Thursday, February 9, 2017

Betty Freydberg

Oprah Magazine August 2015

I found this in a stack of papers that was set aside to go through some day. Two years later, some day arrived, and I found this gem. The poet, Betty Freyberg, who began writing late in life, died in 2015 at the age of 107 years old. Just a few lines of her poetry is found in the article that originally appeared in "Oprah Magazine," which are: "I am bare now/ Cool to the fire of sunsets/ Gladly undressed of them." It's a rather stunning thought to consider that what was once enthralling has become pedestrian. I think of it in terms of my life and realize that some things just don't hold the same joy as was the times before when I had first experienced it or them or whatever. Strawberries come to mind. As a kid, we didn't see strawberries very often as we probably ate them in season. Later, when I began to set my own table, I always included them because they represented something that was special, but they have become unspecial, especially when I bought them in the supermarket in January. Those weren't the berries of my youth ... they were large, deeply pocked, rubber versions of them. Of course, I got smarter about these kinds of joys. I know now to buy strawberries in June when they are homegrown and sweetest. I get really excited when I see ruby red grapefruits in the market in January because that is when they are their best having been grown somewhere closer than half way around the world. 

But not everything can be figured out so tidily. Yesterday, I was chatting with a colleague who went to the same college as I. In our rambling about the bar and party scene, I remembered a band that I loved that played in a small, strip of a bar called the Club. It was so hipster. All of the Art and Design students hung out there in their new wave or punk gear, drinking cheap beer, and posing. The band was David and the Happenings, which was made up of students from the Art and Design department I am sure of. The band, from what I remembered, was a punky soul band. David loved to sing James Brown. He was skinny and blond, and could move across the stage like a blue-eyed soul man. Come to think of it, he was a hippier version of Darryl Hall of Hall and Oats. The band was just so damned cool. I would wear the old checkered jacket that I took out of my Father's closest, wear a tie, and line my lapels with all of my favorite band's pins. I loved to get it up! As I talked to the colleague, I found that someone had uploaded a video on YouTube of David and the Happenings from 1981. They weren't at our college, but it was surely them. What a prize to find! I sent the link to my brother who attended the same school as I and his response was: "David & the Happenings!  Those were in fact “the Days!" Yes, they were. And as much as I loved them, the band wasn't what I truly remembered them to be. I could see why I loved them ... for a bar band. But the one other person aside from my brother who I would like to share the memory with is no longer living. Sometimes fiery sunsets aren't there to find at the right time as they are gone forever. 

Another poem of Freydberg, "Chorus of Cells," is another that gives me pause. She writes about her making the bed every day. How the making and then getting into the bed is the constancy of her day. She wakes up, makes the bed and is alive. She pulls the covers back at night, for she is alive. My mother is a bed maker. And when I stay with her, I make my bed. When I'm not, all bets are off. But I see in her the rthym of her day and how the bed making marks the passage of another day with the "constancy" of her breathing. From what I have read of Freyberg's work, she portrays the quiet of what must be the end of one's life,particularly one that has been lived in good health and stability. In the quiet of that time, I imagine that one is reflective and though strawberries are sweet and a band makes one dance, it is life itself that one truly experiences the meaning of it all. I wake up; I make the bed. I pull back the blankets; I lie having lived another day. 

Chorus of Cells
By Betty Freydberg

Every morning,
even being very old,
(or perhaps because of it),
I like to made my bed
is the biggest thing I ever do,
I smooth away the dreams disclosed by tangled sheets,
I smack the dented pillow's revelations to oblivion,
I finish with the pattern of the spread exactly centered.
The night is won.
And now the day can open.

All this I like to do,
mastering the  making of my bed
with hands that trust beginnings.
All this I need to do,
directed by the silent message
of the luxury of my breathing.

And every night,
I like to fold the covers back,
and get in bed,
and live the dark, wise poetry of the night's dreaming,
dreading the extent of its improbabilities,
but surrendering to the truth it knows and I do not:
even though its technicolor cruelties,
or the music of its myths, 
feels like someone else's experience,
not mine.

I know that I could no more cease
to want to make my bed each morning,
and fold the covers back at night,
than I could cease
to want to put one foot before the other.

Being very old and so because of it,
all this I am compelled to do,
day after day,
night after night,
directed by the silent message
of the constancy of my breathing,
that bears the news I am alive.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Justin Bieber

Super Bowl commercials aren't the tah-dah that they used to be because so many of them are released before the actual event. Most everything anymore is spoiled by our frantic need to know about everything before it happens. The element of surprise has been eliminated from our collective consciousness.

Ah, but then Justin Bieber showed up  on a T-Mobile commercial, and I was surprised by his adorableness. Actually, I was not that surprised by his being adorable because he is regularly. But I didn't know that he was going to be a Super Bowl commercial. That was my surprise for the game (come on, you didn't think that Tom Brady wasn't going to win? He's too practiced, too steely, and he knows how to win. It was inevitable).

I was talking to a guy at work who had asked what a particular student thought to talk to me about when I told him that he was asking me if I liked Justin Bieber. Now this student was more like a guy that would ask me if I liked Chief Keef, and he may have been trying to get my goat, but I always respond to silliness as if the query was for real. It always throws 'em off ... oh, it surprises them. My colleague told me that he didn't think much of Bieber until he saw him on Comedy Central being roasted. He said that he liked that Bieber was a good sport about all of the ribbing and actually was quite self-deprecating. I was not always a Belieber, and it took "Car Pool Karoake" for me to realize that he is endearing. He doesn't take himself  seriously, and he's fun. I did a turnaround. And this spot, if you haven't seen it check it out on YouTube, is all of the evidence that you need. It might just surprise you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's a Man's World

Lonely Planet  Winter 2016

The caption for the photo reads: "I stayed with Lkhagvaa and her family in Khatgal, a small village on the southern tip of Lake Khovsgol. Her husband and a friend knocked the goat unconscious with a rock, then, as is the tradition in Mongolia, made a cut in the the belly with a sharp knife before reading a hand inside to cut the aorta and kill the animal. The was pulled inside, then Lkhagvaa and her sister cleaned and prepped all the innards- throwing away nothing- while the men and her young son watched wrestling on the TV in the background."

While the men and young son watched TV ... sound familiar? I her beautiful silk robe, she stands in the kitchen ready to cut the guts out of dinner. We are more alike in this world than we are different. And this is evidence for it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Queen Victoria

Vogue January 2017
This was the first January in six years when "Downton Abbey" was not on Sunday's menu on "Masterpiece Theater," and to be honest, I wasn't sad. I faithfully watched the program from its first airing through all of the exaggerated  hoopla that surrounded its final show. It was exhausting. And the show had lost some of its innocence and the organic feeling of a 'special' find. In the end, everyone watched it. And I don't mind being a part of everyone, but its huge popularity detracted from its original charm. One of the things that I like about a "Masterpiece Theater" program is in its quiet. The landscapes are peaceful. The costumes are intricate, not loud. And the passion that characters may, or may not, feel for each other smolders beneath the surface, never quite igniting into a blaze. Its a cozy, winter throw against the chill of a Sunday evening that is fine fare to accompany a Sunday roast and glass, or two, of Bordeaux.

Sunday evening's offering started off this year grandly with the final episodes of Sherlock Holmes. The three episodes were dizzying with complexity and the brilliance that is Benedict Cumberbatch. I am not nearly over them and vow to watch again so that I can capture all of the plot ... it runs fast. And I'm sorry that it will be the last of this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. He's a character that I will never tire of seeing solve mysteries, and Cumberbatch was the finest who has played Holmes.

And now, we have "Victoria." Being an Anglophile, I watched Netflix's "The Crown" in a few sittings. With that over and waiting for its next installment, PBS brightening the dull winter sky with a beautifully produced story of Victoria. I hadn't realized that it was coming up, but I dutifully turned to a Sunday night view with this gift. Like "The Crown," "Victoria's" strength is in the actors who portray the characters. English actors are just better. And they morph into ancient souls flawlessly while creating a dimension all of their own. Jenna Coleman, who plays the young queen, is superb. She's a tiny girl, but like Victoria, she rises up out of size with strong conviction and a mighty force. Rufus Seawell plays her confidante, Lord M, who was Victoria's first Prime Minister. Seawell has changed since I last saw him on the screen, but the age that has come to him is wonderful. I don't remember him being so ... resonant. Their love for each other, which was established early on in the show, is believable and bittersweet. Much older, his wife has run off with Lord Byron ... oh, I love that! Byron the romantic. Byron the traveller. Byron the naughty boy. And Lord M. isn't naughty. He convinces Victoria that theirs is not a love to be had ... though he silently battles the rage he feels when other men come along. And the one man who does come along that captures Victoria's heart is Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes. Hughes is more dreamy than any Downton lad by far. He holds himself away from Victoria to test that love, not duty, draw the two together.

Pour me another glass of wine. I am happy in the wrap of this to get me safely through winter.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Twenty One Pilots

I wore a David Bowie t-shirt to the Twenty One Pilots concert this past weekend. They are my nephew's favorite band, and he convinced his mother to bring him up from the island to see them for his 16th birthday, which falls on Christmas day. He sort of always gets short changed as much as we try to make the evening of his birthday special, so I guess that this was a big make-up for that fact. My sister, his mother, told me that no one would appreciate the Bowie ... hah! I told her that this band wouldn't be if it hadn't been for him, and as you can see from the top photograph... a new Star-man is in the house ... Mr. Tyler Joseph. And my t-shirt? It was noticed. These kids, the fans who call themselves the skeleton clique, are not totally unaware of what has come before. And Twenty One Pilots in a very short time have demonstrated their grit in crossing, pulling, and dragging cross cultural genres of sound of innovation. I can't think of any one else who is doing what they are doing ... except those that are now imitating it.

The show put on by Tyler and his band-mate, Josh Dun, was buoyant and penetrating. They demand of their audience movement, and through the two and half hours of the show everyone was in sync with the maestro- Tyler. Josh drives it with his pounding beats ... pretty close to him at one point in the evening, I could see how every muscle in his shoulders, arms and chest work to make gorilla sized sound from his kit. I wouldn't have believed it if I had been there to see it pulled out into the crowd while he drummed us senseless. But Tyler is the star man. He it at ease with his crowd, which pulled young to old who were happy to jump up and down, wave arms in the air, and yeah, yeah, yeah at command.

One of the highlights of the show was when the boys pulled their opening acts, Judah & the Lion and Jon Bellion, out on stage to perform a couple of cover songs: Tubthumping (Chumbawamba), No Diggity (Blackstreet), Where is the Love (Black Eyed Peas), and Jump Around (House of Pain). Both acts were great on their own, but all together, it was joyous. What better tonic for the times we now live that raucous, mashed up hootenanny?!

And the best, best part of it? My nephew got to see his favorite band live.  And he was happy to share it with his mom and two aunts. That is what it is all about. My dad gave me the line to soothe all sorts of aches and pains with the world of music, so it makes sense that I pass that same key to existence to the next generation.