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Posts Tagged ‘music’

I stopped watching Scandal early-ish in Season 5. I was so tired, and it was so convoluted and conniving, and I just didn’t have the energy.

Then last week I went back. The new season is on and I wanted to be able to peek in and understand where everyone was and how they got there. So I went to Netflix and slid into Season 5. From the top.

And you know? Never mind that it’s still convoluted and conniving and crazy and cringe-worthy and all the other alliterative descriptors I might think to use. Never mind that I can’t stand Fitz and have never found that man – the character or the actor, but so particularly the character – attractive. Never mind that even Olivia turns me off and annoys the crap out of me most of the time. Never mind all of that. I need to be watching Scandal, desperately need what this show is giving me.

How have I never noticed the music? How have I managed to watch four seasons and never notice the music? Where have my ears been? This show – which should come as no surprise – is so Black. But sooo Black. Powerfully, unashamedly, doggedly, determinedly. If it had a theme song, it would have to be the fabulously nonsensical yet bizarrely affirming “I’m Black,Y’all.”

And it’s not because Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope is the primary character, although yes, she’s part of it. And Joe Morton as Papa Pope is part of it – he is, after all, everyone’s favorite Brother from Another Planet. But the Popes are barely in the real world, certainly not anywhere near what my real world looks and feels and smells like. They are definitely Black, but they don’t make the show Black. No. For me, all that unapologetic Blackness is in the music. The soundtrack to Season 5 is a glorious celebration of Black music as Black voice, Black mood, Black conscience … and I am so here for it.

Maybe I never noticed this before because I didn’t need it as much in the past as I do in this moment. Maybe I stopped watching in part because I was getting further and further away from Pope-world and the cognitive dissonance was too much for me. And, while I’m still plenty far from Pope-world today, I need to dive in anyway, need to gather as much Blackness around me as possible. So I was drawn back to the show … and found my heart and soul waiting for me there, the running conversation under the scenes.

Just so you know:

  • You Got the Love — Rufus (yes, featuring Chaka Khan)
  • Got to Be Real — Cheryl Lynn
  • Do Right Woman, Do Right Man — Aretha Franklin
  • How Do You Keep the Music Playing — James Ingram and Patti Austin
  • You’re All I Need to Get By — Aretha Franklin
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) — Stevie Wonder

That’s just in the tiniest toe of a dip into the first four episodes, people! So 👏 damn 👏 black 👏.

On Sunday I went to a meeting of an anti-racist group. It was a meeting only for the POC members of the group. They meet monthly, and I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but Sunday was the first time my schedule allowed it.

And then I woke up Sunday, and the weather was awful: iced-over snowy rain and so cold! I didn’t want to leave my cozy apartment, and certainly not to head downtown to a meeting place right by the river!

But the chance to sit in community with a group of POC working for social justice and equity was too great a lure. I got my act together and got myself to DUMBO.

Thank goodness, too. Those two hours were fresh air. I could be as serious, silly, snarky, angry, frustrated, amused, or sad as I wanted, and no one expected me to explain, defend, modulate, or disappear my feelings. I could just have them.

And so I gathered a little more Blackness to me, wrapped myself in it as I would a fleece and mink blanket. Blackness — POC-ness — is the balm for my head and heart these days. I’m not closing doors on white folks. Can’t afford anything like that. There’s too much work to be done.

There is so much work. And I won’t get any of it done if I don’t look out for myself, find ways to take care of myself. I need to remember my sanctuary spaces, need to find myself some peace, need to put some shine on all the Blackness, all the big, bold, bodacious, brazen, blackety, black Blackness. Those alliterative descriptors are set to become my new mantra.

Time to slip back in. Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, and more Aretha on deck. Shonda clearly has my back in this fight.

“I’m black y’all, and I’m black y’all
and I’m blackety black, and I’m black y’all …”


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In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week.

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

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It’s Slice-of-Life Tuesday! Click on the badge to visit Two Writing Teachers and see what the other slicers are writing today!

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Today was a Girls Write Now day. A chilly-warm day that gave enough of a tease of spring that I wore a short jacket and my favorite of my new dresses … more fool me. Because this dress has a loose, flippy skirt, and it’s a windy chilly-warm day that has had me doing an awkward Seven Year Itch reenactment every three seconds everywhere I go. Hardly ideal (but also comical, I can’t deny it).

No matter. GWN was great. I had, as always, a great time seeing and writing with my mentee. I saw another mentee I love but don’t often get to see. I met anotger mentor and discovered a shared passion for Octavia Butler. And I started a piece that could definitely turn into something. Result!

Tonight I went to an Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert with RedEmma. A creativity-and-culture-filled day is always a good thing. The concert was excellent. Because the music was lovely, because RE had seats in the second tier boxes, and because we arrived early enough to have a delightful conversation with an even more delightful couple who joined us in the box.

I’m on my way home now, hoping I can cap the day with a poem I like as much as last night’s (and get it posted by midnight!). Hmmm … not likely, but let’s see what I can do.

Staying Power

“Only the best for you, babe,” he says, handing her into the red, plush seat, standing a moment to be sure she’s comfortable. “We’re together 71 years,” she tells me. Only the best, I think. For nearly three-quarters of a century. I can’t fathom them. My fantasies of “long-term” fall decades short, don’t graze twenty. Seventy-one is outside my ken. Laughing at each other’s jokes, ready to tell strangers how they met. Almost three-quarters of a century. He gets a special smile when he remembers seeing her the first time, still calls her “babe.” I’m seeing them, hearing Otis as their sound track, giving me “That’s how strong my love is.” Yeah. All of that.


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Are you writing poems this month? Where can I see them? Let’s share this craziness!

As I did last year, I’ll be following along with the Poem-A-Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. Today’s prompt is to write a seasonal poem, but my day had other ideas. You can post your daily poems on Brewer’s page. The top poem from each day will be included in an anthology later this year!

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Had an audio flashback yesterday that’s still playing its tune today. I was sent back in time to the first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Breakdown” was an instant favorite for me. Something about the way Petty sang those first lines:

It’s alight if you love me.
It’s alright if you don’t.
I’m not afraid of you running away, honey.
I get the feeling you won’t.

I’d never heard anyone sing like him. The sound of his voice, the sound of that lyric. They just clicked so hard for me. I was young and unworldly enough that I didn’t fully understand what Petty was singing about, but the song communicated with me all the same. Fox (my younger sister) and I used to sing this song all the time. I was Petty, she was the Heartbreakers. If we’d grown up Irish, “Breakdown” would have been one of our party pieces.

Heard five seconds of the intro guitar behind a promo for a news show on my way out the door yesterday … and I was cast back, back upstate, standing in the living room in front of the stereo, singing with Fox.

Woke up with the song in my head today. First thought, before “snowmageddon 2015,” before conscious thought. Thanks, NPR, for that musical time travel magic.

Something inside you
is feeling like I do.
We’ve said all there is to say.

Baby —

Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me.
Breakdown, honey, take me through the night.
Breakdown, now I’m standing here, can’t you see —
breakdown, it’s alright.
It’s alright.
It’s alright.


It’s Tuesday, friends. There’s snow on the ground, and it’s a Slice of Life day. Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see the rest of the day’s slices.

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Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a ” tell it to the _______” poem.  Really not sure what to do with that.

It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day!  As ever, I have my basket full of poems to give out to people at work so that I can be sure they’ll have poems in their pockets as they go through their days.  Last year, knowing that I’d be in the hospital for PYP Day, I left a supply of poems behind with explicit instructions to have them given out on the correct day … and I brought a bunch of poems with me to the hospital to give out.  Seriously.  I offered poems to every nurse and PA who came into my room, gave poems to my room mate and her partners, and carried them along with me when I was taken out for my little physical therapy walk around the floor.  Many people seemed to think I was nuts, but I’m used to that at this point.

Today, I brought a few dozen poems with me to my morning meeting.  My morning meeting at City Hall with one of the Deputy Mayors.  I figured it would be good to have poems on me just in case.  You know, just in case someone asked.  Just in case there was a poetry emergency.  Just in case the meeting was chummy enough that it wouldn’t have been too strange for me to pull out my little plastic case full of poems and start offering them around. Sadly, the moment never presented itself.  The Deputy Mayor will never know what I was packing as I sat across the table from him.  Alas!

I’m still waiting for the day that someone on the street actually turns to me and asks if I have a poem in my pocket and if I’ll share it with her/him.

Tell it to My Heart

Real
feeling — 
hidden, dense.
All my secrets
exposed. This time I’m
sure,
surer
than last time,
than any time
you’ve been at my side.
Love?
Something
stronger, hard —
the one thing I’ve
avoided knowing.

Not sure it worked as well as I had in mind.  I wanted to see if I could recycle some of the lines from last night’s poem, see if I could leave them in the same place they landed in my “place” poem but give them a totally different feel here.  

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Please consider donating to my indiegogo campaign to support my participation in the VONA Voices graphic novel workshop this summer.  “Support” can be as simple and cost-free as sending the Indiegogo link out to your friends and telling them why they might want to help me get to VONA.  Any and all help is appreciated.  To date, I’ve received almost half my goal amount! I am encouraged and humbled by everyone’s generosity.  Thank you all!

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

* And no, we can’t go there without going here:

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(Not that Elvis.)

There have been a few slices this month about music and memory, songs that take us back to some particular place, time, person. I’ve written a few posts like that, too.  (My favorite is the one about Prague and She’s Crafty.) These new posts are inspiring me to dip back into that well.

There are so many songs, right?  So many memories tied to music.  The first workshop we did for Girls Write Now was “Music Memoir,” and I wrote a piece about a song that called up sadness over the loss of my father.  And then there’s the one about When Doves Cry and the memory of falling in love in Ljubljana.  So many songs.  So many memories.

The one that keeps tapping my shoulder tonight is from the same trip that gave me the Beastie Boys memories of Marek.

I spent a lot of time walking during that trip to Prague.  And a lot of time alone.  My friends all had school or jobs, so their days were spent in their lives and we would meet up after dinner.  So during the day I walked, from one end of the city to the other, through tiny cobbled streets, in and out of parks, up to the castle, back and forth across the bridges over the Vltava.  I listened to music most of the time because it was a way to put up a wall. (Hmm … that probably needs explaining, but that’s a longer story.  Maybe tomorrow.)  And although I listened to a lot of different music — Jimi Hendrix, Joe Jackson, Joni Mitchell — the song that is locked to the city for me is Elvis Costello’s (The Angels Wanna Wear) My Red Shoes.

I hear the opening beats and I’m sitting on a bench by the river, writing in my journal, trying to find the words that will make the golden light and the smell of lilacs stay alive on the page, trying to keep track of the few words I was learning in Czech, starting to work on a story that would grow into the first long story with a fully completed arc I’d ever written. I hear that song and I’m riding the tram, and I’m walking, walking, walking … up to the castle, back down through the gardens, around the Old Town, around the Kampa, stopping for coffee or ice cream (two of the three kinds of “food” I knew how to say in my first days in the city), and then starting over again.  I remember the gorgeous garden I discovered on some side street, the gate open and the ivied stone benches too inviting to pass up.  I have no idea if that was someone’s private home, a school, a business.  There was no one around for the whole time I sat there dreaming.

I haven’t been back to Prague since that trip. I imagine it is hugely different now (that visit was in the mid-80s, after all).  I hope I would still find it magical, still find at least some of the tiny corners of loveliness I found on those long walking days.

_____

Find all of today’s slices on Two Writing Teachers.

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It’s September again, friends.  Last year, I tried to write 30 stories in 30 days for September.  I succeeded in writing 30 stories … but it took me 60 days to do it!  Let’s see how I do this year!

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Scheherazade

Sonny’s first choice had been trumpet.  He’d known even in third grade that, when the time came the next year to pick his instrument, he would tell Mr. Glaston that he wanted to play the trumpet.  He’d fallen in love with the rich, round voice of the horn listening to his father’s records, watching his father’s face every time the trumpet sounded.  He’d asked his father once if he’d ever played.

“Me?  Never.  I had to leave school too early.  No chance to learn.”

He hadn’t sounded angry or sad when he’d said it, but Sonny had felt both just thinking of the lost opportunity, of having a dream quashed before it had grown to bud.

Music lessons started in fourth grade, so Sonny knew he’d have to wait to announce his choice.  He kept it like a secret that he’d give his father as a surprise, could imagine running to meet his father at the door as he came in from work, barely waiting for him to take off his hat and put down his case before blurting out his news.

When the late September selection day finally came, Sonny didn’t hesitate when old Mr. Glaston called him into the office.

“Trumpet!” he announced before the music teacher finished his question.

Mr. Glaston shook his head.  “You’re too late in the alphabet, young man,” he said.  “Gave out the last trumpet in the L’s.  We never have trumpets left by the time we get to you T children.”

*

Seventy-four years later, Sonny gently fitted together the pieces of his clarinet, the one he’d bought all with his own money after his first paper route job in junior high.  

“What do you have for me today?” his father asked, his voice whispery as onion skin, his eyes closed against the morning light.

Sonny pulled the reed from between his lips and slipped it into position.  “An old favorite of yours,” he said.  He walked to his father’s bedside and began a theme from Scheherazade, his father’s favorite classical piece.  He played softly, waiting for the slight tremble of lips that told him his father was smiling before letting himself go, letting the music take him.  He knew the nurses and some of the attendants and other residents would crowd around the door to listen, but he only had an audience of one, watched only for the almost-smile, for the watery glance when his father finally opened his eyes.

*

“I still got some wind instruments left,” Mr. Glaston told him.  “You can get one of those or you can join the choir.”

Sonny looked at the half dozen flute cases on the table, the pair of tubas propped up beside Mr. Glaston’s desk.  He pointed at the too-large-to-be-a-flute case on the floor by the desk.  “What’s in there?”

“Oh, I must have overlooked that one.  Clarinet.”  He picked it up.  “I could have given this to that boy in here before you.  You want it?”

Sonny didn’t rush his father at the door that night to tell him about the clarinet.  He stayed in his room staring at the case, wondering if he wouldn’t be better just joining the choir.  He heard his father come in, heard his mother tell him about the clarinet, heard no response.

“Your mother tells me you’re going to be the musician in the family,” his father said at dinner.

“It’s just a clarinet.”

“It’s an instrument,” his father said.  “You know how I love music.”

“I wanted to play the trumpet,” Sonny said.  “You love the trumpet.”

His father had laughed.  “I love them all, Sonny.  And the clarinet can do things trumpets only dream of.  I’ve got the records to prove it.”

_____

Okay, that didn’t go exactly as I’d thought it would, but that’s I get for waiting until 11:30 to get started!

So September’s off and running.  Wonder what else will show up on the page this month …  I’d love to know what you think.  Please leave critiques, revisions, stories of your own in the comments!

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Sticking with this musical theme I’ve fallen into, but switching gears …

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I’ve been having an audio love affair with black men these days.  Last fall I had a moment when I remembered how much I love Bill Withers.  I put him on Pandora and suddenly there they were: the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Al Green, the Miracles, the Spinners, Alvin Robinson (Alvin Robinson!!), Sam and Dave, Stevie Wonder, Albert King, Earth Wind and Fire, the Commodores …

Sigh.

Seriously.

Withers has my whole heart. His voice is amazing, his lyrics equally so.  There’s the top 40 fabulousness of “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” sure, but there’s also the unbelievable power of “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” “Better Off Dead,” and “Grandma’s Hands.”  And of course, the joy of “I Wish You Well” and “Lovely Day.” Remember that excellent ad from the great Gap dance commercials (you know, just before the Gap’s nefarious plan for world domination was made plain)?

And remember his beautiful face?

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See what I’m talking about? A full-on luv thang.

And in case you’re wondering, he’s just as lovely today:

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(I’m just saying, the jokers I’ve been dating of late need to step it up. Punto.)

This music, these beautiful brown voices … yeah, a full-on luv thang.

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You can tune into the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.

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(Yes, I know today is Pi Day. I have no clever pie/pi jokes other than my usual offering of this “slice,” but I do hope you had a mathematically fabulous day!)

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