Saturday, July 01, 2017

If They Be Like to Die

"What, then? If he be like to die, he'd better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
                                          -Ghost of Christmas Present, 'A Christmas Carol'- Charles Dickens

     Bruce Springsteen once wrote, in his song 'Nebraska', "I guess there's just a meanness in this world". To be honest, I always rejected that notion. Perhaps in the purview of Charles Starkweather, a gun toting multi state serial killer, the person from whose perspective the song is written, there was a meanness in that bleak winter in 1958. And he carried it in his own hands. As for me, the Boss-obsessed 12 year old with that album on repeat in the fall of 1982, meanness was a compartmentalized abstraction.

     47 brings a different perspective.

     We had a week here in the Northern Tier, an 'epidemic' of heroin overdoses thanks to a particularly potent and vicious batch that has made its way our community. The Williamsport area tally according to recent articles is 50 in less than a week. I lost count here but believe we stand at about a dozen.

     At 911, a rapid fire succession of crises like these demand our best. It takes patience and skill to turn the panic, confusion, and fear of a caller into effective action. It is exhausting. Even a positive outcome wears the weight of uncertainty. Will it just happen again? You pray, sometimes that a 'save' is more than temporary. You know that sometimes it isn't. Many times it isn't. And this, you let go. Because you have to.

     Many people post the articles, share the warnings, share the official statements, share what they know out of love. Out of concern. So that maybe someone will sidestep this particularly treacherous section of the dangerous path they are already walking.

     Which invites the others to comment. How 'taxpayer money' shouldn't be wasted on 'these people'. They are idiots. A waste. They are getting what they deserve. Stupid. Weak. Let them go and 'thin the herd'.

     "If they be like to die..."

     I'm thinking about grace a lot this week. Grace, unearned favor.  The taken-for-granted thing that enables someone to write paragraphs on why 'these people' got what they deserved, the thing that saves that writer, that wielder of hammering opinion, free from the pain and shame and 'expense' of someone they care about being one of 'these people'. May that grace abound. May the measure they measure with never be measured back to them because their words will haunt them, their bitter loss a great anchor. Senseless death can break you in pieces you never knew could be so small.

"These people are....we shouldn't bother...stop wasting resources...."

     We seem to be in a season where the meanness in this world has become standard operating procedure. We have a leader whose daily communication is a 140 character fusillade of meanness. Comment sections are more of the same. People seem proud of their indifference. But indifference is the lazy child of frustration. Better answers require a degree of sandbagging against a flood that nobody thinks we can repel. Some, believing themselves on high enough ground, are unwilling to try, preferring instead to pour their contempt on those in the path of the rising tide.

     There are faces I will never see again. There are broken mothers and wives I have hugged, unable to offer a single word that would help. The truth is, "these people" are beloved friends that are the worst kind of gone, gone needlessly, gone early, gone unintentionally. But in the end, gone. I don't pretend to understand why. I only know that in meanness, we are less. We can do better. We have to do better.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Song Remains The Same

My relationship with music is strange. Or maybe I just think it is strange; likely other people have the same experiences I do, or there is some sort of clinical name for whatever this weird relationship is, though I don't know what that might be.
The best way to explain it is this: my brain is a very aggressive soundtracker. If I hear songs when things are happening, even mundane things, that song becomes associated with and evocative of that moment forever. And I do mean forever. Grease the movie-- went to see it at age eight in Philadelphia after a Chinese dinner in a restaurant where my mother, sister and I laughed ourselves silly over a dessert that was EXACTLY as advertised-- 'almond cookie' was indeed one singular almond cookie served in a fancy dish. Grease, the two-record album with movie pictures inside? Lisa Mulvenna's birthday party, during which her cousin Wendy did a split and pulled a muscle.
I'm not talking about things like my first wedding dance, though of course the songs associated with important moments remain connected to those moments with equal tenacity. But many, many songs live in my brain married to shards of  time and they always will be. The Live song 'Lightning Crashes' coexists with sitting in my friend Jamie's car in the Denny's parking lot after our final meal together there, after graduation, after the last of my close friends were done with college and scattering to the winds, both of us contemplating hard friendships and harder goodbyes.
More recently, the miracle of Google Play has enabled me to mine the soundtrack of my entire life and arrange those songs into decades, organize the undercurrent of melancholy, desire and joy that has carried me into the present, arms loaded with tunes and memories. Whatever I want, whenever I want. Wichita Lineman or Purple Rain. Ode to Billie Joe or Bring Da Ruckus. Long deep track Zeppelin indulgences. Songs that remind me of long commutes to old jobs or longer drives to see my now husband/then boyfriend. Terence Trent D'Arby owns long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in mixtape infamy. So I sit today breathing the breath of life back into this long neglected space while Fiona Apple winds through the draining rain in my backyard filling the silence with fat chords and want. I pick up a draft I started five full years ago and begin to write the song of the next five. There is work I am doing. Life work. Hard work I am composing a narrative for that I hope is not tedious or discordant. Composing is new territory for me. It involves asking a question-- what do I want? Not, how can I embrace all that other people think I should want, but what to I actually truly want? I don't know the answer to that question...yet. But I'm going to find it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hey Nineteen

Nineteen years ago today, I officially 'hooked claws' with this guy. 
Nineteen years seems like a long time. It has the heft of two syllables and the near-gravity of two decades. It is the length of 5-7 celebrity marriages. A person who is almost-but-not-quite a freestanding adult--a voter who probably lives at home, under mom and dad's insurance. 
But still.
Long time.
In nineteen years we've had three addresses, five jobs,five cars, and one cat.
One love.
Still happy. Still grateful. Still in admiration of the man he is and the man he is becoming. 
Happy Anniversary, baby. I still choose you.