Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Wild Thing

It was one of my favorite songs in the old days. Short on finesse, but full of raw energy. Even the name of the group evoked primal power: the Troggs.

"Wild thing/ You make my heart sing/You make everything/ Groovy ... /Wild thing."

It was a song that seemed radical in its day, and I was always a little proud to claim it as one of my favorites. Especially since it consisted of about three chords, played over and over again.

So imagine my surprise when I heard it recently during an Olympics interval.

"Wild thing/ You make my heart sing."

And what was this wild thing being shilled? A fast car, a new show, a brand of mascara?  Uh, none of the above. The "wild thing" in question is ... an Applebee's hamburger.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

(Photo: Wikipedia)


Monday, February 19, 2018

Many Questions, No Answers

It's a Monday that doesn't feel like a Monday, and I've been reading about the Parkland shooting, listening to the young voices, learning about the cracks that Nicholas Cruz slipped through.

That we starve social services of the funds they need to help the mentally ill is a given. That our nation is awash in guns is another given. And then there are the deeper causes, the values we no longer hold dear, the center that no longer holds.

How to bind these wounds? How to mend these broken hearts? Especially when solutions are labeled liberal or conservative, and when those labels prevent us from talking honestly about what has happened and what can be done.

How to come together for the common good?

I fear we've forgotten how.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Year of the Dog

It's Chinese New Year and the Year of the Dog, the eleventh of the zodiac. I read that the Dog is associated with the earthly branch and the hours 7 to 9 in the evening. When it comes to yin and yang, Dogs are "yang."

This doesn't mean a lot to me. When I think of the Year of the Dog, I think of our dog, Copper, and I think of every year.

Copper is treated like a little king in this house. He lounges on beds, has grated cheese sprinkled over his kibble, and is walked frequently. His barks and whines are tolerated well, as are his middle-of-the-night requests for basement access (this only when it's raining).

When it comes to Copper, much is given ... but much is received. Copper is loving and snuggly. His big soulful eyes seem to know all. And when he jumps on the couch (like so many of his antics once forbidden and now tolerated), he pushes his back up against my leg. I'm his security blanket. But often, he is mine.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Changing Places

For some reason the management company that owns my office building has set out furniture and plants, set up a coffee bar, a wine bar, hung fabric sculptures on the wall and set potted plants in the corners. When I left last night, a singer was crooning in the lobby.

We're not sure what's behind this sudden show of largesse, though some of us suspect rental fees will be rising soon. Is it to build community? To advertise art (some of those fabric sculptures are for sale)? To humanize?

I had the idea for this post before I heard the news from Florida. Seventeen dead in another school shooting. Can we trade this world for another? Because I'm not sure I want to live in this one anymore. Can I put chairs in my lobby and art on my walls? Can I pretend I live somewhere that I do not?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Golden Hearts

Last night I watched pairs skating and thought about love, the glancing touch, moving together, moving alone.  Head-spinning and heart-stopping. Can there be a more perfect evocation of romantic love than these dancers on ice?

Cut to a commercial, followed by another scene, another Olympic venue. The once-vanquished hero returns to scenes of former glory. He had spent some dark days, was challenged by young competitors, worked hard and risked much.

Can he do it again? He bounces on his board and takes off on his last run. And he is flying, cork-screwing, skittering in the air, defying death (it seems to me) with every swoop and curve. And yes, he has what it takes, he wins the gold.

Afterward, he smiles, pumps his fists, makes his way into the crowd where he finds ... his mother. And he falls into her arms, sobbing.

Another kind of love.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Recipe for Improvement

The strolls through Arlington are becoming commonplace. Some days I walk two Metro stops up the line, others four. Last night it was two, and when I descended into the tunnel I could see a train coming. I was "lucky." There had been a switch problem earlier and trains had been single-tracking most of the evening. The next train was due in 16 minutes (a lengthy interval at rush hour even for this dysfunctional system).

Can I do justice to the inward groan that greets a packed-full subway car at the end of a long day? Inward howl is more like it. A clown car's worth of people piled out at Clarendon, but still it was shoulder to shoulder. But what's this? I spied a tiny space, enough for me to step in and find a pole to hang onto. At least I had only six stops left. Many riders had been sardined in there for double, triple that.

It was one of those days, major cuts proposed to the State Department and Department of Agriculture, cuts that will no doubt never be enacted but which underline the difficulties of living here. Remind me again ... oh, yeah, I work here, we work here. And now the girls work here, too.

Only one thing to do: Get home as quickly as possible and change into comfy clothes ... then do something to make the world go away:
make dinner
hang out in the kitchen
bounce on the trampoline
write in my journal
watch the Olympics
talk on the phone
read a good book
hug Copper

... And hope tomorrow (today) is a little bit better!

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Magical Thinking

Watching a lot of Olympics these days and thinking about the power of spectator sports. How after a while, you can imagine your limbs as straight and as strong, your nerves as steady. There's some kind of magical transference that ends the minute I get up and stretch. But for a few minutes, it's sublime.

Or maybe that's just me.

There is much talk of how slopes and rinks can stand in for battlefields. How when nations compete at sports they are less likely to compete at war. This may well be true.

But aren't sports also good for intergenerational harmony? I look at the perfect spins and arabesques of the figure skaters, remember a time when I could hold my leg up to my ear — not while standing on a steel blade, mind you. But still, a time when I was more limber than I am now.

The years fade away when I'm watching the Olympics. Not just the years, but the lack of training and the fear of heights. For just a moment I'm soaring off a ski jump, twisting in air, feeling the unlimited power and strength of youth.

(Photo: Afritorial.com)

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Morning of Words

It's a quiet morning, the stock market is tanking, the government open again after a five-hour shutdown during the night, and I sit here perfectly content with my books, journal and laptop. Not that I'm living in a bubble or anything!

But truly, what can you do? We live in concentric circles, do we not? And when the outer orbits are caustic or frayed, we pull inward, to what makes us happy, what makes us whole.

What's making me happy now is reading Ursula Le Guin's No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters (2017). I was going to say it was her last book, but am glad I checked. Looks like there's at least another one coming out.

Here is a passage I marked to copy later:
I know that to me words are things, almost immaterial but actual and real things, and that I like them.
I like their most material aspect: the sound of them, heard in the mind or spoken by the voice.
And right along with that, inseparably, I like the dances of meaning words do with one another, the endless changes and complexities of their interrelationships in sentence or text, by which imaginary worlds are build and shared. Writing engages me in both these aspects of words, in an inexhaustible playing, which is my lifework.
Words are my matter—my stuff. Words are my skein of yarn, my lump of wet clay, my block of uncarved wood. Words are my magic, antiproverbial cake. I eat it, and I still have it.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Throwback Thursday

My Throwback Thursday came a day early, when a high school friend called to tell me about the 70th anniversary reunion of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra. Many years ago (not 70, though!) I played string bass in that august ensemble. I was not very good. My audition piece was "My Country 'Tis of Thee" — and still I only squeaked in.

I was in over my head from the start — Brahms 1st has some fantastically difficult runs — but I was hooked. To be even a small, insignificant, plunking-lower-string part of this swelling sound didn't just make my day (the day was Saturday, the time 8 a.m. to noon). It made my year (s), both junior and senior. I had found my crowd: the music people.

For two years there was rosin dust and calloused fingers. There were rehearsals and parties and the dreaded tag day, when I stood on the corner of Short and Lime and asked passersby for money. There was the time we were invited to the Soviet Union for the International Music Educators Conference. Does my mind fail me here, or would we have played Kablevsky for Kablevsky?  I think that is true.

That one didn't work out, but there were concerts at U.K. and Transylvania, on the road in Williamsburg and Atlanta, the night when guys from the trumpet section got their hands on the French taxi horns used in "An American in Paris" and woke up half the hotel.

All these memories bubbling out because of a phone call. The parts of life we think are over never really are.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Eight Candles

Today A Walker in the Suburbs celebrates its eighth birthday. This is hard to imagine — that for eight years I've been writing posts at least every weekday and often more. But I need no better reminder than the one starting this weekend. The blog's beginnings are entwined with the vast snowfall we had that winter and watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on the TV in the basement (when there was still a futon down there).

I've been reading some of my earlier birthday posts and thinking about how important it is to keep things fresh. A blog facelift is definitely in the works (at least in my own mind if not yet in code) and the writing itself can always be liberated.

How easy it is to get boxed in, both in life and in blogging, and if there's one thing I don't want for A Walker, it's limitations.

Eight-year-olds are full of life — skinned knees and messy projects. And so I hope it is for this eight-year-old. And with that, I raise a glass (actually a cup of tea) to say, "Happy Birthday, Blog!"

(Photo: notonthehighstreet.com)

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shades of Gray

With apologies to those expecting a more salacious post ... this one's about my wardrobe. It's about the gray skirts and the gray pants, the gray dress and the gray sweater.  It's about the sweatshirts, all three of them, all gray.

And then there are there are the gray turtlenecks; I have a few of those, too, one dark, one light, one striped and one emblazoned with "U.K." Dad sent the latter one to Claire in hopes she would go to the University of Kentucky for college. She went to George Mason instead — and I kept the turtleneck.

I like the color gray; it's soft and neutral,  a worthy alternative to black. But I'm starting to feel ... a little grayed out.  Pinks and purples and fuchsias are looking good these days.

Maybe it's a midwinter thing, or a midlife thing. ... But I could use some color!

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Phantom Snow

Sometimes I think we know too much about the weather, about European and North American Mesoscale (NAM) models, about high pressures and cold air damming. After all, we're not meteorologists; at best our knowledge is a touching glance.

But then I learn just enough to gain a vision.

Take yesterday's "mixed precipitation" event, which produced coated boughs and slick sidewalks. I'd heard that due to low dew points, it would be snowing up in the atmosphere before it touched earth. In my highly unscientific understanding of this I imagine the air cooling, filling with moisture, to give passage to the first flakes, to pave the way.

It's an amateur's view of the universe: phantom snow falling on fluffy clouds, a shower of white that no one can see. A poetic description that cannot possibly be true, but I like to think of it that way.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Clarity at Clarendon

It's been a strange winter — cold scouring winds that hurl sticks and limbs onto frozen ground followed by one-day warm-ups that leave us longing for spring.

When the weather cooperates, as it did yesterday, I take my new walk through Arlington on the way home.

And last night, for the first time, I found my way with no backtracking. This seems like something I should have been able to do first time around, but after Clarendon, three streets come together in a strange intersection, and the middle of the three, the one I needed to find, looks more like a parking lot than an avenue. There are plenty of directional errors waiting to happen in that neighborhood — even with phone directions in tow — and each time I got turned around I would make a new mistake.

But yesterday, it was light enough that I found the street I needed. And it was as I had imagined it: the way that had been muddled was suddenly made clear. I love it when that happens.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Irish in Her

When I was 24 and Mom was 51 we took a long trip together. We visited England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy — "the tour." And of course,  Ireland.

"Everyone looks familiar here," Mom said as soon as we stepped off the ferry at Dun Laoghaire. And in fact they did. You could round up the pedestrians in a Dublin block, plop them down in the pews of St. Peters on Barr Street in Lexington, and you'd hardly know the difference. There would be more tweed and piety, worse teeth, but the dark hair would be the same, and the wide smiles.

"All of my people are Irish," Mom said, proudly. She meant the Longs and the Scotts and the Donnellys and the Concannons. But she came to realize through the years that their union would compound the immigrant's distrust and fear. Turns out, her family would not quite survive its Irishness. Now there's only one Concannon girl left, my aunt of 94. She and Mom barely spoke at the end.

Mom would have been 92 this February 1. I don't have her Irishness, but I miss it — and her — especially today.
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