Goodbye, Ziggy

Right.  Well, here we are.  Somehow we are all still alive and David Bowie is dead.  I’m not going to go on and pretend that David Bowie was one of my very favorite musicians, but I did love his music.  I spent many hundreds of hours listening to it.  So as a person who loves music perhaps more than a casual fan, I consider him whatever that level is below favorites.  Having said that, for my husband, he was a Favorite with a capital “F.”  The first movie he ever insisted I watch with him at his place was “Labyrinth.”  He felt it was too big a cultural gap for me to go on missing it in my life.  (He was right.  It’s amazing.)  Even if in my late teenage years, I felt like acting in a children’s movie could never be as cool as the music Bowie had made and I already loved, it gave me insight into this person who I would later marry.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about Bowie’s death today.  I’m touched a lot more than I imagined I would be — actually, I never imagined I would be touched because it never occurred to me that he would one day die.  So one of the things that makes the pain so sharp is the fact that he continued LIVING right up to the end.  His death came as a complete shock — apparently few people knew he was sick.  He just released a new album, “Blackstar,” on Friday.  What makes the story more heartbreaking to me is that he apparently knew this was the end, and he made the album as a goodbye to his fans/the world. In my mind and having watched people close to me die, I know that sometimes they hold on for something when they know the end is near.  I don’t presume to know that he was holding on to release this goodbye album and see what the world thought of his last great work, but it somehow makes it more poignant to me, so that’s my ephemeral thought at the edge of my brain that I’ve now committed to words.

What kind of person keeps on living — really living– right up until the very end?  (Someone who was too busy/uninterested to appear and accept accolades, someone who eschewed knighthood because “who cares?”, who refused to tour when he could have done 10 shows an album and charged absolutely any price he wanted to name.)  A David Bowie person, apparently.  Someone who had courage his entire life — courage to be different, to be sexual in ways that made people uncomfortable, to be pretty, to just be whomever he needed and wanted to be to tell his story.  His reinventions made him a new type of artist and a new type of person.  And apparently he had the courage to accept (or maybe not accept?) death, which is the scariest, most unknowable mystery.  He had been secretly battling death for a year and a half. Now we have to accept that this is apparently how he wanted it — for no one to know until he was gone.

But it’s hard for those of us still here because he invented so much of the culture that we have today.  Without him, there is no Madonna.  There is no Lady Gaga.  And not to compare them to him, because they aren’t the same.  They didn’t invent what they are.   He invented it.  And he did it better than anyone.  They say that every artist steals from all of their influences, which on some level is true.  But I think what makes someone a REAL dream, a REAL icon is taking those influences and making them something completely, truly yours.  99.9% of people, even people who are professionally paid to be original, can’t do that.

Essentially, I feel like no one this culturally significant has died in my lifetime.  It feels like the world should have called off sick today.  It feels like one of the Beatles has died.  I imagine that this is much how the world felt when John Lennon was murdered (understandably there was a lot more anger to direct at a particular person then so not an exact echo of those feelings, but) — that the entire world stopped breathing for ten long seconds, and that something was gone that we can never get back, someone is gone to whom we can never properly say goodbye.

But he had 28 albums of magic that he gave to us, so you can pretend as long as you want that he is still here.

Never forget that none of this is real

Never forget that none of this is real.

None of the pictures, none of the comments, none of the likes.

They’re all pixels on a computer, or on a phone, which is like a mini computer.

Anxiously checking your phone when you’re out with people because you haven’t checked Facebook in a while.  Saying you’re going to delete Facebook because you don’t like what it does to your brain – even though you can’t say exactly what it is that it’s doing to your brain.

But none of this is real.

Bill Murray went without a phone for six weeks, I read recently.  He said it was refreshing.  He said people were always accommodating to him, and if he needed to make a call, he always asked to borrow a phone, and everyone was always gracious enough to let him.

“Well, I’m not Bill Murray,” you might say.  “What if my family needs me?”

“Where is your family?” I would ask.  “They’re probably in your house with you, if I had to guess.  Are you talking about your elderly parents, who don’t text and don’t Facebook?  Or if you’re at work, I bet work has a landline, doesn’t it?”

How DID people get by before their little computers?

It can be a passive-aggressive way of pretending that the people you’re with aren’t interesting enough.  It can be a place to hide if you aren’t sure what to say.

It can be validating.  It can be empowering.  It can make you feel connected.

But it can also be a distraction from your life.  A distraction from the pain, boredom, uncomfortable moments we have to face.

Jack White doesn’t let his kids play with anything electronic, I heard him say on one of the late-night talk shows.  Their toys have to be solid, real things, like puzzles and Lincoln Logs.  I am sure they suck at Mario Kart, but hey, when a supergenius is raising you, I guess those are the breaks.

It is nice to know what your friends from college are doing.  If not for Facebook, I wouldn’t know when someone got engaged or divorced, or what have you.  Unless and until I got that Save the Date! in the mail, of course.  Yes, the U.S. Postal Service still services most of the country, at my last count.

And yes, I realize the irony of posting this on the Internet, where you are no doubt reading it on your tiny computer in your hand, or over coffee at work.  Maybe, just maybe, you should turn your phone off and throw yourself into something.  Anything – cooking, hiking, running, backgammon, learning Mandarin.  Anything at all that isn’t validated by the rest of the world’s perception.  Because that will never fill you up, no matter how many likes you get.

Turn your phone off and throw yourself into something.  Anything – cooking, hiking, running, backgammon, learning Mandarin.  Anything at all that isn’t validated by the rest of the world’s perception.  Because that will never fill you up, no matter how many likes you get.

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It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve had a spare moment AND the mental energy to say hello.  You know you have been too busy when you walk back into your house about 30 minutes after you normally leave (because you forgot something) and your dog starts acting like you are have brought her a lottery ticket for a lifetime supply of free and unlimited refrigerated dog treats (they’re the best).  But I guess everything’s free to her.  She doesn’t understand the concept of money. Pfft, dog.

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The concept of financial stressors or student loans are so foreign to you.  I’m going to start asking her if she wants to go for student loan in the morning when I get her leash out of the drawer.  If I ask it in my super excited voice, she will still want to do it.

I guarantee it.

So, what have I been up to these last few months?  Well, scant recreation, I will tell you.  BUT…  BUT!  I did manage to sneak in a few trips to Athens to see (author) David Sedaris and (musician extraordinaire) Ingrid Michaelson.  I asked David Sedaris a question during the Q&A, and he answered me in front several hundred people.  For the life of me I cannot remember what it was right now.  But let me tell you — at the time, it was MEANINGFUL AND LIFE-CHANGING.  Or maybe that was the pizza…

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I went to Avalanche pizza for the first time during one of these Athens excursions.

And you might say, “Pizza?  Big whoop.  My three-year-old can make pizza.  It’s dough, sauce, and cheese.  Stick it in the oven for 10 minutes and you are in Italy.”

And to that I would say, “Good day!”, turn on my heel and walk away briskly.

But then I would come back and say you have no idea what you are talking about because Avalanche Pizza is the bomb.com.  Bombdotcom.  Yes, btw, we had a social experiment last week where we bought my dad a smartphone and gave him an email address.  He was spelling out the “dot” in .com when we were trying to tell him what his email was.  Yes, really.  I know.  What do you do?

So anyway, Avalanche Pizza.  I got Crouching Kimchi, Hidden Chicken.  I will never be satisfied with Giovanni’s again (was I ever?).  Thanks for breaking my pizza spirit, Avalanche.  I love you so much I hate you.

But anyway —- Ingrid Michaelson!   She is the best.

The. Best.

My husband and I saw her in Cincinnati  about 5 years (before she was cool, hur hur, street cred).  But really.  We did.  It was like some garage somewhere and there were approximately 100 people there.  There weren’t seats.  It wasn’t an auditorium.  It was like a garage, and not even a very nice one.  I think our tickets were $12.

So I basically talked about that concert for years anytime anyone would mention her.  That she was amazing and her voice is impeccable and I could have sworn that she had recorded it somewhere, except she was weaving jokes in and out all the while. That’s really the best thing about her — she is very clever and funny.

At the encore, she just crouched behind the drums with her band and put a blanket over themselves because she said there wasn’t any backstage for her to hide (like I said, it was someone’s garage).

And I knew when we went to go see her in Athens a few weeks ago that it was going to be different — she’s bigger, she’s on iTunes being heavily promoted, she’s making a name.  She’s had commercial success.

But uh…. no, she’s still hilarious and amazing and her voice sounds like an angel of pop music.

And her music also sounds like winter, so if you don’t know her, get to know her.  Listen to her while you decorate cookies and wrap things.  Just be happy and full of love.

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Merry Xmas, Happy Hanukkah!  xoxo

Also, Go Herd!

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The Macaron Girl

The day was shaping up to be super shitty, so I decided a trip to the bakery was in order.  Baked goods = momentary relief from the abject sadness about my life choices that have put me in this position wherein a day can go this badly.

I’m sure Jessica Biel never has a day like this one.  I mean, she hits the gym a lot.  You can tell.  And that means she probably manages her stress well because exercise regulates that type of thing.

Plus, she has money, but not like Warren Buffet money where your money is your job.  Just enough money that if she wants to go to New Zealand and see Hobbiton, well by god, she’s going to have a car full of Hobbits showing her around Bag End this weekend.

That sounds kind of weird.

Anyway, so baked goods.

The bakery sells cupcakes and fudge and what have you, but their crowning achievement is the macaron.  The French macaron.  I don’t ever see anyone ever buying them besides me.  And I only buy them like 3 times a year.  Maybe I should start buying them more.  Maybe I am the only reason they still make them, and I’m not supporting them financially– or emotionally– in their decision to continue with the macaron production.

They probably call me “The Macaron Girl” because that’s all I ever buy, and I mysteriously float in at random intervals, purchase some fluffy macs, and then float back out.  I’m usually wearing a scarf or tights.  There is always a chill in the air.  I definitely need to remember to pull out my red knitted cap soon, the one that looks almost like a beret.  They probably think I’m FROM France.  If they had to guess.  And that I don’t want to speak to them in French because that would be patronizing, as they certainly don’t speak the language of love.  They didn’t train in a chateaux in France (even though I’m sure they think I grew up in one).

*not my macaron display, but definitely a macaron display*
*not my macaron display, but definitely a macaron display*

So now I feel a little bit better than Jessica Biel because I bet she doesn’t eat macarons.  No one calls her “The Macaron Girl” in awed whispers.  She’s not from France (or even pretend France), and her body is too nice to eat sweets like that.

So I win this round, Jessica Biel.

Your move.

Sunday is different than all the rest.

Ponderings on Sunday morning.

How are there so many spider webs on my house?

Should I leave them there because it’s October and maybe everyone will just think they are Halloween decorations?

Why does coffee taste better on the weekend?

How is it that I came to live where I do?  Did my grandparents’ grandparents’ decide that crossing the Ohio River was too much trouble, so they just stopped?  I wonder if I will still live here in 10 years. I wonder what a woman who lived back then had to deal with on a Sunday.  I bet she made a lot of biscuits.

What does it feel like to get old?  Does everything hurt, or does everything sort of break down, bit by bit?

I wonder what will break down on me first — if I have the good fortune to get old.

Since low-fat was the dieting craze when I was growing up, and now full-fat and low sugar is the craze, I wonder what will happen next?  The catch on all of that is that no one generation ever has enough time to listen to the “experts'” recommendations and live that way consistently, so they can always blame their inevitable decline on whatever you were doing before that was wrong before you knew it was wrong.

I wonder if my cats are happy.  I wonder if my dog is happy.

I wonder why I bought wedding china.  It just sits in my cabinet.

I wonder if I will ever write that book.

How did I luck into the life I have?  Even though I think it sucks sometimes — everyone’s life sucks sometimes.  If you try to pretend that it doesn’t, you are a liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

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I wonder what I will do next.  That’s one of the things that scares me the most.

I really need to catch up on Doctor Who.

Falling Out of Love with the NFL

I’m falling out of love with the NFL.  Let me be very clear — I’m not falling out of love with football.  This is an NFL-specific feeling.  After years of playing fantasy football and spending most fall Sundays glued to my chair for some serious chillaxing time, I am more and more feeling like a hypocrite.  I feel like a hypocrite because there are so many cultural problems in the NFL that I don’t feel like I can ignore it anymore.  They’re too pervasive, and they’re not being addressed by the management– they’re being minimized.  There is an obvious attempt to try and PR this “rough patch” away.

But the thing is, it’s not a “rough patch.”  It’s just how things are in the NFL.

Each team in the NFL has a few “faces” of the franchise.  Maybe it’s the quarterback, maybe it’s the running back, maybe it’s a star cornerback.  Maybe it’s all of those, if you’re lucky.  And then you have 45-50 other people on the teams that aren’t so famous.

And out of those faces of the franchise, here are a few of the notable ones who have had legal troubles the past few years:

Adrian Peterson, star Minnesota Vikings running back, has been charged with child abuse.  

Ray Rice, star Baltimore Ravens running back, was charged with assault this year as a video was released of him dragging his then-fiance unconscious through a nightclub.

Last year, a breakout tight end for the New England Patriots, Aaron Hernandez, was arrested and charged with murder just before the season.

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape and sexual assault in the years prior.  (Notably, he was never criminally charged— but as a vehement retort to the “why are you dressing like that anyway if you aren’t interested in being hit on” that women so often hear — why is he putting himself in those situations in the first place?)

Add to that the cultural problem of the spend big, spend fast mentality in the NFL, which creates additional problems:

The $100-million contract is not the reality for the vast majority of the players.  The league minimum salary for a rookie is $420,000 in 2014.   The league minimum rises to $955,000 for a player with 10 years or more, which promotes the culture of disposability.  Most of the NFL players play much less than 10 years.  When they retire from the NFL at 30 or 32 years of age, they have to find a second career.   There are endless stories of players who are broke the year or two after they retire, even with multi-million dollar salaries.  

NFL teams have 53 players.  There are 32 teams.  That’s 1696 players in the NFL.   The NFL is not small and controlled like the NBA.  It’s not baseball, where the injury rate is significantly, significantly lower (and the salaries generally even much higher).

So if the NFL wants to argue each player is his own man and that they can’t keep tabs on their players all the time to mentor them, keep them out of trouble, etc, here’s my answer:

YOU. HAVE. TO. BUILD. IT. FROM. THE. GROUND. UP.

You have to treat your players with respect to make them want to be professional.  You have to set examples.  Not every person has that “professionalism” within themselves inherently.  A lot of the people playing in the NFL, even if they are 250-lb, 6’2″ men, are kids.  

Many (not all — and maybe not even most) of them came from broken homes, bad situations.  But this NFL contract was something they dreamed of since they were old enough to hold a football.  They have stars in their eyes.  They have been dreaming of buying nice things for their moms and their sisters and their girlfriends.

And when they signed their contract, it was a lottery ticket.  They went from the dining hall food that their NCAA gets them, and they were thrown into a supercharged world of media and hype and press conferences and taking pictures and typing tweets and why-is-everyone-in-my-business-but-I-kind-of-like-it-because-being-on-TV-is-cool.

And the NFL is the organization.  The NFL is the glue that holds this thing together.  The megalith beast that keeps churning through as many people as it needs to because it is making so much damn money.  They trade players, they cut players, they do whatever they need to do to make the most money, to get the most merchandise sold, to get the highest ratings.  You can work for San Francisco’s 49ers when you go to sleep on Monday and wake up on Tuesday and find you have been traded to Buffalo.

But the NFL wants to point their fingers at the players.  — which is correct, everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, so I’m not excusing anyone — but maybe with some preemptive work from the higher-ups, there wouldn’t be so many pervasive cultural problems.

Maybe you wouldn’t have former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe threatening to go to court for wrongful termination after Kluwe spoke out in favor of LGBT rights and a special teams coordinator subsequently made anti-gay remarks to him in practice.  (A settlement was reached that included an apology to Kluwe from the organization and required donations be made to 5 different gay rights groups).

Maybe you wouldn’t have a player (Cleveland Brown Josh Gordon) being suspended for 10 games for a third-time pop on a substance abuse test, while Ray Rice was initially only suspended for 2 games until an even more graphic video surfaced showing him hitting his then-fiance inside an elevator.

So Roger Goodell, as Commissioner of the NFL, please get your shit together.  I don’t want to get a skeevy feeling every time I turn on the TV because someone playing in the game has totally grossed me out with his off-the-field conduct.

Almost Touching the Moon on Mauna Kea

If I had to choose one thing about Hawaii that I love love loved the most, it would have to be Mauna Kea.  Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 9,000 ft+ above sea level.  Maybe it was the utter quiet.  Maybe it was the twilight and watching the mist descend and form clouds around us.

Maybe it was all of those things.

But it was magical.

Hang loose - the theme of the trip
Hang loose – the theme of the trip

I wrote about the high-powered observatories in my last post.  This is where they live.  People come from all over the world to observe the sky from atop Mauna Kea.

This mountain is technically the tallest one in the states, bottom to top (Mount Everest has a higher top elevation, but its base is above 10,000 ft).  Mauna Kea’s base is actually far under the ocean.   So what I’m saying is it’s steep.  I have altitude sensitivity, so I started feeling funny around 6,000 or 7,000 ft.  My husband never seems to notice any external stressors like that — he’s the person who can drive home from the optometrist with his eyes dilated, when I’m still fumbling for my water bottle 8 hours later.  So when it comes to driving up the side of a mountain, climbing 9-10K feet in an hour or so, let the one who can breathe do it.

The drive up is gorgeous, taking about an hour
The drive up is gorgeous, taking about an hour

 

On the way up, there are no filling stations, no McDonald’s, and only scattered houses.  Mostly there are cows.  And sheep.  Donkeys.  And signs to let you know that the donkeys will be crossing the road at daybreak and twilight.  We found those particularly amusing.  Probably the lack of oxygen.

But Mauna Kea is such an attraction because of the high elevation, the great views, and then, as the sun sets, the stargazing.  It is so dark out there with the lack of ambient light and the sharp jutting of the mountain into and above the clouds that you can see stars unlike anywhere on earth.

Everyone spoke in hushed tones
Way up here, everyone spoke in hushed tones
Not sure if they were pledging their lives to one another or breaking up
Not sure if they were pledging their lives to one another or breaking up here
You can draw your own conclusions
You can draw your own conclusions

These snaps were taken atop an embankment above the visitors’ center.  Hiking up it made me a little nervous.  Imma really scared of heights and there are no safety rails on this thing.  But getting up there was worth it.

So worth it.

New favorite selfie
New favorite couple selfie.  High above the clouds.
Representing the Herd
Representing the Herd — this is a picture from earlier in the evening, see how the clouds are just starting to swirl?

It is undoubtedly the number one thing I would recommend doing if you visit the Big Island.  I’m not the type of person who likes to go to the same vacation spots over and over again, but I can’t wait to go back and visit the mountain.  I loved it so very much.

Hope your brakes have been serviced
Hope your brakes have been serviced.  Ah — it’s a rental, whatevs.
Goodnight, Mauna Kea.
Goodnight, Mauna Kea.