Remembering John Lennon

John+Lennon++Yoko+OnoThe morning of December 9th was frigid in the suburbs of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Inside a school bus, I strained to listen over the shouts of middle- and high-schoolers what the newscaster on WOWO was saying.  I couldn’t hear full sentences.  I barely heard the words — not with my ears anyway.  But an ulcerative pit expanded in my gut as I tried to confirm.

Did he just say that John Lennon was shot? Did he die?

I pushed my face against the window. I can still smell the metal and grease from the frame that hovered just below my nose. A single tear that escaped my eye cut a clear path through the opaque frost. The tone of the broadcast rose above its words. I knew John Lennon was dead.

I walked into the school with my face down, wishing I could bury it in a scarf or behind sunglasses.  But I was too cool for extra winter layers, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. Several kids approached me.  “Did you hear what happened to John Lennon?” I hoped that one would tell me that he’d survived.  I had only heard that he had been shot.  But, no one relieved me.

I was a preteen, deeply passionate about this band I “discovered,” but I knew I couldn’t cry. None of the teachers would excuse me to the girls room to recompose. The other kids wouldn’t understand why I was so saddened by the death of someone I didn’t really know… someone that their parents, aunts and uncles listened to, not kids in the 80s.

John Lennon was an interesting character.  Many reports indicate things that make him seem not especially likable. I know that I’ve cringed when viewing documentaries, reading biographies and even hearing Lennon’s representation of himself in interviews. His talent made us pay attention. His message made him endearing to many of us.  I count myself among those who miss his work. The best years may have been ahead for him, and none of us will ever experience what would have transpired had his assassination been only an attempt.

Generations are, in part, defined by markers in time like this one. Younger GenXers probably won’t remember, because they were likely too young. But, if you do, where were you when John Lennon died?

What is Rod Stewart really trying to say?

Is there really an American Songbook III by Rod Stewart?

Is there really a Great American Songbook III by Rod Stewart? On of the songs on the album is “Isn’t It Romantic?” I guess Rod learned a thing or two about love since “Hot Legs.”

The push-pull between misogyny and female worship in rock music is classic. If you listen to lyrics from some songs, it’s hard to consider how someone had the nerve to sing them, let alone put them down on paper. And sometimes I end up laughing out loud imaging such words stripped of their melodious backdrop and left alone to be judged on their own merits.

This morning, it was Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs” that put me in this frame of mind.

Who’s that knocking on my door? It’s gotta be quarter to four. Is it your, my friend, coming ’round for more? Hmmm… so someone is seeking something he has, at a time to seems to be rather inconvenient. And by “quarter to four,” does he mean a.m. or p.m.? This would reveal a lot.

You can love me tonight if you want. But in the morning make sure you’re gone. Ok, question answered, though if he said a.m. in the first place, “love” would have been one of my three guesses as to what this visitor sought. Yet, he tells this person to leave in the morning, so how long does he think this is going to take? Because sunrise is on its way.

I’m talking to you. Hot legs… wearing me out. Hot legs… you can scream and shout. Hot legs… are you still in school? I love you honey. Clearly he wants us to think that this woman is young, because I don’t think he’s talking about graduate school. Yet, he never does refer to his visitor as female, so I guess I am making some assumptions with this one.

Got a most persuasive tongue. You promise all kinds of fun. But what you don’t understand… I’m a working man. Are we supposed to believe that Rod is concerned about his ability to concentrate on the job after his early-morning rendezvous with Hottie? Perhaps he wants us to think of him as a responsible individual who’s considering the big picture of this encounter. But, given his indications that he thinks Hottie might be a minor, I’m not buying it at this point.

Hot legs… you’re an alley cat. Hot legs… you scratch my back.  Hot legs… bring your mother too. I love you honey. Really? Hottie’s mother? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

It gets worse…

Imagine how my daddy felt… in your jet black suspender belt. Seventeen years old… he’s touching sixty-four. There are so many ways one can go with this, and none of them bode well for Rod, in my opinion. Either Hottie is a paid professional or Rod’s dad is a better-looking dude at 64 than Rod is at whatever age he’s supposed to be in the song. The best-case-scenario is that his dad is young-at-heart (as in he’s 17 years old and just shy of 64). But with these parental references, I don’t think Rod has a chance of wooing anyone with these lyrics at this point.

As the song wraps up, Rod goes on to tell Hottie to keep her hands to herself and asks a couple of more times if she’s still in school. Ultimately, he does admit to her that she’s making him a fool. And that’s the most truthful thing I heard in the entire three-plus minutes that I subjected myself to this song. One can only hope that this was a sarcastic message from Rod to his fellow songwriters about the perils of chauvinistic rock-n-roll cliches.

I must add that the flip side to “Hot Legs” in the UK was “I Was Only Joking,” so perhaps Rod just had a cheeky sense of humor all along.

Thankful that you never stop growing

Every once in a while, I consider if I am at midlife the person I expected to be when I was younger. Prior to my twenties, I didn’t imagine much past 28. It’s not that 28 was some sort of deadline, but it was an age that resonated in my head when I thought about the future.

In many ways, I’ve fulfilled the visions of my youth, but given that I didn’t consider life past my late-20s, I can’t say that I am who I reckoned I’d be. I had few expectations.

But one thing I imagined about midlife in the generic sense was that people settle into a loop that plays over and again as they head toward their golden years. Don’t think that by “loop” I mean “rut,” because I choose that word very specifically. A rut is like that saying about the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My dependence on sweets is rut. A loop is more like a routine, I imagined, though not in the strict sense of a schedule. It’s that point that one gets to when they have established a rhythm in their life, a collection of interests and responsibilities, and a community. Together these elements comprise their world.

To my great delight, this loop doesn’t exist, even when interests, responsibilities and community have a solid role in one’s life. The number of changes I made between my high schools years and 28 do not compare to what I have done between 28 and now. Though I haven’t earned any diplomas or degrees during this time, I’ve had an education that has been just as valuable as the one that comes with a transcript. I still like to learn. In fact, I may enjoy it more now than I did then. My desire to succeed remains. But my definition of success is more complex.

I am settled in ways that I wasn’t at 28. I don’t move apartments every year as a result of salary increases. My responsibilities now include lives other than my own. But, I probably embrace new things more easily than I did then. I am more open-minded. I have greater expectations of what life should deliver.

I find that in midlife, I am in less of a loop than I was at 28. It’s exhausting sometimes. And it’s easy to blame that fatigue on age. I didn’t test myself in this way as a younger person, though, so I can only assume that I have less energy. Maybe I just know how to drain the cup and ask for a refill now.

Thankful for those quirky little treasures

This morning a friend and former co-worker of mine posted a YouTube video that reminded the old account team of a project we did back in our quick-service-restaurant promoting days. We created this contest called Wendy’s Search for Sizzlin’ Sounds, asking musically inclined hamburger lovers to put together tuneful odes to the American classic. It was a fun project and definitely ahead of its time (several years before YouTube, Glee and American Idol existed). And, apparently, it is a gift that continues to give, because seeing this video about one woman’s passion for fried chicken has been a highlight of my day.

Thanks to social media, I have many bright spots brought to me by total strangers who put a little piece of themselves on the interweb for all to enjoy. Blogs are definitely a part of that, but I am not sure I could pull off anything as rich as this. Not only does this woman have an awesome voice, she has crafted a heartfelt dedication to something that apparently means the world to her. After all, as you will learn in the song, she is such a good customer at her local fried chicken eatery that the manager opens up the drive-thru window at her request after it had closed. She even goes so far as to add a benediction thanking Jesus for all manner of chicken-related blessings, asking Him to pass the butter and praying to Him to not die skinny. She also claims that the chicken died so that she might live.

Maybe this was tongue-in-cheek. I don’t know. But it is precious and has provided me with a bright spot, especially this evening after addressing a 15-towel plumbing accident. If I had such a gospel song in me as this woman does, I’d sing one equally as devoted to quirky internet finds as she has to poultry. Though I am chicken-adverse, I am waiting for the karaoke version. Enjoy!

Thankful for naps

I have not taken one today, though the thought of a nap right now is quite appealing. My head sinks into cool pillowcase that warms up quickly under my expectant cheek. Within seconds I am transformed from reality to dreamland as the billowing slate clouds look upon me through the window. Or my eyes slip closed as I lie on my wicker loveseat in the shade of my back porch on a 93 degree day.

Naps have been my remedy. When I was 17 and suffered from daily migraines, I would bury my face in the crook of my family’s living room couch and let the total darkness heal me. (Fortunately, these headaches were temporary.)

At times, naps have eluded me. When my first child was a newborn, she barely slept. The only sleep I was able to get would be classified as naps, but it was as if my body only hovered over the bed, never quite hitting it. And my sleep was dreamless. (In the end, she became an excellent sleeper.)

Naps have been a bond. Just before my second child outgrew them, we had an after-lunch routine. We would climb our stairs like Everest, paddle across our landing in a canoe and find shelter in a deserted cabin also known as his room. He didn’t nap without this ritual, and I ended up falling asleep next to him. We both have lovely memories of this time.

Now I work from home and have access to naps more often than ever, but I rarely take one. They are best when spontaneous.

Thankful for a song

I’m thankful for “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran. Actually, I’m thankful for any song that affects me like this one does.

If you’ve seen my previous posts, you are aware of my appreciation of Duran Duran. But, lately it’s been more about their music than ever. And as I’ve brought together the teenager and midlifer in me, I’ve been paying more attention.

When this song came out nearly 20 years ago, I was in my twenties.  Although I bought the CD, I didn’t notice the song all that much.  Ubiquitous radio airplay and maturity beyond my Tiger Beat perspective left me less interested in the band in general. “Ordinary World” was a ballad. I assumed it was about failed romance, and at that age this kind of song elicited a shrug and a nod, but no more.

After reading John Taylor’s biography, I learned that this song was inspired by Simon LeBon’s feelings at the loss of a friend to suicide. Maybe you knew this before, but I didn’t. Listen to the lyrics. You can really feel it. And you can hear the sadness in the music. It’s textured and beautiful, and I can’t imagine it done any better.

Songs like this arrest me. I’m convinced that if I am ever in a car accident caused by my own inattention, it won’t be because of my cell phone. It will be because of a song. When I hear things like this, I am cocooned from the world. I am enveloped in a silken sheet that folds me into the music. I am drowning in the song. Nothing else exists for those few moments. It’s like meditation, though my mind isn’t empty. It’s saturated. To me, Heaven would be songs like this on continuous play.

I am sorry that such a gorgeous thing began from sadness. I am thankful that artists have the courage to share.

The fourteen-year-old forty-something finally lives her teenage dream.

Today is the day.  Thirty years ago, I wouldn’t even have dared to wish it, the prospect was so fantastic.  But it is actually happening this evening.  I will meet John Taylor of Duran Duran.

And I have to say that the sensation is not the elation and thrill that I would have had thirty years ago.  It’s actually quite odd.  It’s the feeling that I am taking my daughter to meet Justin Bieber… only the mother and the child both reside in me.

Two friends and I are attending a book signing event for John’s just-released autobiography In The Pleasure Groove.  I finished the book yesterday and definitely recommend it to Duranies and fans of 80s music.  It’s also a good read if you like biographies of musicians.  The book is more honest and intimate than many in its recollection of the rise and fall of fame and addiction.

My expectation, since he’ll be signing books, is that each of us will have our 30 seconds (or less) to exchange conversation.  And I have no idea what I am going to say.

The preparations for this were all about giddiness, recapturing that feeling of 14 so that I could maximize this opportunity, because it never would have happened thirty years ago.  The heady excitement suits the occasion. But, the thing is, I am more the mom now than the girl.  And the mom has spent this day with a very bad cold, schlepping through Costco for Halloween preparations, loading and unloading washers and dryers, and still needs to figure out something to say that won’t embarrass her or the 14-year-old she used to be.  That girl, though hidden under layers of midlife wrinkles, etc., is still present on some level, and she would be mortified enough for both of us if I said something trite, stupid or obvious.

My husband says I should make him laugh, relieve the banality of signing book after book to a bunch of midlife female fans.  The specifics of his suggestion are a little odd, as they have to do with an unusual comment one of our male friends made about him a few years back.  I’m not sure I’m that brave.

I’ve thought about commenting on the book or asking how Nick Rhodes is doing (as I was a ticket-holder for one of the cancelled tour dates in August).  I’m probably going to wing it, my two friends in within earshot and the 14-year-old me peaking out from my eyes hoping that I don’t completely embarrass her.  It will be interesting to see what I come up with.

You know you are old when Maggie May is younger than you

The other day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s.  As I entered, they were playing Duran Duran (yea!).  As I exited, they were playing “Maggie May,” and one of the lines stuck in my head as I pushed my cart out the door toward my grocery-getter.  “The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.”

And that’s when I realized… I am older than Maggie May.

I don’t know this for certain.  Though I have read numerous biographies of rock musicians and digested the entire VH-1 Behind the Music series, I know relatively little about Rod Stewart and his music.  I know that “Maggie May” is about a young(er) man’s relationship with an older woman.  But, I am surmising that Maggie May is probably something like 30.  My guess is that she isn’t in her 40s.  I don’t get the impression it’s a Mrs. Robinson thing.  My take is that she is an older hot chick who gives the guy an opportunity to put some things on hold in his life so that he can just embrace being a young adult or avoid growing up.  And, as things like this typically transpire, it doesn’t end well.

My first thought was, “My God.  I never thought I’d ever be older than Maggie May!”

Rod Stewart was involved in several situations in my life when I became aware of things for the first time, and among them was the idea that this kind of thing with the young guy and the older woman can happen.  It wasn’t shocking to me, but I had never really thought of things that way.  And because I was a dutiful teenager, I was mystified that this guy would leave school to hang out with an older woman.  And what was this 30-year-old doing with a kid?  I thought, “Who’d want to be a part of that scene?”

I see the story through a different lens now.  To midlife me, the guy is just a boy… as confused as anyone is in their very early-20s, and I have sympathy for him.  Maggie is scrambling to hang on to that last shred of youth, and I can appreciate the angst when the years force you forward, even when you don’t want to go there.

Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about Maggie’s age.  It might be a bit of relief to know that I have a few more years before I pass her.  But, I know it’s inevitable.

(This YouTube still includes a cool little intro to the song that we don’t get to hear on the radio or grocery story sound systems.  Check it out.)

Sometimes you’ve gotta go home

My midlife crisis is in full swing.  It wouldn’t take more than three minutes for my husband to convince me to pack up what I could in an hour, hit the road and leave everything behind (aside from the kids, who’d come with us).

But, I’m unlikely to find myself in that situation.  I’m not a flight risk as long as he and the kids are here with me.  But, I imagine the wheels rolling down Lake Shore Drive, the four of us taking off in the pursuit of the ultimate freedom.  Better yet, because I don’t like long car rides, we’d be on Amtrak, pulling out of Union Station on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

When I get in these moods, I find myself reaching back instead of forward.  The future is an unknown.  And for a person who doesn’t feel the need to be rooted (an Aquarian trait, I suppose), it’s ironic that what soothes me are songs that have no other place in my life than in my youth.  I picture my childhood bedroom or riding in my electric blue Dodge Colt.  I can only return to these places in my mind.  My parents sold the house years ago, and the Colt’s metal probably has been recycled 20 times by now.  So it’s inside those songs that I go to relive where I’ve been before.

Thanks to SongPop, the greatest thing to happen to Facebook ever, tonight it’s this one… (click on the photo to hear the song).

Saying Goodbye Again

I can’t call myself a Phil Collins fan, but one of the songs I really like is “We Said Hello Goodbye”.  It’s from his No Jacket Required album, which contains most of the other Phil Collins songs I like.  And this year, the song has taken on more significance than ever for me.

Since January, my husband and I have said goodbye to 10 people who’ve made cross-country and even international moves.  Earlier this year, I posted about friendship, inspired by a statement one of my friends made as she prepared for a move to a different part of the country.  The title was Life’s Great Friendships.  I had no idea then that so many of my different great friendships would be transformed by relocation over the following months.

As many of us were, I was introduced to the concept of losing friendships over geography when I graduated from high school and headed off to college.  This happened again, though to a lesser extent, when I left college.  While I was in my 20s, my closest friend at the time crossed the Atlantic to live with her new husband.  These transitions in friendship didn’t phase me.  They were expected.  Plus, I was the one who introduced Sue to her future husband, so I had only myself to blame and had plenty of time to prepare.

Tomorrow, two more friends will leave.  They won’t be going far… about 12 miles away to a nice suburb that frequently tempts me with the promise of siren-less evenings, well-funded and free schools, the sound of crickets and no fast-food wrappers in my yard.  I will feel their loss as much as I do anyone else’s, and in some ways more. Although I know from my experience with my friend Sue that friendships can survive distance, they become something different.

Unlike my other dear friends who have moved, my friend Tina has been a part of my daily life for nearly 10 years.  We met through a moms’ group with our first children, ended up living around the block from each other and watched our children grow from babies to ‘tweens.  Our families spent hours in each others’ back yards and kitchens drinking wine and eating take-out Thai while the kids stayed up past bedtime because none of us wanted the fun to end.  She’s a part of that tight group of women I wrote about in my post on great friendships, one of the key initiators of it.  The experiences we’ve shared have been some of the most significant of our adult lives.

Anytime you lose a good neighbor, it’s disappointing.  Whenever someone you see almost every day disappears, it’s an adjustment.  Saying good-bye to a person who is a neighbor, a daily presence and your friend is a triple-threat.

It’s easy to dismiss the short distance.  Plans are made for breakfasts, playdates, workouts, housewarming parties, etc.  She’ll remain our friend, I know.  But it seems a little more heartbreaking that our friend will find other neighbors who’ll have her back when she needs someone to pick up her kids from school or share in the day-to-day trials of life with a new group of people with whom she’ll eventually have more in common than us.  The rest of us are sending our children back to school this week.  She’s packing and moving.  Already, we’re walking on different paths.

I don’t always know what to say when a friend leaves.  My initial reaction generally is to congratulate them, because usually it’s something they want.  I’m the only one standing around with a smile for them while others are lamenting their loss.  I don’t think it hurts me any less.  Maybe it just takes time for the reality to set it.  One thing I can say is that I will miss my friend tremendously.

Best of luck on your move, Tina & Dave!