perfectly with the seventh inning stretch of a ball game?

And I send my kids to school this morning, tired from staying up late to see the Brewers ensure that this series will end in a home game. They will probably not perform well in class today. (Stella has a fever anyway, so she's staying home.)Sammy will be overtired. Heck, I'm overtired. But I spent my life as a Cubs fan. I'm not used to this still playing baseball in October thing. The kids right now probably don't have a sense of how remarkable this is: They've already lived through two Super Bowl wins (one they were too young to remember). They saw the underfunded Bucks in the playoffs (which they blew, but they know who Kareem Abdul Jabbar is). Stella has a feel for the fact that her mom didn't even live in Milwaukee the last time all of this happened in baseball, and that her parents' first date was a Brewers V Cubs game, back when it was exhibition because they were in two different leagues. However, while Stella's not a huge sports fan and normally doesn't give a crap, she was glued as tightly to the TV screen as Sammy and I were last night.

OK, Sammy will get another chance to pass the spelling test he'll probably blow today. But lord knows when he or Stella get another chance to see a postseason game, and share it with us, "Us" being everybody else in Wisconsin. Us includes that knucklehead who usually hangs on every word Charlie Sykes vomits up,  but this week it's Bob Uecker who has our attention. Us includes  my Wisconsin twitter peeps on my #wiunion list who are virtually standing with the Occupy Wall Street crowd this morning.Us is also comprised of apolitical types who don't give a crap because they're all crooks in politics anyway. Many of  Us admittedly whine about the outrageous salaries commanded by Fielder, Braun, et al. But  We are giving those guys a pass on the millionaire whing because they are giving Us something We desperately need right now. So Stella and Sammy, you can stay up late and watch the game with Us. Because this is one of the few times We are finding commonality about something, even if it's "just a game" and I won't make you miss it.