Strong.

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On a plain post-it note, written in my frenzied scrawl and dangling above my computer monitors, is a reminder:  “FEED DOGS!”

Around it are work notes to myself.  Nothing quite explains the pleasure of being able to take one down. Granted, the open space is soon filled when, no doubt, something new arises that warrants a written note-to-self. But each post-it sent to the trash is a sign that I am settling into my job.

Yesterday, though… yesterday I was able to trash the largest note on my work desk, the urgent one reminding me that after work I was to go to my aunt and uncle’s house and feed their sweet, excitable boxers their dinners. With Idina belting over the radio, I let the note sink into the trashcan underneath the collage of on-sale dates and tracking numbers.

And this was the greatest feeling in the world. Not because some sort of burden was lifted from my shoulders, but because it meant something bigger: my uncle was coming home after months in the hospital and rehab.

Wouldn’t you know it, I went to their house anyway, this time with a ‘get-well-soon’ balloon bouquet. For once the dogs were not right at the door to greet me, and instead they were upstairs with their dad.

It’s been a long journey, and the outcome was always clouded with setbacks despite every step forward. Regardless of the rolling hills in between, we’ve come a long way from the moment my uncle’s surgeon came out to tell us they weren’t sure if they were going to go through with the liver transplant that would give him a chance at life. But they did.

And even though there were no guarantees, he was strong.

 He’ll pick you up and won’t let you down,
Rock solid inside out,
Somebody you can trust,
Steady as the sun.
Ain’t nothing gonna knock him off the road he’s rollin’ on.
He’s strong.

                                                                                                       

It would be remiss not to acknowledge the song that was our mantra through this time. Out of all of us, it meant the most to my aunt. Just like “Not Alone” came to me at the time I needed it most, “Strong” by Will Hoge was there for my aunt.

I remember what it was like to have my finger hovering over the repeat button and to hold my iPod close to my heart as if hugging the melody through its physical representation. So when my aunt did the same, I understood. It was impossible for me not to love the song too.

And I was glad it was there in a way I couldn’t be.

Night after night, she played “Strong” for my uncle despite his various levels of awareness. But the message was always clear: stay strong, we believe in you.

 

So yesterday, I stood in my uncle’s bedroom with those balloons and I listened to the dogs whine for permission to jump on the bed while my family chatted about the road ahead, about walkers and commodes and physical therapists.

And it reminded me that his strength makes us strong too.

Welcome home, Uncle Joe. We love you.

 

The Book of Mormon – 3/1/14

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Ding Dong! Hello! My name is…

So this past Saturday, a friend and I went to see the Broadway tour cast perform the Book of Mormon at the Hippodrome  Theater in Baltimore.

 

I’m getting to know Baltimore fairly well. Recently, a close family member has been in the hospital in the city, so I’ve  had to force myself to learn city driving despite the two behemoths of stadiums right around the corner. It just so happens  that the Hippodrome is also around the corner – a different corner this time – and I managed to procure tickets for the show a week prior to the event.

It was practically sold out, except for the really expensive seats. But the woman at the box office managed to find me a couple cheap tickets. I was worried because she said they were obstructed view seats. Although she assured me they were great seats, the bright red words across the two tickets had me rather concerned.

I was picturing a large pole in front of our seats, though I’d been in this theater before and knew that that was not how it was constructed. Our seats were a few rows back on the left side of the stage, and the only obstruction was caused by the angle.  A mere sliver of the stage eluded me, though my friend a seat to my right could see everything fine. Not much happened back there. I know some things did, but not much.

I didn’t know much about the music ahead of time, just the clips of “I Believe” I’d heard from Andrew Rannells’ performance on youtube. Our Eldar Cunningham was spot on with the cast recording, but our Eldar Price had a smoother sound than Rannells. A little less Broadway, a little more charming crooner. I thoroughly enjoyed the two actors’ stage relationship because their differences were starkly apparent.

“Making Things Up Again” keeps getting stuck in my head even a week later, and I remember loving the visuals in “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”  and the irony in “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which my friend adored (he bought the shirt).

Although the musical did not change my life the way RENT or even Spring Awakening  had, there’s something about live theater that keeps my blood pumping. It’s always exciting to be watching a live production and all the nuances of individual performances. I keep thinking of the little things that made the performance hysterical: the way Jesus said “Ah…am Jesus” and how Cunningham’s voice kept breaking, and of course the references to some of my favorite things, including Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Orlando – because DISNEY!

Delightfully offensive and crude, Book of Mormon redeems itself from trite stereotyping with its clever writing. In many ways the play makes fun of itself just as much as it satirizes the spread and creation of religion. The play recognizes it’s own ridiculousness, and this is how it thrives within a genre of great comedic musicals.

 

 

 

Playing with the Vinyl: One Night Stand

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There were times when I thought
I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gone come, oh yes it will

-Sam Cooke “A Change Is Gonna Come” 1963

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2013 Year in Review

As the new year approaches and I look back on 2013, I realize it’s been such a particularly good year for concerts. Most of my blog posts recently have been about the shows I’ve seen, and quite a few of them are ones I will remember for a long time to come – ones that stand out as “the best time of my life.”  All of them have been very different kinds of shows, branching over various different styles of music, from large open festivals to small stages surrounded by dinner tables. Here are the posts I made about them this year:

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Not Your Usual Christmas Carol

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Image Are you excited for the holidays, but tired of hearing the same 10 Christmas songs on the radio? Me too.

I was recently hired in customer service for a publishing company, and the perks are great – yes, I got a free turkey on my first day, yay Thanksgiving but mostly thanks for giving me a job! I was happy to hear that they kept the radio playing, as I work better with music on (as you’d expect).

However, everyone I met lamented how close we were getting to the holidays because the music was going to change very soon to incessant Christmas tunes. “You’ll get tired of it eventually,” I kept hearing. (Truth!)  And now, with the radio set 24/7 to Christmas tunes, I suddenly understand what they meant and why I heard everyone groan when the holiday music started at 12 noon a couple days before Thanksgiving.

It’s not the Christmas Canon. It’s Pachelbel’s Canon. Switching the name to something more festive and throwing some young kids in there doesn’t change that. And no, the last thing I want for Christmas is a hippopotamus. And, oh yeah, Elvis is the reason I’m having a blue Christmas – a little variety would be nice.

So I come home and try to mix things up with my iPod, but letting my iTunes play doesn’t quite work either – the beach sounds of “Barefoot Truth” don’t quite fit the snow falling outside or the ornamented pine.

Last year, I made a list of my favorite songs and albums, some of which have changed this year. And this is why I am not a radio person. Anyway, this year I offer an addendum to that list with a few more tunes. So here’s a mini-playlist of a couple tunes I’ve been listening to this season.

Enjoy! And I wish you and yours all the best this holiday season. Continue reading

Playing With the Vinyl – Music from Walt Disney’s Fantasia

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At first, you’re more or less conscious of the orchestra. So our picture opens with a series of impressions of the conductor and the players. Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination. They might be, oh, just masses of color or they may be cloud forms or great landscapes or vague shadows or geometrical objects floating in space.

 -Narrator, Disney’s Fantasia (1940), Introduction of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” Continue reading

Another Guitar Song About a Flying Car: Andy McKee in Annapolis

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Picture taken by friend, who joined me for the show. Thanks!

For someone who has such an intense love affair with guitars, I certainly don’t know that much about the instrument itself. This was most apparent to me after seeing Andy McKee perform at Ram’s Head On Stage yesterday, as I sipped my water and watched expert hands accomplish sounds I barely dreamed existed. Continue reading

Freshly Spearheaded

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IMG_2431.2With his hands cupping my cheeks, guitarist J Bowman looks into my eyes and, with the elation of someone who understands what it’s like to be a fan, proclaims his excitement about my seeing Michael Franti and Spearhead for the very first time. Fresh blood, he calls it. He doesn’t have to ask if I enjoyed the show; it’s written all over my smile and red-rimmed eyes. Continue reading

The Lost Story of 1970

The Lost Story of 1970:

A Response to David Browne’s Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970

The year is 2013, but it never really has to be. With the flip of a page, we can escape into the era of ancient empires, a medieval adventure or Victorian romance, even a fairy tale world unbounded by time. For me, the year is 1970 and what follows is neither a romance nor an adventure, but a chronicle of a year caught at the end of an era and the cusp of a new one. It’s a year defined by drugs, bombs, and space exploration, but David Browne, the author of Fire and Rain, chooses to tell the story of 1970 through its music, namely four albums of the year: The Beatles’ Let It Be, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, CSNY’s Déjà vu, and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James.

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