......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

30 May 2012

Let's Re-visit Geography

I've always made light of the fact that New Englanders have little to no knowledge of the geography that lies beyond revolutionary war (they probably would've capitalized that) battle sites..........because it's funny.   It's hilarious to watch well-educated adults struggle to find California on a map.

I am no geography whiz, but I could find every state on a US map.   I could tell you what their major cities are, if not their capitals.   I could tell you what the terrain and the climate are like and even take a stab at major industries.   I'm not bragging;  I'm guessing all of you could do the same.   The point is that this is basic knowledge.   But it's a basic knowledge completely lacking in the adult population of New England.

And, as of this weekend,  I reached my limit.   And now I'm officially offended.   I'm not laughing anymore when people think I'm moving to Indiana (Indianapolis, Minneapolis, whatever) or when they show real confusion at the mention of both Minneapolis and Minnesota  -  because they're not sure how they're related.   Or because they think they're the same thing.   Or because they're not sure which one is the state and which one is the city.   But either way,  they can't believe there's an airport there.

I'm not laughing anymore.

I told someone this weekend that I was moving to the Midwest.   When he asked "where"  and I said "Minneapolis"  and he said  "that's not the Midwest,"  I officially stopped laughing.   Instead of forging ahead with my usual diplomatic chit chat that would gloss over the fact that this guy doesn't watch the news or read a newspaper,  I got irritated.   I struggled to say something,  anything,  that didn't end in "dipshit."   And finally,  all I could manage was a growly  "It's the Midwest." (dipshit)

Mike saved me and took over the diplomatic chit chat by saying  "Well,  I suppose you could call it the Upper Midwest, you know, if you want to be really specific.....or......whatever......you know." 

The next night,  I struggled again when a dad commented about our move,  "(grunt) There's probably not much to do there.......except cow tipping."  

The great irony here is that the man making the statement parks his car in a barn.   And when he made the statement,  I'm pretty sure I heard donkeys braying.   In my head, I was like  "Actually, Minneapolis is a city.   Do you know what a city is?   Was that a donkey?"   I've lost the ability to respond lightly so I just stared at him,  which was enough to make him quickly make amends:   "Well, I guess there was nothing to do where I grew up either.   Just cow tipping. (snortle)." 

Ooh......close.   But no cigar.   I'll give you half credit for realizing you offended me.   But I'm taking it away for continuing to imply that there are cows in a major metropolitan city.

In those moments,  I remembered all the inane geographical gaffs over the last two years and fully felt how insulting they were.   Because the truth is that there IS geography education here.   Liam's 3rd grade class just finished their biggest unit of the year by researching every state in the union,  each child doing an at-home study of their chosen state and then designing and building a float to be showcased in the 3rd grade State Parade.   It was intense.   It was the most homework he has ever had in his short academic career.   On parade day,  the parents sat along the parade route in the gym, waiting for their child's state to be announced.   We all watched as each and every child-state walked by either pulling, pushing or wearing their creation...... and it was amazing  -   full of pomp and grandeur and the kids were so damn proud you couldn't help but want to go home and plan your trip to the Rockies right away.

So there is an attempt by the educational system to immerse students in the study of other places,  to acknowledge that other places exist and that they have value.   But if the adult New Englanders had that education and still think that there are no beaches in Minnesota,  that must mean that the geographical ignorance is deliberate.   In other words,  it's a deliberate attempt to ignore the facts and belittle every place that is not this place.

As I waited for Liam's state to emerge,  I asked the mom next to me who she was waiting for.  "Iowa,"  she snorted.   "I couldn't find Iowa on a map if you paid me."   

Yes,  funny funny,  ha ha, except that you just helped your child with a month-long at-home project focusing on the state of Iowa.   Complete with handmade relief map and fun facts.   If you still can't find the state of Iowa on a map,  you are either severely limited...........or severely disdainful.

So now I get it:   the people here flaunt their ignorance of other states to show how little they care.   They don't care because those other places are inferior to their superior location.  You know,  where the cool kids live.   They're the cool kids, the bullies, standing over you and trying to make you feel small. 

Hey New England:
It doesn't make you look cool.
It just makes you look dumb.

And I'm not laughing anymore.

24 May 2012

The Highlight Reel: The Blue Hill Fair

I started the Photo Acclimation Project when we moved here to help me see New England through the eyes of a tourist, a leaf-peeper, a person who really wanted to be here.   But now that I'm leaving in just a few short weeks, I'm no longer acclimating.  Instead I'm summing up, concluding.   I'll write about the full-spectrum experience later;   write now (I'm serious, I just wrote "write now"),  I'll emulate the positivity of the Photo Acclimation Project and bring you The Highlight Reel.   A way to leave this place and put it in the category of   "adventure"  instead of  simply being a grand sociological experiment.   These two things are not mutually exclusive, and rolled all together, they produce one very important chapter in this family's life.

We'll begin our first installment with The Blue Hill Fair in Blue Hill, Maine.   Held every Labor Day Weekend since the beginning of time,  it is the setting for E.B. White's  "Charlotte's Web."   It is this real-life country fair that inspired a local author to write a book for children about a little girl named Fern and a runty pig named Wilbur.

I'm sorry but there was no way I was going to miss that.

The fair organizers aren't stupid so, as little and old-timey as this fair is,  they still have a little corner of fairground devoted to the animals featured in Charlotte's Web.   In addition to the obvious geese, sheep and pigs,  they also have a rat.   Extra points for being true to the book.

 A big fake spider hanging in the corner of the barn should be fairly innocuous but it's not......it's super meaningful and makes everyone stop, smile and call someone over to witness it with them.

The geese are much more fun when everyone stopping by their pen says  "Probably-obably-obably!"

We save the pigs for last because it's practically a religious experience.   They don't try to pass off one random pig as Wilbur which is good;  that might be a little too Jesus Christ Superstar for me.   Instead they have a pen full of lovely piggies.  We decide that these pigs must be Wilbur's more diverse cousins from the city.

The food "building" is a large cabin filled with people's prize cukes and berries.   It's full of people like this:

They sit in plastic chairs lined up in a row,  eating blueberries.   It is Maine's version of caviar.

Fair food is a delicacy and, when visiting a new fair,  it's always fun to seek out the food that is indigenous to that event.   My favorite was the Lime Fizz.   I'm pretty sure it's just limeade and 7-Up but it was damn good.   The perfect beverage for a hot, dusty fair.

There are no Pronto Pups......but they do have Frankfurters rolled in bacon.   Points for innovation -  but I can't help but think of the reason I'm there in the first place.   I think the fair organizers should institute a "no pork products" policy.

As a fan and former employee of Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar,  I insist on a taste test.   These were just plain cookies.   You win, Sweet Martha!

 I go to my first tractor pull.   Pictured here is the Pulling Office (can you say reality show?).   And I learned some new terminology:  "Nice pull, Dale!"  (after which the people behind me would clap and say to each other  "nice pull.....nice pull."

I'm fascinated by the cows.   I have seen plenty of cows in my day.   But I have never seen cows this big.   They are like mastadons.   Their eyeballs are like Magic 8 Balls.   I keep looking for a small triangle of text to appear in the pupil telling me to try again later.   I can't stop looking them in the collective eye.

I first came upon Belted Galloway cows, or Oreo cows, when I lived in North Carolina.   Apparently, they have them in Maine, too.   This one is NOT huge,  he's teeny and precious and his name is Whoopie Pie.   I can't stand it!   His name is Whoopie Pie!

We know Fern is growing up when she leaves Wilbur and goes off to ride the Ferris wheel with a boy from her class.   All day,  I have to keep reminding myself that Fern isn't a real person.....

.......but when we sit at the top of the fair and look down, it feels positively profound.   And I say "Is this what Fern saw?"

Liam doesn't say anything.   He just keeps looking down, reverently......as if it never occurred to him that she wasn't real.

22 May 2012

I Am Not Going to Write About Robin Gibb

I'm just not.   Because this isn't a blog about pop culture icons who die unexpectedly;  lately, this has felt like an obituary site for the stars of my childhood.  And I've just spent too much time waxing poetic on the crushes they inspired or the grooves they invented or the walls they graced.   If someone is famous in the way that they appear in posters in Tiger Beat magazine,  you know that legions of former tweens will be sad when they die.   And even though I thought Robin Gibb was the strangest looking human being I had ever seen,  I still put his poster on my 1978 bedroom wall  -  after Barry and before Maurice  -  because there was no doubt in my mind that it took 3 brothers to make the nation understand the extent to which they should be dancing.   Or stayin' alive.   Or jive talkin'.

Last year,  I saw that the "Australian Bee Gees,"  or fake Bee Gees, were coming to Boston.   And at first I was super excited.   And then I got really lonely.

Because I realized that I hadn't been here long enough for people to know my cheeky side;  I had no cheeky posse.  In this place that takes itself very seriously,  there's a lot of me that stays hidden for fear of scaring people away.   And trust me,  even when I think I'm hiding the crazy parts,  I'm still scaring people away with all my front-door-knocking and all my smiling and all my greeting of people when I enter a room.   It weirds people out.   Can you imagine if I approached one of the serious moms at school and said  "Hey!   Do you want to go see the fake Bee Gees with me?!"   First she'd be like  "I've only known you for a year.  I'm not even ready to make eye contact with you yet."   And then she'd be like  "And disco is dead.   I can't believe you didn't know that."

There comes a time when you need to shake it like you just don't care.   And to do that, you need to put away your serious face and excavate your inner disco queen.   You need to go in your way-back machine and reclaim her.   I, unlike most people, never forsook my inner disco queen.   NEVER.   She has always been with me.   So which one of those serious people was going to go to the fake Bee Gees with me?

The answer is zero.   A big fat arrow pointing to the fact that I had no posse.   Which is why the fake Bee Gees coming to town made me sad.

I'm not going to write about Robin Gibb on this blog that is not an obituary site, dammit.   Instead, I offer you this picture.   An homage to my inner disco queen:

.......complete with a hole in the crotch of the suntan colored l'eggs.

18 May 2012

Another Icon Lost......

This will eventually end up being a tribute to Donna Summer,  I swear,  just stick with me for a little bit......

In the spring of 2007,  I visited an astrologer who used to be a nun.   Somehow I thought this gave her more credibility.   Like Jesus approved or something.   She specialized in reading the charts of mothers and their children in order to help them understand each other better.   At the time,  I was coming off of a year in which I thought preschool-aged Liam was trying to kill me.   I said as much to my mother who was not amused.

"Stop THAT!   That's not funny!"  she said.

"It's true.   He's killing me with his contrary-ness and his drive to keep me alert at all times by asking me rapid-fire unanswerable questions.   Why can't he just do what I ask and then look out the window?   ........I'm so tired."

So anyway,  I needed to find out why he was driving me crazy and what the stars thought I should do about it.   The astrologer said,  "Don't worry about Liam.   He's going to be fine.   Just answer his questions.   But you, on the other hand.........."

She warned that my artistic self was struggling to be heard;  it was on the cusp of emerging and I'd better get ready.   She predicted that a sea change was coming in the fall.   Something that would change my life forever.

At the time,  I was taking guitar lessons, and not practicing.   It had taken me 4 years to sort of learn one sort of song.   The song was called  "Exercise #2."   Was this my artistic calling?   It was the only artistic thing I had.   But how could 4 years of "Exercise #2" translate into a sea change in just a few months?   Was it possible that the sea change could be "Exercise #3?"   It seemed like a pretty big leap.

That August,  I saw a poster in our local Great Harvest Bakery  -  it was a call for essays using the theme  "Why I LOAVED the 70's."   And for some reason,  I thought that poster was talking to me.   So I grabbed my loaf of Honey Wheat and ran home to my computer where I sat my Weezie Jefferson loving ass down.........and I started writing.

A few weeks later  -  in the FALL -  I got a phone call from the Great Harvest corporate headquarters in Misoula, Montana.   They were delighted to inform me that I was the winner of their essay contest.  Apparently,  I LOAVED the 70's the best.  My free iPod and iTunes gift card good for the 50 best songs from the disco era were in the mail.   And did I have any comments for their press release?

(insert Greg Brady surfing accident with unlucky tiki necklace music here.....)
(wow.....I guess I really do LOAVE the 70's)

And today I scribble away in my notebook and write things for YOU here and send things off to people who want to broadcast them to the world and sometimes the audience sends me lots of love and sometimes the world sends me mean nastiness in the form of "the comments section."   But, either way, my artistic self successfully emerged.  

But Kristin, what does this have to do with Donna Summer?  (thank you for your patience)...........

In what I now call "My Award Winning Essay,"  I pay tribute to pop music's most famous fake prostitute:  Donna Summer.   And I've excerpted it here for you so that you, too, can reflect on the contribution of her toot toots and her beep beeps.  

     ........because I was a kid, the content of music meant nothing to me.  All that mattered was that it “had a good beat and was easy to dance to."   I wanted to toot toot and beep beep all day long but I didn't have $4.99 to buy the hottest album of the day.   I wanted it so badly but how, just HOW would I be able to get my hands on $4.99 so that I could toot toot and beep beep whenever I wanted?  The day my dad came home with a surprise from the record store is one of my standout, slap-happiest memories and one that makes me understand the crazy upside down nature of parental love.  Just what rules will a parent break to make their child happy?   I saw the Musicland bag and my dad waved it in front of me with a cheeky grin.  Then he slowly and ceremoniously revealed an album emblazoned with Donna Summer dressed like a prostitute.  The connection between this image and the title track “Bad Girls” was lost on me.  He had seen me dance around the house singing “….see them out on the street at night, WALKIN’!   Pickin’ up all kinds of strangers….IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT.”  But what my dad saw was not a pre-teen hooker wannabee but someone completely into the music and loving every minute of it.  And that was important enough to him to march into a record store and buy his 10- year-old daughter an album about prostitution.      

On my 39th birthday, I got a turntable.  From my dad, of course.  I went to my parents’ basement where I found a small selection of albums that narrowly escaped my mom’s yearly garage sales:    Neil Diamond, Shaun Cassidy, the Partridge Family, soundtracks from Saturday Night Fever and Star Wars, KTEL compilations  like Sound Explosion! and Music Machine! and a whole collection of Donna Summer albums - including 2 copies of On the Radio. 

Now my 5 year old son knows how to hold an album gently with his middle finger and his thumb, just like I taught him.  He listens to Guns 'n Roses, AC/DC, Journey, Elton John and anything his little vinyl heart desires.   All he cares about is the sonic experience and the feeling of his air guitar.  And not once has he asked me for the definition of “bitch”.

Sing on Sister Summer.   And know that the groove you created was far bigger than any concerns about hookers.  


15 May 2012

On the Friday before Mother's Day,   Liam got in the car after school and said,  "I made you a Mother's Day present."

"Really?!  That's so sweet!   Don't tell me what it is!"

"Yeah, but I forgot it in school."

"What?!  That's not ok!  Why are you so nonchalant?!  Go back inside and get it!"

Despite his protests,  I pushed his tiny ass out of the car and made him go back inside because someone has to teach boys how to do Mother's Day.   I am not one of those people who thinks made-up holidays created to sell cards should be ignored.  I want presents, dammit.   I'm your mom and you owe me presents. 

When we got to his classroom,  his project was gone.   "I think Mason took it,"  he said.   "I'll just take his.   We made the same thing."   I try to explain why this is wrong  -  on so many levels.   And he keeps saying  "But we made the same thing."   Which eventually makes me laugh and think that my Mother's Day present is the opportunity to tell this story to his future wife and mother of his future children.

And then he turns on a dime...........and  Mother's Day morning is like CHRISTMAS complete with Liam waking up when it's still dark outside and asking if I'm ready for my breakfast in bed.   He brings me his idea of a dream breakfast:   a squishy donut as big as my head covered in chocolate frosting and filled with twinkie cream.   He sits on the bed so he can watch me eat it;  there would be no "Oooh,  I'm going to save this for later!"   So I dig in like I'm a contestant on Fear Factor. But I can't do the last bite as I feel my eyes starting to roll back in my head. 

I have this thing where I can only open one eye if I'm not done sleeping.   I'm totally serious.   It's not like my eyes need to get used to the light and it's not that one eye is crusty with sleep -  it's that one eye just says  "Hell no!"   But despite the fact that I only have one eye open,  as soon as I declare the giant twinkie donut portion of the celebration complete,  Liam grabs my hand and pulls me downstairs because now it's present time! 

The highlights were a Leif Garrett record and a Wonder Woman wallet.   The record was actually UNOPENED, as in the little girl who received this as a birthday present in 1977 was most certainly an Andy Gibb fan,  and it also included a poster for my wall.   I've included a picture for your viewing pleasure:

Then Monday comes,  the day after Mother's Day,  and as I quickly paw through Liam's backpack before the bus comes, looking for spoiled lunchbox items,  I find a handmade Mother's Day card.   What the what?!   First I get an almost forgotten present made by some kid named Mason and now I find a personal memento crinkled at the bottom of the backpack?   Is it just about Wonder Woman and donuts for you?

When I ask him about it I'm like  "Hey!  You're doing it wrong!"   and he's like  "Oh yeah.   Um....Ta da!"

It's a fill-in-the-blank-why-I-love-my-mom card.  Some of it is clearly made up because he couldn't think of a good answer and some of it is really personal and sweet.   And some of it reveals his vision of what I do when he's not around. 


Top 10 Reasons Why.......I Love My Mom!

10.   I love my Mom because she reads me.......Harry Potter.
9.    I love my Mom because she helps me........do dishes.
8.    I love my Mom when she makes me laugh by......tikeling me.
7.    I love my Mom because she taught me how to........do my e.
6.    I love to hear my Mom sing.......Day Drem Belever.
5.    I love my Mom because she finds time to........read magazens.
4.    I know my Mom cares because she.......(blank.   Seriously?  How about "never makes me clean up my own vomit?")
3.    I know my Mom is smart because she.......taght me eights.
2.    I love my Mom because she works so hard at......going on the internet.

1.   I love my Mom because she is THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD!

First I make sure this isn't about Mason's mom.  And then I sing a little Day Drem Belever and post it in a place of honor.   And perhaps tonight we'll have a discussion about my internet use.

Happy Mother's Day.......

11 May 2012

The Photo Acclimation Project: The Dunes Motor Inn

The coast of New Hampshire is not dreamy.   The natural features are beautiful but the world built around them is not the stuff of classic seacoast jigsaw puzzles.   It's a little jagged,  a little shack-y,  a little Dunes Motor Inn-y.

But once you get to know it,  it becomes the face of your own child;  maybe not classicly beautiful but a face you love just the same.   And if someone asked you if it was pretty,  you would say  "Lovely.   Just lovely."

Because you know what lies on the other side of the ugly sea wall and that picture resides in your head as you drive beside it.   You know that the tacky looking lobster pound has the best fish chowder and the nicest waitresses in town.   And the sign for the Dunes Motor Inn,  which once looked like beach blight to your tourist eyes,  now looks iconic and nostalgic and representative of the working man's vacation.  An homage to travel from days gone by.

I know this little piece of coast like the back of my hand..........and, unlike the tourist I was before,  I can ignore the imperfect parts because I'm so familiar with the perfect parts.   The secret beach access points,  the best place to watch surfers, the best tidepooling spot, where to get coffee for a beach sit, the serene spots, the  majestic spots, the parking spots, the walking spots.   A knowledge that takes me beyond the jigsaw puzzle and into the deeper, and truer, beauty of this place.

08 May 2012

Quantum Leap Physics

I had an experience yesterday that we all have at one point or another.   A quasi-time travel/shape shifting mindmeld where you are simultaneously the main character and the audience.

I was doing some planting in the yard,  wearing ill-fitting pants and outdated sneakers that I save just for such occasions.   Pants too short,  socks too black,  shoes too sneaker-y.   Just so you know,  I don't regularly use the word "sneakers."   But these shoes look like something your mom would call "sneakers" so I call them "sneakers."

Liam got off the bus with a friend and they proceeded to torture me by running through my plants, crashing expensive toys, begging for Ding Dongs, stealing Ding Dongs, dropping Ding Dong trash on the floor, standing on my furniture and using me as "base."

...........THAT'S IT!

I stood up in my short pants and my black socks and I pointed my shovel at them.
And I began to scream.
I called them wild animals and hooligans.
I berated their shenanigans.
Their shenanigans would not fly in my house (wild gesticulating of shovel).
Get in the car.  NOW.   This bus is leaving for soccer and if you want a ride you'd better be there.

Driving to soccer,  I yell at them some more about acting like complete ruffians and turning my house into a gymnasium.   And when I'm done,   they sit there in stunned silence and I sing along to the radio.   Here comes the sun......doodee DOO doo.........here comes the sun........and I say..........it's alright........doo DOO dee doo DOO dee doo DOO dee doo doodee doodee doo.   And suddenly it's not 2012 anymore  it's 1979 and my name isn't Kristin it's Linda.   It's the same pants and the same sneakers and the same shovel pointed at wild animals.   And it's the same words screamed at the wild animals and the same doodee doo's.   The threats were the same including I WILL (insert threat) SO FAST IT'LL MAKE YOUR HEAD SPIN!  Followed by the requisite  DO YOU HEAR ME?!  (shovel still pointed at wild animals).

I became aware of the experience as it happened,  as the words came out of my mouth and I pointed the shovel.   I simultaneously spoke, pointed shovel and observed.   I actually said to myself - as myself was speaking  -  omigod.  are you watching this?   Like an out of body experience.   But the doodee doo's sealed it.

 There are lots of things you can inherit in your DNA but can you really inherit an intolerance for bad behavior while wearing awkward gardening clothes?   Can you inherit a scene in which you make up words to songs on the radio while poorly behaved children ride sheepishly in the back seat?   Or is this a cosmic experience?   Like different moments in time existentially colliding?

After dropping them off at soccer,  I popped into the HoDe for more plants.  I looked down at my short pants, black socks and "sneakers"  and worried about the message I was sending - that message being that I don't have a mirror in my home.   Then I rationalized that I was at the HoDe and clearly in the middle of a project so the outfit matched the situation.   I took some dirt from my shoe and smudged it on my face just in case.

But then I crossed the line by running next door to the Marshall's.   And the circle is complete.

04 May 2012

For the Price of a Dollar

I told Liam and some buddies that I would pay them each a dollar if they walked around the block wearing Mexican wrestler masks.   They had to promise that they wouldn't act like Mexican wrestlers but instead walk calmly,  looking straight ahead,  as if they didn't know they were wearing Mexican wrestler masks.  

It took some real convincing that this would be funnier than pummeling each other and attempting flying zip kicks but they eventually agreed.   I had to explain IRONY;  and then the lightbulb went on and they were all in.   It was unbelievably hard for them to maintain their composure,  their silent "what are you looking at?" demeanor, as they circled the neighborhood.    And I watched from an upstairs window, thinking it was worth way more than a dollar.   Every annoyed old lady, every confused grown up, every person who pretended they didn't see multiple Mexican wrestlers calmly walking abreast in New Hampshire was worth a dollar.

Why do I make kids do stuff like this?   1) because Dr. Oz says it's important to laugh at least once a day.    2)  because children owe us big time and they can't afford rent.   3) because I am a teacher and I feel a responsibility to the children of the world who rely on iCarly for their humor education.   And 4)  because I am allergic to decorum.   New England may not be the best place for someone who is allergic to decorum.  It brings out the bad behavior in me.

Because repression is bad for you, people.  No matter how many points you earn, you will not be happy.  You will be smug - but not happy.   But when you find your groove,  that perfect level of free to be you and me, it can pave the road to health and happiness.  Exhibit A:  On the first day of college, my new roommate removed the adhesive strip and stuck a maxi pad on her forehead.   Then she turned to me, her new roommate,  and said  "Is there something on my face?"  

1986 version of WTF?........she was so still, and so grim, and then turned to write something at her desk, with the maxi pad still attached to her forehead.   She was going to  play this gag out until she broke down the wall that exists between two people who have just met.

And when I started to laugh she looked up from her desk and said  "What?"

We consummated our new friendship by taking photos of her working at her desk with a maxi pad stuck to her forehead.

Later that day, she tested me by taking a big bite of a blondie brownie and mumbling "Do I have something in my teeth?" while blondie brownie fell out of her mouth and onto the cafeteria table.   Never once did she crack a smile, so committed was she to her craft.   Right there in the cafeteria, in front of girls in Laura Ashley dresses and boys in Girbaud jeans,  and my heart swelled with respect.  You go girl.  You are woman and I hear you roar.  And when will I stop laughing?  Never?  That sounds great.

So even if three 4 foot Mexican wrestlers wandering the neighborhood is not well-received by my neighbors, I can take pride in knowing that I've given these boys their first taste of the dark side.   Hee hee!  

And the woman with the maxi pad on her forehead?   She is Liam's school emergency contact.   The highest form of devotion two heterosexual women can have.

02 May 2012

I Want My (Bleep!)ing NPR!

Radio is a challenge around here.   For a variety of reasons.   Content is the usual culprit and I am a picky priss when it comes to radio;   I get crabby when the playlist is safe and easy.   My female crush on radio personality Mary Lucia started the day she played the latest indie darlings - real indie darlings, not perform-on-the-grammys indie darlings - followed by "I Think I Love You" by the Partdridge Family.   Totally unapologetic!   How I loved her for that!  So now Mary Lucia is the benchmark by which I judge all playlists.   Don't give me your Coldplay followed by Nickelback!   Your Michael Franti followed by Adele!   I love you Adele,  I really do,  I just don't want you to follow Michael Franti or Coldplay or Nickelback.  You'll shine so much more when someone actually thinks about the songs being played.

And subscription radio is not the answer because it has a canned, timeless, placeless presence that lets you float, unmoored and isolated, in Anywhereland, USA.   It's like the sonic version of the movie "WALL-E".   There could be things taking place outside your car windows but you'd never know about it;  it doesn't touch you.   Nothing touches you as you hurdle headlong into nowhere in your movable musical pod.   Life doesn't touch you when you listen to subscription radio.

Do you know what does put me here,  in this place?   Aerosmith.    Have you heard "Sweet Emotion"  today?   I have.   TWICE!    Oh -  there it is again!  New England LOVES Aerosmith.   Aerosmith is in such heavy rotation here that you'd think they'd just dropped their biggest album.  And it's not just the hits that we all know,  it's deep tracks and B sides, playing right along side Rihanna and Katy Perry.   It's so weird.   Someday,  I'm going to go up to a local and casually say,  "Did you know that "Mama Kin" was not a radio hit in the rest of the world?"  and just see if they start to cry.   In Minneapolis,  we love our Prince but the radio stations don't play  "Soft and Wet"  twice a day.  

But even Aerosmith can get lost as you weave along these country roads................don't ever take your reception for granted, people.   Reception, reception, reception!   Radio is meaningless without good reception!  When a good song comes on the radio,  I get nervous, and I think  "please don't take this away from me!"  Just let me listen to the whole thing without having it crackle crackle away on me.  Please?   One day,  I accidentally hit the seek button while listening to a story on NPR  -  and once it sought,  it couldn't find my NPR station again.  Gone! (crackle crackle)  Poof!  And I said out loud at my radio  "I WANT MY FUCKING NPR!  Now I will never know how Oprah was part of the neo-liberal era!"

Radio seems like a trivial thing to complain about.  It seems petty.   Like I'm looking for a fight.   But we spend a lot of time in our cars and you can't underestimate the power it has in our daily lives.   It informs,  it entertains,  it gives us a sense of place and it weaves a thread of memory through everything we do.   Whether it's creating a memory or recalling a memory,  radio is the unobtrusive soundtrack attaching itself to whatever is happening at that moment;   it can make feelings and emotions magically re-appear in your car, seemingly unprovoked, out of nowhere, twenty years down the road.   Pun intended.   Like when Steve Winwood comes on the radio today and I float backwards to one of the most profound moments of my life..............when my friend, my lovely, sweet, never-uttered-an-unkind-word friend,  looked me squarely in the face and told me she was going to die.   Words that no 25 year old should ever have to say.   And words that this 25 year old was mostly incapable of comprehending.

And a song made me feel it again,  in my car.

Radio songs are not of our choosing.   They are chosen for us, sometimes at just the right moment.   Just when we need it most,  we hear the mandolin of "Maggie May"  and it's a gift because we didn't go out and choose it and press play.   We didn't even know we needed it.   It's as if someone sees that I need a little mandolin and a little Rod Stewart and a little sing along in the car to cheer me up.   And voila.   Happiness.

So when I'm driving down these country roads and "Maggie May" starts to crackle and fade out,  I get mad.   And I curse this out of the way location.   Messing with my gift.  And I long for a landscape littered with radio towers and cell towers and things that let me be who I am.   And then I hear Liam in the backseat, quietly singing   "Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet emooooooooooooooo-tion........"  and it's just too much!  

 Sigh.   Radio radio says Elvis Costello.   Perhaps I am spoiled.   Or perhaps I just didn't know what I had until it was gone.   When you turn on your radio today,  and it doesn't suck,  and it doesn't crackle and fade away,  be grateful.   And if you get a little mandolin,  say thank you and keep on truckin.'