The Ballad Of Yes

Give me your shouldn’ts, your wouldn’ts and won’ts,
I’m buying up couldn’ts and didn’ts and don’ts;
I’ll take each ‘if only’ and ‘what might have been’
and I’ll stack them in boxes and lock them all in.

I’ll load them all onto a boat on the sea
that’s got just enough room for the boxes and me,
I’ll sail through the waves and the currents and tide,
then I’ll throw every single box over the side.

I’ll toss every ‘not now,’ ‘maybe later,’ and ‘no,’
every ‘what were you thinking’ and ‘I told you so,’
I’ll watch as they sink through the brine and the foam,
then I’ll turn back to shore and I’ll set sail for home.

And I’ll sing to myself as I sail on the sea
a song about how good it is to be free,
about all the adventures waiting for me,
all the things I can do, all the things I can be.

– The Little Blind Girl

Illustrated version [download here]:

the-ballad-of-yes-illustrated

 

Prince Was My First

dove-893526_640

dove [image in the public domain]

How do I post to a humor blog on the day Prince died?  This is not the same world that existed yesterday.  The sky is not the same sky, the air is not the same air, and I am not the same person.  It stands to reason, I suppose:  everything Prince did changed the world.  Of course his death has done the same.

Prince was my first for a lot of things.  He sang the first song I couldn’t stop listening to, the kind you keep playing in your head even when you’re in church confessing your sins.  I remember my younger self waiting for a confessional to come available, time I was supposed to use to contemplate what bad deeds I should list for the priest, but instead I was playing “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” in my head.  My turn at confession came right after the part where Prince is telling a woman that she wouldn’t be satisfied with a one night stand.  I had to scramble into the booth and try to remember all my sins off the top of my head, and my voice was shaking so wildly that I was sure the priest could tell I’d been engaging in near-sacrilege just a few moments before.  Luckily, he regarded the stench of my guilt as a sign of desperate contrition, took pity on me, and told me I’d offered the most genuine confession he’d heard in a long time.  That’s how Prince gave me another couple of firsts:  the first time I realized that priests aren’t all-knowing (yes, I feel bad about tricking the holy man), and the first time I understood that sometimes the things and people that scare me may actually be on my side, if I let them.

I had several other memorable firsts with Prince.  When he changed his name to a symbol and wrote the word “slave” on his face to protest the way his record company treated his work, it was the first time I understood that art can not only convey a message but also fight an entire war that most people will never realize even happened.  Art history lectures in school tried to convey the same point as I nodded and took notes and memorized for the test; when Prince lived the message while I watched and listened, then I understood, and I never forgot.  Another first came from his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which was the first time I saw how the same thing can be perfect in more than one way, and how interpretation can be a form of authorship as valid as any.  My sister can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the first time we bonded over music our parents would definitely in no uncertain terms never understand, it was Prince.  And, yes, Prince was acting as a musical Cyrano de Bergerac the first time I had sex; for those of us of a certain age, that was practically mandatory.

It’s hard to explain Prince’s allure to anyone who doesn’t already understand, but since this is basically a eulogy, let me try to tell you why this isn’t simply a transference of nostalgia and why I’m grieving over a man I never met.  My childhood was sheltered, relatively privileged, and safe.  Then Prince came along, and he was unlike anyone I’d ever seen or heard.  He assumed his audience was intelligent, he considered danger to be essential to creativity, and he could write a four-minute pop song that had shape and texture and heft.  All the songs I’d heard B.P. (Before Prince) were sanded flat, polished smooth, and as insubstantial as the air that carried them.  A lot of what I hear today is the same.  But Prince’s music always made me think, made me feel, and made me dance–enthusiastically, if not very well.  It’s true that Prince wasn’t the first artist to pitch the rulebook and do something different, but he was the first who made me want to throw my own rulebook away.  He showed me how to find my path away from the ordinary, and then he showed me how to dance along that path while rocking five-inch electric blue satin platform heels, and now he’s gone, and the world will never be the same.

Prince being Prince, though, I don’t see death stopping him from doing his thing.  I think he’s just got a new audience.  In fact, I take strange pleasure in the thought of the Heavenly Host suddenly confronted with The Artist.  He’ll probably be using a halo as some sort of percussion instrument and asking where he can find a pair of wings with glitter.  In my mind, I see the angelic choir looking on in seraphic condescension as Prince gives his first celestial concert, and I can’t help laughing a little at the shock they’re going to feel when they turn and see God the Eternal and Omnipotent dancing on His throne, rocking out to Purple Rain.

R.I.P, Prince Rogers Nelson.  You were my first, and you were the best.

Confessions Part One: Things I Accidentally Stole From My Friends

Sinner; copyright zgrredek on Flickr

Sinner; copyright zgrredek on Flickr

I think there’s an unspoken statute of limitations for things you accidentally steal from your friends.  You know how it is, you borrow a friend’s shirt one day, you mean to wash it and give it back.  Suddenly six months have gone by and you’re unpacking in your new apartment in a different city and you come across that shirt and you think, is it really worth mailing it back?  I’ll just give it to her the next time I see her.  Except, the next time you see her isn’t until someone is getting married and you’re so stressed about gifts and travel plans and horrible bridesmaids dresses that you forget all about the shirt.  Then you get back home, you see the shirt, you do a face palm slap, and you think, I’ve really got to remember to take that with me the next time I’m going to see her.  Except, the next time you see her is when there’s a funeral, and the last thing on your mind is your friend’s shirt.  Unless it’s your friend’s funeral, at which point you’re pretty much out of luck.

When you’ve borrowed an item and you forget (or “forget”) to give it back, I propose a time limit of three years during which time, if the item is demanded, you must return it as expeditiously as possible.  If the item is not demanded within those three years, you’re free to consider it yours and keep it guilt-free.  I have taken it upon myself to test this theory before making a public proposal, because that’s just how much I care.  Also because I kept forgetting to give the things back.  The statute of limitations has passed on each of the items in the test group, and I now consider them mine.  Here’s what I accidentally stole from my friends:

  1. A rock band T-shirt:  this is the quintessential item that you borrow and never end up returning, partly because you honestly don’t remember and partly because you subconsciously don’t want to remember because the T-shirt is so cool.  Mine is from the now-disbanded Marvelous 3, the most rawk-tastic band around when I was in college, and since they’re no longer together, there will be no more T-shirts ever.  The lead singer was Butch Walker, who is still around and making music (which is also rawk-tastic), but it’s not quite the same when you can’t just blow off your classes, drive for hours to some skanky club, and get back late afternoon the next day just in time to take a Phenomenology exam you didn’t study for.  Sorry, Michelle:  the shirt’s mine now!
  2. Books:  another very common entry on the list of Stuff People Borrow And Never End Up Giving Back.  At least one friend of mine has a policy of never lending books to anyone, even immediate relatives, for this very reason.  I borrowed 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez from an ex-boyfriend who, if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure had never read it and only kept it around to impress chicks.  I wasn’t dating him for his mind.  Anyway, I read the book and it was life-alteringly fantastic, which frankly my ex-boyfriend wasn’t, so I kept the book and got rid of him.
  3. Lipstick:  this one is mostly limited to women, though not always.  There’s a magic shade for each woman, and there’s no predicting it based on coloring or skin tone or anything.  You could have identical twins and each would have a different magic shade of lipstick.  It’s the shade that, when you put it on, it doesn’t just suit you perfectly, it makes you feel beautiful.  It gives you confidence just to know you’re wearing it.  When you go to replace it, it will inevitably have been discontinued.  I borrowed a tube of lipstick from a friend and it was my magic shade.  She let me use it for a long time because it’s part of the Girlfriend Code to help your girlfriends look fabulous, and eventually I think we both forgot it wasn’t originally mine.  I still have it, though there isn’t much left, because I’ve been hoarding it for things like dates where the guy actually takes me to a nice place.  As you can tell by the fact that there’s still some left, that doesn’t happen very often.  But when it does, I’m ready.

So here it is, my confession:  I accidentally steal things from friends.  To be fair, though, they accidentally steal things from me, too.  It’s kind of nice, really.  When you’ve all been friends long enough, your stuff tends to end up mixed together through some sort of friendship diffusion effect.  You’re over for dinner, and you comment on your friend’s candlesticks, and then you both squint at them and realize at the same moment–they used to be yours!  That’s OK, though, because you borrowed the necklace you’re wearing from her five years ago.  It all works out in the end.  Man, it feels good to get that off my chest!

Quiz! Why do Mondays suck so bad?

A toddler girl crying

It’s been a while since the last quiz, so I thought I’d do another one.  Today’s topic, fittingly, is Mondays.  Many songs have been written about Mondays.  For a lot of people, Monday is the beginning of the work week, the end of that bliss known as the weekend, and some have been known to complain about how hard it is to get up for work on Monday morning. No one ever really sings about Wednesdays, possibly because it’s a little hard to rhyme, also because it’s hard to spell.  So here’s the quiz.  Post your results!  Tell me what questions and answers I should have included but didn’t!  I always like to hear about what you take away from the blog.

A.  How was your Monday?

  1. Don’t talk to me.  Just, don’t talk to me.
  2. I’ve had worse
  3. Are you kidding?  I finally got away from the family, it was awesome!
  4. I love Mondays, I get to wear my purple Monday socks.
  5. Wait, it’s Monday?

B.  True or False:  Rainy days and Mondays always get you down.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain
  4. Monday, Monday, so good to me
  5. Are you sure it’s Monday?  Crap!

C.  Tell me why I don’t like Mondays

  1. Because the Boomtown Rats say so
  2. Three words:  Six o’clock alarm
  3. One word:  commute
  4. These are the days when you wish your bed was already made
  5. Sure, just let me hit the snooze button and I’ll be right with you

D.  Worst Monday ever:

  1. Black Monday, October 28th, 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression
  2. Black Monday, October 19th, 1987, the largest one-day percentage decline in recorded stock market history
  3. August 6, 1945, the bombing of Hiroshima
  4. Today (it’s gonna have to have been really awful to outdo Hiroshima)
  5. Next Monday

E.  What is the best way to cure the Monday blues?

  1. Call in to work with the Monday morning flu–what do you mean, it’s not a real disease?  I get it all the time!
  2. Designate Monday as Office Pajama Day.  Oh, no, wait, just thought about colleagues in pajamas, scratch that…
  3. Three-martini lunch
  4. Share the pain.  The best way to get over the blues is to give them to someone else
  5. The politician’s approach:  wake up Tuesday and pretend the previous day never happened

That last response is my preferred method of dealing with all conflict.  So what do you think?  Why do Mondays suck so bad?  It’s one of the eternal questions.  I don’t know that we’ll ever find a satisfactory explanation.  All we can do is keep our heads down and hope the rest of the week is better.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a Monday, Monday playlist in Itunes.  I never really thought about it, but Mondays have an awesome soundtrack!  What other playlist is going to have the Boomtown Rats next to Karen Carpenter?

Whitney Houston

Miracle (Whitney Houston song)

Image via Wikipedia

I love music.  I may not be able to see the sunset, but I can hear and appreciate music in a way I never could if I’d grown up with perfect vision.  I grew up depending on my ears because I couldn’t depend on my eyes, and I grew up learning how to sing and how to play the flute and piano, and I learned the theory and the practice and the soul of music.  No, I learned the theory and the practice of music.  The soul of music I found when I gave my time and love to learn how to perform those incredible songs.  If you want a memory worth having, blindfold yourself for a month, then at the end of that month go to listen to a symphony performed live.  It’s worth losing your vision for a time to be able to experience music properly, to hear that overwhelming, melting, glorious music for one evening and remember it forever.

Whitney Houston died.  She was a beautiful and intelligent woman and obviously had family and friends who loved her very much, and it is a tragedy that she died so young and after so much suffering.  But her voice died a long time ago.  I can’t mourn the loss of an irreplaceable talent because I’ve already done my mourning.  Her voice was one of the wonders of the world.  When I think to myself that I’d rather be blind than deaf, the inability to hear her songs is one of the reasons I think of.  Beethoven’s Eroica symphony; the incomparable performances of Yo Yo Ma; the perfect voice of Whitney Houston.  As I go blind, I’ll miss the incandescent clarity in the blue of the daytime sky and the wonder of the stars at night, but if I had the image of the world in flawless detail, I would trade it to be able to hear her sing.

It shook me to my core to hear what had become of that voice.  When she sang, her voice was a river in flood, terrifying and awe-inspiring, carrying everything before it.  When she softened her voice, the river sparkled in the sunlight, flowing gently and whispering, “Follow me.  I will lead you somewhere new.”  When I found that the river had run dry, I grieved as though a living person had died.  I hope that she is somewhere beyond suffering now and that her voice, that voice that angels would die to have, is ringing through Heaven like a reminder of Eden before temptation, like the way the world could have been if we had made different choices, like the musical expression of the will of God.  If I’m very good and very lucky, when it’s my turn to die, I think the voice calling me home will be the voice of Whitney Houston singing the first, last, and only Song.

Rest in peace, Whitney Houston.  I’ll remember your voice when I’ve forgotten that I was ever able to see at all.