Thursday, September 28, 2017

U2: You're the Best Thing About Me

Oh, Bono! The video for the new single, "You're the Best Thing About Me," was in my inbox as a fan club member. Of course, it is easily accessible to all because they are the world's biggest band. I was very nearly cringing as I watched the boys trapezing around NYC singing a pop-y song. Come on guys! What are you up to? And the American umbrellas are really cheeseball. Totally over the top.


I found myself cheerily singing the chorus all afternoon. It made me feel better. Maybe the boys knew all along the tonic that we Americans would need in this time of ... uncertainty. We've been Putined, hurricaned, raced, and tweeted. I teach students in juvenile detention who have been too busy on the street creating menace to have the time or inclination to attend school regularly who understand the First Amendment after a recent lesson more than our President. Things are dire.

But Bono is 'shooting off his mouth, which is one of the best things about' him. And what he's shooting is diversion from the dire. He says that the these things are the easiest to destroy. Maybe. And the short list that I wrote certainly isn't what's best. And I think that I may be guilty of destroying, sometimes, good things because the bad takes up a lot of headspace. My attention is drawn away from what's good by what's bad.

I said to someone recently that Bono is my spirit person. Or animal if you'd prefer. He sings, 'I can see you, oh, so clearly. I can see what you can't see.' You got me again, U2. And thank goodness for the pop stars and the comedians of this world. They are the only thing, right now, keeping me sane.

Maybe that American brella isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Puerto Rico: Isla del Encanto

Along the water in Cabo Rojo. Sadly, this is probably no longer there, but I'm sure that it will be recovered.


Puerto Rico, 
You lovely island . . . 
Island of tropical breezes. 
Always the pineapples growing, 
Always the coffee blossoms blowing . . . 

Puerto Rico . . . 
You ugly island . . . 
Island of tropic diseases. 
Always the hurricanes blowing, 
Always the population growing . . . 
And the money owing, 
And the babies crying, 
And the bullets flying. 
I like the island Manhattan. 
Smoke on your pipe and put that in! 

I like to be in America! 
O.K. by me in America! 
Ev'rything free in America 
For a small fee in America! 

I like the city of San Juan. 

I know a boat you can get on. 

Hundreds of flowers in full bloom. 

Hundreds of people in each room! 

Automobile in America, 
Chromium steel in America, 
Wire-spoke wheel in America, 
Very big deal in America! 

I'll drive a Buick through San Juan. 

If there's a road you can drive on. 

I'll give my cousins a free ride. 

How you get all of them inside? 

Immigrant goes to America, 
Many hellos in America; 
Nobody knows in America 
Puerto Rico's in America! 

I'll bring a T.V. to San Juan. 

If there a current to turn on! 

I'll give them new washing machine. 

What have they got there to keep clean? 

I like the shores of America! 
Comfort is yours in America! 
Knobs on the doors in America, 
Wall-to-wall floors in America! 

When I will go back to San Juan. 

When you will shut up and get gone? 

Everyone there will give big cheer! 

Everyone there will have moved here! 

Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
© 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher. 

Puerto Rico is a lovely island. My sister moved there 22 years ago and has raised a family there. Her children are of Puerto Rico. And the two that I have contact with now in this time of Hurricane Maria who are here on the mainland attending college grieve for it. I haven't spoken to my sister or brother-in-law since Tuesday before Maria destroyed the island. I know that they were prepared and are safe, but I wait to hear them tell me that for certain. 

In my head all day was this song from 'West Side Story,' so I give it to you here. That Stephen Sondheim really captured the identity struggle that is Puerto Rico. In the end, Anita sings, 'Everyone there will have moved there!' meaning the States, but over three million people live there today, sixty years later. One thing that my sister has said with humor is that she would have to marry the one Puerto Rican who stayed. That may be true, but the experience of being there is one that her children wouldn't have experienced having not lived there. As it is, she and her husband have raised four kids who are fiercely proud of their island. Once, walking along the beach on the west coast near to where they live, my niece, who was probably 6 at the time, said, 'isn't my island beautiful.' Yes, your island is beautiful. I've spent many moments there enjoying the natural splendor of the place and the character it expresses, which is so different from being 'American.' It is the Latin, I think, that fires the passion for the place. It fuels the belly of the people. And I know that it is for this that the island will climb out of the destruction and debris to come alive again. Her people won't let her down.