Saturday, March 12, 2011

Feeling Gravitys Pull

I had this poster size on my bedroom wall

On September 29th 1995 my parents, my sister and I and a few of our school friends loaded into our family van-- bound for Buffalo. 

The hour plus drive had been a serendipitous biproduct of begging, bargaining and outright pleading from this teenage girl whose whole continued existence seemed to be (at least then) dependent on one thing-----
seeing on stage.

Though there have been many concerts since it, and oh-so-many adventures after, this night is forever a source of family storytelling.

A tale of teenage angst and my Dad's earplugs.

My family circa 1995

I will never forget the mixed emotion. 
Namely because of the tug of war between love of band...and fighting the "uncool factor". 

Let me explain. 

The one condition of me going at all to this concert, at 17 years old, was that one of my parents had to take me to it. 
That condition was agreed however in desperation.

In the rush of learning about the concert we had to act fast. It was assured to be a sell-out at lightning speed! My sister had decided she wanted to go.* .My sister quickly said she wanted to bring friends. I too had to bring along a friend. The lucky parent would have two of our friends to chaperone.
*Though not previously a fan of R.E.M., the Monster album was making enough waves to pull her interest.

It was going to be not the jaunt I had imagined--but a family adventure all packed into our grey Astrovan. We were quickly assembling a van-load second only to the Partridges.

The rarity of this musi-trological event was not lost on me. Since I had fallen for the band hard core (in junior high) they had been in virtual shut-in studio mode- having taken an almost unheard of lapse in the pre-requisite world tour. 

This concert might have been my only opportunity... and believe me, I knew it.

Mary and I both blinked pleading eyes. Mom cracked open the phonebook to the T's. Ticketmaster. She took a breath and fired up our new cordless phone. She had that look--the parental sacrifice look.

As she waited on phone queue she looked uncertain.
I couldn't let her give up.  I reminded her of her own youthShe had seen Diana Ross, the Turtles and Simon and Garfunkel in concert. It was time she gave me "my spot in the sun". As timeless as those artists are and as much as I liked them myself--irony holds that she was listening to those artists while being placed on hold.*
Retrospective- defined by when the 'then cutting edge' makes its way to easy listening fare

She grimaced, probably thinking of the credit card statement. The minutes ticked off.I was using everything I HAD. My sister also paced curiously nearby- though not with my level of anxiety. 
For those of you born after 1995: Before internet there was the silent and deadly fear that accompanied concert purchases via phone.

Mom riggled through almost an hour of 'on hold'...she intermittently grumbled about Ticketmaster and their surcharges (however justified).Finally she got through and purchased six tickets!  We had our seats for the Monster Tour!

Second-guessing the impending experience she asked,
 "What kind of crowd is this going to draw?" 
Parents have a natural hesitancy about concerts and teenagers. My mom had her reaasons.

Just the summer before I had primed and prepared my mom for my entrance into concert going by getting her to take me to John Mellencamp. I had led her to believe John (formerly Cougar) Mellencamp was a "Christian" artist. That was my thought...convince her that he was going to positively "influence me." She had believed me until we arrived at the concert venue emblazoned with the name of the tour, "Dance Naked". 

The things we'll do to let our parents allow us to be participating members of the world of concert going.

At last she got through! Tickets purchased! R.E.M. was going to happen.

As September approached one of our friends dropped out. We were in a bind. We had one unclaimed ticket. Cost analysis enough was reason to blow a gasket in my parents mind. 

My mom asked to take a friend of hers---for parental back-up, I suppose. Uh oh.The balance of power was shifting. Then that friend of hers ...became my Dad.

Here I am- going to the concert of my dreams and now this!

A chance to be cool. 
A chance to experience...But I imagined the cinematic level of stigma, pictured myself sitting in between BOTH my parents, my sister? OH the humanity. 

I imagined the possibilities for utter embarrassment. There goes the cool factor.  However, I HAD to get to this concert- I swallowed my pride. It was this way or no way.

Concert Day.
There were two things going through my head.  

One: above all the excitement.
Two: the utter fear that my parents would embarrass the holy hairclip out of me for an unforgivable sin:  

being parents at a rock concert.

*please note this is my teenage mind recounting.

Highlights of the evening
  • My father asking the parking garage attendant where an extra set of ear plugs might be purchased.
  • Dad referring to Radiohead (the opening act) as Stereoface throughout the night.
  • Mom unintentionally interrupting a flirtatious moment with a high school crush of mine at the t-shirt table. 
  • Two ticket holders showed up at our row pointing to my parents seats and the duplicate seat assignment on their tickets. My sister and I thought God himself had sent this couple. Unfortunately, the usher "corrected" the seating issue (keeping our uncool intact). 
  • Michael Stipe circa 1995
  • Dad loudly commenting about the colorfully illustrated face of a young man behind us--a young man-- who clearly had a "crush with eyeliner".                                                         *Clearly Dad has the memorable gaff category in the bag.
As much as I tell of the teenage suffering at that concert- when R.E.M. took the stage I tuned all else out. It was fantastic. The rich sound of my favorite rock voice was swimming in my ears, for the first time without a radio or cassette player.
* Yes folks, I said cassette player

It was perhaps the quintessential experience of any kid who sits anonymously in Row ZZZ appreciating their favorite band. The kid whose parents don't have "connections" to get them better seats, but who is in seventh heaven just to be there. The kid who sits hovering above the top of a large stadium but not lacking rock glory. An "Almost Famous" level of wonder...from far away. 
Too distant for up-close encounters, yet feeling the reverberation of energy trickling up. 

I had to wait three or four songs before any of my old favorites were played. The Monster songs weren't the like the earthy jangly sound I loved.
I'm convinced had I had a past life...there must have been a lot of mandolin.

It became obvious that that from our nosebleed perch I was going to have to work hard to have a memory that was more than squinting and singing my heart out.
*Though the memory of my Dad readilly showing another parent his state of the art earplugs is stellar. I believe they exchanged notes and said other parent asked Dad if he had bought the pair there.
Parents find each other at rock concerts, trust me.

I needed that lasting memory. I came up with an idea! 

At the time the "Be like Mike" ad campaign for Michael Jordan was all the rage. 
I devised a catchy chant. By the time there was a lull in between songs my sister and our friends joined me in chanting "We Like Mike". 

Though our parents didn't exactly join in...the guy in the blue eyeliner did!
And his friends did. 
And then the next row. 
And so on.
And so on.
Our chant began to become louder.

It travelled a little farther...and just a little farther.... We were near the top section of the War Memorial...not to be seen by my favorite band...but I had to wonder if the message would travel to the stage.  

You can imagine the squeals of a 17 year old Stipe obsessed kid when, after singing an entire song with his back to the audience---the enigmatic man in question walked slowly to center stage---and simply said "I like you too".

Sixteen years later, I still like Mike. 

And P.S. I love my parents even more now for enduring a rock concert--because they loved us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I love when good things are addictive

I've had a lot of things rub off on me...some of them not so good.
Like the paint on the Benches on Parade bench I sat in this autumn (that evidently was not quite dry). Whoops.

Mary is da bomb!
But one thing good that's been rubbing off on me is better choices. I've never lived an unhealthy lifestyle, per say. Yet, that could be debatable.

No matter what the verdict would be about where I stood from a fitness/health doesn't much matter.
The point is things has been steadily improving for the better. I move more. I eat less junk.
Now co-workers and witnesses who saw me partake of the cookies in the staff room-- I said less not no junk--I am still being honest here.

Making the changes that make you feel better-- well, all that stuff is really kind of addictive. 
It's addictive to feel good. 

The change can be seen on a narrow list of things: 

A crazy infomercial product 
A crazy uber-inspirational guru
Opportunities for adventure and activity wanting to change!

She never wants to take the credit, but how 'bout my guru? She helped me believe in myself in a way I just never did before- in that physical/active self. Zach started my wheels turning, but the encouragement to follow through was courtesy of Mary Eggers. She helped a whisper become a resonant sound.

I have to admit physical activity had been such a limited part of my life for so long. It wasn't that I was always unable...I lacked the foundation that allowed it to be habit forming. Having been chronically ill from the age of 14 on- it just didn't provide confidence for a once fearless active teen. it is 2011 and I am rediscovering the Leah who might have been previously. But she is on her way to being more of the Leah she wants to be...even now. It really is never too late. I believe that.

And as for addictive---my energy and enthusiasm is spreading--in the same way I, in turn, caught it from others. Last month at our Dharma-Rama teen cancer retreat we featured fitness as a session. Led of course by the fabulous and aforementioned Mary.

 It was by far the session with the most interest and questions. I loved watching the TLC teens get as enthusiastic about fitness as I was. I only hope we can continue to build the momentum and keep them as excited.

I am not saying I have become a different person. I'm not saying I won't occasionally eat a half a sleeve of Oreos when stress hits...slip ups happen.
What I will say is I know what the difference feels like...and the easy or lazy way is slowly becoming less appealing.

On this journey...since I first tested out a pair of running shoes almost a year ago (this April) I've learned a lot.

I've also been taking mental note of the fun discoveries. 
Here are just a few...

- A Magic Bullet Blender is not just a hokey tv novelty
- You can make practically 1,001 veggie/fruit Magic Bullet concoctions!
- If you bring said mixes into a high school...prepare for the ick comments.

- Running in ice and snow is no picnic...but it makes the hot cocoa taste better.
- Running on a treadmill makes you feel like a wuss, but a fit one.

- I am rediscovering muscle groups based on the aching quotient.
- Jack Lalanne didn't live to be a vibrant 96 year old for nothing.

Hope this inspires you...and I spread some of the addiction.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tickets to the trainwreck

The land of self-worshiping celebrities.
I stand by my statement: if you live a life that counts yourself as #1 without reaching out to fellow man on a daily basis---it is as surefire a way to slow suicide as any other drug. Empty meaningless narcism.

Charlie Sheen is reminding us in a big way--that we, unfortunately, live in a celebrity culture. We live in a land where people prize fame so much that they eat it for breakfast (sometimes from Wheaties boxes with their shining mugs on the front).

It's a culture we feed into. I'm not the first and I won't be the last to make fun of this weird world of "Love Me, Worship Me...I'm Famous" crap-ola.
Case in point...look to the right.
Some quite brilliant person just thought of using sweet bunny pictures emblazoned with Charlie Sheen's recent interview quotes. Frankly, it beats the "Hang In There, Baby" kitty poster in my book. Genius.

I guess I can't get too self-righteous about this. I feed into this celebrity culture too. At least for the purposes of mockery. Afterall, it's giving me a topic for my blog. 

I am not going to spend any more time singing a theme song of moral high-ground. You know where that would go. You blog readers, you know me by now. I won't even get into the multiple ways I'm dumbfounded at the financial resources and advantages these idiots squander that could benefit those affected by poverty or challenge-- in this country and beyond.
I digress.

Charlie Sheen joins a band of trainwrecks...some that more recently have included Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan---the list runs continuously in inkjet and Twitter tweets. We won't have to wait long for the next ticket to hot mess, trainwreck or just plain slow and systematic downfall. 

We can't save them all. But all is not lost. I have an idea. Instead of trying to get them to reform on their own, let's just think about how these trainwrecks could somehow help society. What if through the justice system we made their 'antics' and whimsical gaffs...all part of a money making machine...for charity?

Let's be honest about this--fools make money. And fools also make money off the sins of fools.  So, let's hook the 'celeb-trastophy' hawking up to the justice system and link it to small charities that are responsible with their funds. 
What do you think?

Let's start with Mel Gibson. I think we should make his penance be another film This film, like so many others would be one directed and starring Mel...but with a documentary feel. 
It would be Mel under a lamp of self examination. In black and white glory. 
Let's call it De-praved Heart. 
Place Mel in a room where he sits alone answering pre-recorded questions from an unseen source (a la Wizard of Oz). He would be hooked to a lie detector and with any time he answered untruthfully---Danny Glover would come out of a trap door with a Nerf bat (unlethal weapon) and just clonk him over the head. 
Laugh track would play at each of these intervals. 
It would take as long as it takes...for him to realize he's come to no good end.
But the end of the movie would feature a stern talking to from a row of three retired teachers/nuns from Catholic school. He would leave the set with the promise to take a vow of silence for 2 years. All proceeds from this film would go to battered womens shelters.

Now for Lindsay Lohan.
Oh Lindsay...Lindsay, Lindsay.
First of all...we would take her and make her re-watch Mean Girls with emphasis on how NOT to let a self-absorbed, status-obsessed, shallow life become your path of choice. Next, I would have her make another pop album. I am serious. Sure, she wasn't the best singer in the world. But I think she is due for another roster of songs. It could be entitled 'Don't Mess with Lohan' or if we made it a compilation album, it could be called Slammer Jammers. Team up Paris Hilton, Little Wayne and Courtney Love---all former members of the orange jumpsuit crowd-- each contributing a track.
It would sell faster than those NOW albums--what are they now on NOW 899 at this point?
ALL proceeds from the sale of this album would be split between amazing centers around this country devoted to helping teens chose positive activities---instead of substance abuse.

And last but not least, Charlie Sheen...the bunny quote posters are great.

But I've got a better idea. In honor (or in jest) of this over-inflated ego of his... let's create a carnival game called Take Pot Shots at the 'Hot Shot'. It would be a dunk tank where Charlie could face a tribunal of ex-wives, jilted porn stars, call girls and whoever else he wronged. 

And if that weren't punishment enough...

We'll make him watch his 90s movie The Chase (without alcohol).  

I haven't decided what charity cause would suit Charlie's tv show revenue...
but I am inclined to believe it would pull in so much money we could probably split it between many worthy causes.

And just in case you think I've taken unfair aim at these three-- why don't we drive the costs of production down (and the charity revenue up). 

P.R. by Lizzy

Production design/images by these guys.
All cinematography and photography would be shot FOR FREE by these stalkers and paparazzi that call themselves journalists. They would be intentured servants of this project and donate all their "skill" to it.

P.R. and promotion for the project would be done pro-bono by Lizzy Grubman...the dynamo who mowed people down in a Hampton nightclub parking lot.

There you have a nutshell.

HOW we could at least somewhat treat celeb-tastrophies of their apathy for the rest of the human race----and help out those who really need it.