Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Why You Should Go to College

We are in the thick of looking at schools, and I post this for all who ask the question WHY????

You asked me why you have to go to college. I thought about it, and while some of these answers may not make sense for a while, here goes:

If we find the right place, a college or university is one of the few and last fertile soils in this busy world where the life of the mind still can thrive. With all the fast paced media, and utilitarian racing about being efficient, there is something rich and innately beautifully and uniquely human in contemplation, dissertation, discussion and research. The right college will help you stretch mental muscles and develop new ones. You will be appreciated for your mind. I joke about the lack of respects for geeks, but so much of popular culture makes one feel like being an intellectual is a bad thing, and yet intellectuals are always what has moved civilization forward, and they are treasures not often valued in a market driven world.

College is a good and right place to meet people who think like you (Or NOT) where you can debate for long hours. In what is commonly called the real world, its hard to find compatriots, and easy to find ninnies who filibuster your ideas.

College can be a fertile environment to continue growing and finding out who you are (or who you are NOT, which can be just as valuable) Hopefully we all help you pick the right school (though the choice is governed by so many external factors I wonder if its just luck of the draw) and you will find it a good place to grow yourself.

College can be a place to explore a discipline or topic you never thought of before, a place to explore your own alternative realities where it won’t cost too much in terms of reputation and aggravation. You are supposed to be experimenting.

Finally, and this is the reason most people give, a bachelors degree is an entry ticket, in our twisted economy, to self sufficiency over time. It is not however, a warranty or guarantee, and it’s the least important reason to go. If all you needed was the piece of paper, that can be done on line. What spending the time and steeping yourself in academia will do is so much more than just a ticket to the next stage.

So look carefully, and look with your heart.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rant on Race

Recently some well meaning bureaucrat got some law passed that every student in my state has to literally fill out the race card.  But me, I am a bit befuddled. Here is what I say:
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of the word Race is as follows:

Definition of RACE

1chiefly Scottish : the act of running

2a : a strong or rapid current of water flowing through a narrow channel b : a watercourse used industrially c : the current flowing in such a course

3a : a set course or duration of time b : the course of life

4a : a contest of speed b plural : a meeting in which several races (as for horses) are run c : a contest or rivalry involving progress toward a goal

5: a track or channel in which something rolls or slides; specifically : a groove (as for the balls) in a bearing — see roller bearing illustration

Origin of RACE

Middle English ras, from Old Norse rās; akin to Old English rǣs rush

First Known Use: 14th century

Now perhaps they want a description of racial characteristics:
definition of the word racial

1. denoting or relating to the division of the human species into races on grounds of physical characteristics

2. characteristic of any such group

3. relating to or arising from differences between the races: racial harmony

4. of or relating to a subspecies
But the definitions on the form they keep sending me do not ask for physical characteristics so I am not sure how to answer.

Because I do not understand the questions this form addresses based on the above definitions of classifications I am unable to answer this form based on the answers available.

Genetically, my children are a mix of Oriental and northern European genotypes. Without expensive genetic testing, I cannot give you specific percentages.

Culturally, my children are a blend of urban Midwestern with heavy Ashkenazi influences.

Geneologically, much of the records were lost in World War 2 on 3/4's of the family. We have good information on the Celtic tribal aspect of the family, and there is some evidence that there may be some native American DNA.

If its Ethnicity they want, it is easier. Definition:


–noun, plural -ties.

1. ethnic traits, background, allegiance, or association.

2. an ethnic group: Representatives of several ethnicities were present.

Origin: 1765–75, for earlier sense
We pledge allegiance and identify ourselves to the following ethnicities: American.

I am not sure what we gain as a culture from this kind of idiotic bean counting.  It might be helpful to know about student achievement in terms of income, or parental educational level--but then we would have to admit that yes, here in America, we have classes, and that maybe all folks are not created equal, but we have to do something to make them equal.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

poem by Tess


Everyone is a bubble,
Born, realised and popped.
Some float up high, hit a branch on a tree....POP.
Some fall down to the ground....POP.
Some fall faster than others but every bubble pops sooner or later.
When I see bubbles being blown
I think of newborn babies and
when they pop I think of the sad death of
Everyone close to me.

As the leaves turn and fall and as we turn for Yom Kippur, that's probably the best metaphor for our lives I can think of. Thanks, Tess.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fuerza Bruta and me

In the 1980's I was a performance artist in New York City.  I spent a week's grocery money to see the opening of the Philip Glass piece, The Photographer at BAM.  I also saw Pina Bausch and Sankai Juku condemning myself to eating out of dumpsters in order to see art that changed the game.  I went to 24 hour long renditions of sections of Kei Takei's Light.  I learned that art doesn't just hang on walls and theater doesn't have to tell a linear story. And I went to class many a weekday at the studio of Alwin Nikolais, the man who taught me that the people are not always the most important thing on the stage.  He also taught me the sheer power of simple theater magic.

I moved to Chicago and began to experiment. I was a live art object late at night at nightclubs and in gardens. I created performance pieces that threw out most conventions of the theatrical relationship between audience and performer---there were no tickets, no seats, no programs, there were planned and unplanned audience members and occurences.  Chance was one of our performers. Once we almost got arrested.

Then I got married, needed health insurance, and semi retired from experimenting.  But last weekend, I went back, or should I say forward. At the last minute, I got tickets for Fuerza Bruta opening at the auditorium theater.  The show was not on my radar.  My life could have gone on much as it had before without it.  But I did go. And it awakened in me the artist that has long been sleeping.

The show is clearly South American with an aesthetic and image base drawn from a cultural that has survived totalitarian regimes and the paranoia that brings with as baggage.  The recurring image of the man running, running, running on the treadmill resonated deeply within me, especially when a wall shot out and slammed into him.

This kind of work does not have easy or easily verbalized meanings--it intersects with the image bank in your own brain, and your life, and evokes meanings that are not easy to speak. Trying to describe it to my husband I was reduced to Blue Man Group meets the ol Limelight at Cirque du Soleil and they travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Only he knows what I was blabbering about.

There is a scene where furniture, a sidewalk cafe, appears on the treadmill. The treadmill stops briefly and then starts up and the main character desperately attempts to hold the cafe in place but it dissolves in ever more painful ways. 

Sooner or later others join him, on the treadmill for a while then literally falling off the edge.    So many times my life is just like that. 

I will not spoil the end, the stunning visual image.  Everyone talks about the giant slip and slide over head, but for me, the primal dance on the ocean of mylar was more poignant and memorable.

Don't miss this show.  And stay tuned for my next one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Subcribers are Appreciated

As a Subscriber, I get Appreciated. The audience is always in dialogue with an artistic organization, but a subcriber has a long term invested relationship. On Saturday last, my daughter and I got to reap the rewards of that long term relationship. We had the joy of watching the Joffrey Ballet take company class. I felt a little guilty blowing off my own work out to go, but this was an opportunity not to be missed.
When a dancer is on stage, it looks easy and effortless. It is the pinnacle of what the human body can attain.  But these artists are decidedly human with bodies that will someday age. When  the dancer is in class, you see that being a god or fairy is work, grueling hard work and you can see the strengths and the weaknesses. They don't always get it right. They are not always together. They are not always that kind of beautiful.  But in the way that we broken and damaged souls are all the more beautiful for our flaws, somehow seeing the heart and effort is more moving than the show. At this the final company class of the season,  it is morning, after a night of full out performing. I see the bodies are cold, achy.

My friend was amazed at their attire--no pink tights and black leotards! A dance company at company class looks like a group of skinny refugees from a badly stocked and highly picked over rummage sale. Footwear ranges from mismatched sox to down booties to truly ratty ballet slippers in a host of colors and materials.

Some dancers carry in their coffee in Duncan Donuts carry out cups. Some have water bottles. Some wear entire wardrobes of layers and avoid smacking into the giant duffel bags below the bar. I explained to my companions how, in a company class, everyone has a place at the bar--its a territory, and there is an unseen hierarchy. You dare not take a higher ranked dancer's place.  It is fascinating to watch how little is demonstrated. They speak in code. Ballet code.

Company class is like daily mass for priests. Its the ritual that holds the world together. You may be hung over or injured or nursing a fever, but your entire known universe will fling apart at the seams if you don't go to class. Something about the regimented order of plie to tendu to degage keeps the earth spinning on its axle and allows you to go on. I have been retired for almost longer than my career lasted and I still want to kill something if I miss dance class. Nothing works right if I don't go to class. Once you have been a dancer, it lives in your body,and your body cannot live without it.

I could have sat in that theater and watched class for the rest of my life.  Don't worry Dancers. I will be back next year.
Special thanks to Linda's Iphone for the pic!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why Subscribe

It's that time of year when you get the glossy begging brochures: fork over the dough for our fabulous new season!!!! They send you several, each spaced over some scientifically designed interval. And in an age where my belt is tightened to the last notch, I do. I send in the grocery money, or charge it on my Mafia Rate single credit card. In some data aggregation database, I am an ideal cultural consumer, since in the end I subcribe to the ballet, the opera AND to the symphony. I am highly educated which makes me a likely target--but alas I am poor, which negates the rest. So why do I subscribe? Well, for me its a bit like why fundamentalists tithe. I put my little pennies where my passions lie and where my heart lives. I could wait and hope for free tickets. I could get discount tickets through one of the many outlets where unsold seats go, or pine for industry nights. But in the end, I really really love the opera and the ballet and the symphony and I want them to be there when my kids grow up. Even if I don't particularly love everything in the series, I believe we need to support Art because it deserves to continue,whether its my taste or not, and its not like I am chucking my retirement fund on conceptual art--you might say when it comes to subscriptions and cultural investing, I am a fiscal conservative.
I look at it like I do my back garden. I must tend our fair city's cultural garden and my little cheap seats subscription at the back of the house because, I hope, I am putting a little miracle grow on the magnificent harvest of future artistic endeavors. When you subscribe, you provide a base of support for the artists--its money in their bank they can count on, so they can afford to experiment. Yes, that means that occasionally you will see a train wreck on stage, but mostly you are rewarded richly because it forces you to make time for something you love and it doesn't get lost in the busy-ness of living. Once you have kids and dogs and a
mortgage and a job, you don't spontaneously do ANYTHING, so you have to carve out time and make a commitment to getting out of your rut. I get out of my rut, really breathe and come to life, sitting in the back of the house, watching talented performers practice their craft. I will wear thrift store clothes and forego my second passion, travel, in order to be there. So subscribing is the very least I can do. When you love something, you have to take care of it.
Love to hear what you have to say. Click here to leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I am bad about anniversaries. We always seem to be so broke in time for them, my beloved used to be working on many of them,and it seems unseemly to make a big deal out of surviving and not driving each other crazy. I guess when most folks have been married 20 years, maybe they throw a big party, or go out someplace romantic for dinner. But we are so decidedly unconventional. So after 20 years,of good times and bad, we grab one of my oldest friends from the airport--someone who knew me when I was not yetfully formed, someone from halfway round the world who passes through once every few years, and I forced my ornery children who know my most recent history, and we all DINED together, worlds and times mixing like a ride in a TARDIS, at a fun place like Chicago's Province, a place that is green from its walls to its cuisine. A dining experience that puts our money where our mouth is in our shrinking world.

Dining, as I always say, is what makes us, as a species, civilized. And on a purely personal level, its also what makes up the scrapbook of memories in my life--my absolute best memories have always had a meal involved--whether its our yearly insanity of Cinco De Mayo at our family haunt, Las Palmas,or the Easter Brunch at Va Pensiero I recently blogged about. I have some mellowed and beloved memories of stellar Thanksgiving dinners, of Passover Seders, of my sister in law's beloved Very British Christmas Dinner with Yorkshire Pudding. Think about your best times, and I bet somewhere in there, there is a memorable meal.

I do not actually remember the meal at our wedding---I was too strung out and exhausted to have eaten it. I do remember the meal we had on our first honeymoon--- a drive to Michigan with the old dog and the new dog, and pasta at a roadside dive where the sign boasted Its A Boy. We now have a house out there and we still call the place Itsaboy.
When we came into a windfall, we took another honeymoon---to Spain. I remember a wonderful seaside cafe where we ate Langostinos (lobster) but the BEST meal we had was at a campground on the sea where we ate a chicken we bought from a roadside rotisserie and drank wine we had picked up from a monastery with a huge line outside.
When we opened the bottle we knew why---and almost drove 60 kilometers back to get more.

It was so fitting to share the occasion of arriving at two decades together at table with people who can see the long telescope of the lives we have made. My friend watched wide-eyed as my child slurped oysters. We have "unusual" children with wide ranging pallets which is befitting the offspring of artists, I suppose. When you are in a party of 5 instead of a party of two, it really BECOMES a party, and you can order whatever you want to try, knowing someone else will most likely help you finish it. So we sampled and tried and ate off each others plates and talked and laughed. It was fun to find out, after nearly 3 decades of knowing each other, that my friend and I both love lamb with guilty pleasure--which got eye rolls from the kids. And it was rich oh so rich to watch my mate of two decades teach his children how to prepare an oyster, a delicacy that will, I am afraid, always be lost to me. The chef sent us out champagne, and we toasted to each other's long lives and future.
All too soon, the evening came to an end. The city of Chicago complied with the occasion and gave the streets we walked out onto a lovely sheen from the rain. In the film biz, its called a Wet Down--- a picture perfect shiny evening. We dropped my pal at his hotel, kids passed out in the back.
I cannot believe it has been 20 years. Life goes by so fast. Appreciate it, and try not to dine alone. Thank you my world traveling friend, for making us mark the occasion in such a memorable way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Arts Education

As school districts across the state slash and burn their budgets as their ships sink in this perfect storm of property tax caps and state budget crisis, the first barrel to go overboard is arts programming. I for one would like to see consultants, administrators and 5 kinds of standardized testing walk the plank, but unfortunately, in our collective race to the bottom, that will not happen. I know how bad its getting, because at the Arts Magnet school in my town, my daughter is getting a substandard arts experience--the arts classes are not integrated into the overall curriculum, they don't have them every day the way one would have reading or maths, and they are severely underfunded. The PTA steps up and so do I, but what about all the kids who don't have artist parents with the means to pay for enrichment?

I was cleaning out my files and found the state of Kansas' 1995 Guidelines for Program Development in Music. It made me cry. My daughter is on grade level according to their rubrics, but only because I sink thousands of dollars a year into private lessons, music concert subscriptions, and parking costs to take her to our privately funded choir performances. The music program described as the standard for public education in this document is a dream deferred for 90% of the schools in my state, which is not Kansas.

Music is the language of our souls, and what will happen to a society which does not teach this language to its children? We are starving our children not only with the horrible food that passes as school lunches, but in the arts starved curricula we provide them---there are no "nutrients" for their spirits.

In an age which demands creativity and metathinking, the unenriched curriculum will have dire economic consequences for the next generation. But more than economic poverty, I fear the kind of disaffected, disconnnected, small minded poverty of imagination that is like a virus in some of our youth. It's because in the banquet of life and art and mind, we aren't feeding them anything with true energy in it.

And so I will pick through this Kansas Document and try to create my own little OZ,here, with my programs and my habits, to make sure the children I am responsible for are dining at the finest banquet of arts and mind. I want their imaginations to grow FAT with ideas and inspirations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


There is no precious
Just stuff
In barrels, boxes, crates
And More
And more
So much more
And so cheap that
No one cares,
Yet, but

We hoard because we
There is no need
Except the need like a hunger that is
Satisfied, still chewing on the inside
And swallowing, black hole
Down the gullet, grind
Down that satisfaction till it’s a
Never sleeping

Let it go.
Let it go.
Make a space for something new and small.
Give up the
Clutch and Cling.
Clean the slate
So you are New and

More will always come your way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Identity Crisis

This wild west Blogosphere has me in a pickle. I mean WHO AM I? As a blogger, am I a member of the media, with the responsibilities of impartialism and fact checking that come with being a journalist? Am I an educator, explaining odd things? Am I a pr person whose primary responsibility is to promote products and experiences? Am I Consumer Reports for my demographic profile? Am I a kind of focus group of One? Or am I simply a memoir writer, who gives personal opinions and recounts what has happened to me, a storyteller?

As this new social media/blogoworld/tweet/youtube world evolve I don't think many of us really know who we are, or how we fit in, or what our mission is. I have some friends who consult about all this, and some who have turned their entire lives into product placement ops, and some who tweet constantly and frankly, I am exhausted by it all. So much information---so little time. I think its like any new technology where it takes us a while to figure it out, but meanwhile, I feel unsettled. I have landed in an alien environment and am not sure what the rules are.

I attended a twitter party, meet up, trade show thingy which was wonderful, but its clear how confused I am because even after I went to the event, I am not sure what to call it.

It was like a trade show for me, since I learned all kinds of things, like you can get amazing pretty cupcakes at some Cinnabons, and Garret Popcorn should be my gift to all foreign visitors now that Frango mints are NOT made here anymore. I also had a lengthy conversation about Energizer batteries. I learned that rechargeables DONT NEED TO BE COMPLETELY drained any more which is a huge relief in a house where stuff practically feeds on double A's. And I also learned about a great contest they are having for kids making videos that I will feature on Mamamedia. I signed up to be a lab rat for breast cancer, though I HATE that they call the project an army. I went home with gorgeous gifts---not sure what it says about me that I really really really wanted the schlage lockset but the day was a bad neglectful mommy day for me, leaving my kids to work out their schedule and practice independence with some spectacular system failures, so I felt guilty taking things. I won a raffle prize and didn't pick it up, because I just don't deserve STUFF. Of course, the eBay folks did give me a beautiful Label maker so I can organize my stuff--though my kids will probably walk off with it. I didn't know eBay did classifieds, so that's something else I learned. I like learning about all this stuff in one swoop, and getting a glass of Mr. Chardonnay while I am studying. And eventually someone will want to know something about something I have learned---my readers, you know this. How many of you have asked me, what's the best whatever, whatever? Being the quirky,demographic anomaly that I like to think I am, I like discovering things, and taking my time to get to know them and forming an opinion about them.

I think I feel more comfortable as a storyteller. So until further notice, lets just stick with that. And I need to get back to being a poet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best Birthday Ever

It started a month ago: What do you want for your birthday, mom? It's kind of a joke actually, because every year for every holiday I ask for exactly the same thing.
A Clean House.
My mom got savvy a while back and started booking our old housekeeper to come in every year for my birthday and for the winter holidays. It's easy and always the right color and fit.

The sad thing is, I am serious. It IS what I really want. Its hard enough for me to figure out what I want, when the family has so many needs. And I certainly don't usually dare ask for what I want. Not getting it hurts too much. Still when I look in my heart, what I really want is a clean house. A clean house means I am free to read a book or do something interesting. A house already put together means I can move on, and not be weighed down by the the Awful Should Do's. Every week I finish a full week at work and have to come home and put in another 20 hours just keeping our house from being a health hazard.

But this year, something was different. Maybe this birthday is a big enough number that I can hear the clock ticking. I know the show does not go on forever. And maybe this year, I don't just want a clean house, I NEED a clean house. My world, organized.

And so I asked. But I didn't ask my family. I framed up a little email request, and I asked my dearest girl friends to help me. It was really really hard to ask-- I had the thing on my computer for weeks before I dared to mail it. I am not the one who needs things--I have spent a lifetime in the counter role: the one who rescues and fixes.

I have no problem accessing professional help when I need it. But asking a friend for a favor is really hard for me. Perhaps it is the pioneer stock, the midwestern ethic--it is a mark of one's strength to go it alone. But for my birthday I gave myself the gift of asking.

And so they arrived, in sweats and jeans, ready to roll up their sleeves, and roll em up they did. After 3 hours, I called them off, and we ate lasagna with a celebratory glass of wine, and surveyed their gift: a completely reorganized and decluttered front room, and a kitchen wall of appliances suitable for a photo in a lifestyle magazine. I felt lighter than air, happy, as I took the garbage bags to the trash and loaded the cast offs into the Amvets donation box. A morning of work did not give me an entire house, but it started a process of paring down, of unblocking my chi, of lightening my load, and this process is long overdue in my life.

As this birthday is solidly in middle age, I come to grips with all the things I might not have time for, but there are many things I chose not to have time for: toxic people, stuff that no longer serves me, and patterns that hold me down. The gift of time that my friends gave me was so precious and will last forever--and it will never need dusting.

At the end of my birthday weekend, my youngest daughter asked me, as I ask each of my children each year on their special day, Was it a Good Birthday? It was, it was.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wearin' O The Green

My people are more Celtic Scottish than Irish, and in the end, if I felt like forking over the bucks for DNA analysis, probably more Ancient Russian tribal with its Asian roots and Teutonic embellishments, but on St. Pat's everyone within striking distance of Chicago is Irish. And so we wear our glowing green, and I paint on Shamrocks and don my ridiculous hats. And I sip a Jameson and read some McCourt in a quiet place.

I have been to the Emerald Isle thrice. It always feels like home. I feel like I am on a very long road to get back to a flat in Galway, or a cottage on the western coast, where fairies might live amid the moss, and the lilt of the speech and the sadness of the tunes gets into my very bones and feels like my own heartbeat. The Irish are a race of tale tellers, and there is something quite old and tribally, limnally very human about them.

So lift a glass to me homeys today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Last week, on facebook, my neighbor found out she had lost an entire branch of her family tree in a fiery crash on a highway in Israel. I am not certain that is the best use of social media, but I also understand the impulse of wanting to get the inconceivable horrible piece of information out as painlessly as possible, and not wanting to tell the horror over and over again. My friend is still stunned. How could this happen--how could your cousin put his wife and two young kids on a plane to visit family and just never come back. In an instant, in an instant, three generations gone. What do you DO with that kind of a loss? I lost my father that way--in the seventh grade, I went off to school, he went off to work, peck on the cheek,and he dropped dead of a heart attack. Gone. I never said goodbye. I never told him how very much I loved him. And still, every day I miss him. Life is that fragile. We don't think about it every moment of the day, because we would go mad, but in a sense, we remain aware of this tragic fact of existence. We live, we die, and sometimes the transition happens in a second, and there is no time for proper passage.

I attended a class of sixth graders this week introduced to the poetic form: Elegy. It was clear that the poem read as an example of the form got to the kids in a way that a typical educational level lecture never could.

And it was equally clear, that many of these children had sustained significant losses. It is not possible to live as a human on this planet for more than a couple of years without suffering painful, altering loss--whether it is to lose your grandmother, a family pet, or your favorite stuffed animal. One of my children has sobbed over growing out of a favorite shirt---I am losing my childhood! I was told. How many mamas miss the babies we once held--bewildered by the grown people they become? Our existences will be marked by loss. Gain as well, but also irreversible loss. My daughter always becomes very distant and cold towards her pets when they get older---if you call her on it she breaks down racked by crying----she doesn't want to love them so much because they are going to die.

Pets can be especially hard,since their lifespans can be short. I did the same exercise that the students in the class did, and wrote this:

The Last Dog

We ran so many forests
Woody and I.
His golden coat shimmering
In afternoon dappled light.
His big grin and tongue lolling.

Now the trees do not call me so much any more,
Without his peppy bark
Urging me onward.

There are other dogs running with me now,
Butterscotch and chocolate brutes

But not retrievers.

I love them also,
But I have not forgotten
My feathered golden friend with deep sad eyes
My boon companion

The thing I have been unable to convince my daughter is that to hold back love is to miss the good part of the tragedy of our fragile and always too short lives. That the loving itself is the payoff, and the compensation for the pain of the loss. You
lose the experience of the person in your daily life but you never lose the memory of having loved.

Be sure to speak that love to those in your life, because you never know when the ongoing narrative of a life will come suddenly to an end. Just make sure the story is as filled with love as it can be and SAY that love. For those left behind,
especially if there is no chance to say goodbye, it is the gift that we are left with.

And remember. They have not died until the last person who remembers them has died.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Some poems

Ode to my aging technology

My poor mobile phone
Held together with duct tape
Old enough to be obsolete,
Pre Blue Tooth,
A Dinosaur in my pocket--
Hands free is a quest on Ebay.
But, it works.
And in these days when I squeeze each nickel
Into a thin dime,
A newer phone
Is stubbornly
Out of My Price Range.

Alas, the hands free lobby has triumphed again,
forcing purchases in the name of Safety
They have rendered my phone illegal for much of my day.
Those who pass these ridiculous,
confusing, patronizing laws
Have never juggled three children, six activities, a strictly limited budget
And a traffic jam.
They sit upon their priviledged thrones,
Issuing edicts for us peasants.

Response to the National Arts Index

Transformation takes time.
And Marination.
Being moved
May happen in a lightening bolt
or like True Love
and dig in
Embellish and tangle
Over years.

Trust the process.

On the coming of spring

I am reborn
At the tipping point
Each Equinox
A New Year
The fog lifts
The abyss recedes.

I am Gandalf
After White
Blue eyes, sharp, renewed,
And with powers
Not Witnessed
In my grey

Ideas pop
Connections swirl
As if the
Inner Physics
A Quantum Level

Days grow longer
Sun is golden
Melting the blue
of Ice
Too long
Earth bound.
Soon Green
Soon Warm
Soon, Spring.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Damnation of Faust

Why you need to see this opera. For ME. Way back another life time ago, I created work that did not necessarily have a narrative through line. I used the best music I could find. I would throw imagery out there--striking imagery made with human bodies. Some of that imagery was drawn from media, because at the end of the last century, and now surely in this one, as a people we have developed a common vocabulary of images that serve as a kind of shorthand to narratives: the line of coffins, a soldier with a weapon. A pregnant woman clasping the flag folded from her beloved's coffin. In my case, it was a woman crumpling to her knees, sob emanating. It was her scream from the floor. Or the other one: people in mist filled boxes pushed around by robots.I would repeat the images, a leitmotif as it were. And I would leave the audience to find meaning--which would frustrate more conventional consumers. I trust audiences. I have always found that our minds will pull it all together and find a story that somehow intersects with who we are and what we care about. We can be moved by a story that cannot be told in words.

To move us, and force us to see the world in a new way--that is the job of a contemporary art work, be it a photo, a painting, a happening in a loft, or in this case, an opera. It is refreshing and wonderful that in a time where we all feel depleted, weighted down with what a friend calls poverty mind, that a so called bastion of the status quo takes a risk, and pulls out the playbook from the most contemporary performance work there is, and puts it out there to resonate. There are some traditionalists out there having a problem with a beetlejuice Brander--but I see a man decayed by his lifestyle. That vision drills into my brain. And come on, those Rat Dancers, it brings something sleazy and depraved and exploitive into the mix, even if you are not sure what it is. This show has to sit with you a while. The music will rock your socks off and I giggled to see it listed in a hip publication next to totally au courant music choices like ticketmaster Uber Concerts. This show could totally play BAM, and I love that it could draw a new generation into the hallowed halls of Wacker Drive. But go, spend the money and get a ticket. Because this show is going to stick in your eyeballs. You are going to think about it for years. You are going to find yourself downloading the tunes. This show takes my venerable beloved grandma and puts her in my daughter's generation.

And we need to get out there and support LIVE ART. Just like we need to spend more for REAL food, we need to put our money and our bottoms where our belief system lies. If you want there to be a place where your body can vibrate to the vocal and artistic equivalent of the Olympics, you have to support it with your presence.

Don't miss this show.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fantastic February

Ordinarily, February is one of those dud months. Drags by. But this year its just been one party after another. It began really with our Superbowl Junk Food holiday. We hosted two exchange students for the night for an authentic American evening curled up in front of the boob Tube, with a big dog in your lap. Our guests are from China, which does not really have a Dog Tradition. Our pooches managed to win them over. And they loved our Junk Food Buffet. Big contest for Best Advertising.
Then it was Chinese New Year, with nice healthy dumplings and fortune fish, rushing right into Greek Food Night(could NOT manage a canadian menu) in honor of the Opening of Olympics (another night around the telly, maybe not so good to be couch potatoes WATCHING athletes)

All those Olympics shined a light on our house sport of speedskating, and there were some 5 am ice times for tv promotions that kind of scrambled my head. We are NOT morning people. But it sure makes the snowy cold grey days of winter speed by in a kind of fatigued blur. Oh, don't let me forget Valentines Day which turned into a film festival with a lot of red dye staining the counters when we made our first red velvet cakes. Think I will pass on that one next year. Many doilies died for our loves.

Next up: Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez, and we beaded up, donned our masks, and went over to Dixie to celebrate Mardi Gras where I got my yearly Hurricane and hubby cracked off a tooth under a crown, so we could add going to the dentist to the to do list. Boo Hoo. Jambalaya is hard to eat on one side of your mouth.

Funny moment the next day. My son thought they put HOT ASHES on your head for Ash Wednesday. He felt sorry for everyone with smudges. "Thats gotta hurt" he said......

And FINALLY an opera in the house--so rehearsals ate up another batch of winter doldrums. You will completely regret it if you don't see Damnation of Faust. Hot show. But its really funny to look at our daily calender and see DAMNATION on the to do list.

We are coming in to the final stretch of the busiest February on record, with a Shakespearean competition, then the final race of the speedskating season where WE are the hosts and finally PURIM. I will reprise my annual role of Esther and have tea with the small ones at Ye Olde Preschool. Haman Taschen---mmmmmmmm.

You can hibernate through winter, or OverActivate. Planning on getting organized in March--putting the costumes away and unblocking my Chi. May you survive the snowstorms and SAD. Spring is coming, you just can't tell.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Slow Food

Yesterday, in a bit of stealth political work, I dragged one of my children and a girlfriend to the Annual Meeting of Slow Food Chicago. I had heard about the slow food movement years ago, and have been a practitioner (without being a zealot) for as long as we have owned land in Michigan. Once you have eaten produce lovingly harvested by your neighbor, the farmer, there is no going back. I have this philosophy that says that breaking bread is the fundamental act of civilization, and though,in practicality, I fall short of my ideals, I remain committed to mealtime as a sacred moment. In our house, slow food might be genetic--I have at least one child who was born a Slow Food devotee---even as a baby, this one did not eat, she dined.
I have been slipping Slow Food concepts into my programs (a practice which often makes me the laughing stock of my staff) for the last two years. But when you are prosyletizing to the unconverted, one must be subtle and kind. And hauling my compatriots to an hour long power point presentation was underlined by the heart of the movement, Food, which is always the way to make a convert. The Food. Artisanal cheeses that were Happiness on your tastebuds. And honey that was sunshine and summer on the tongue. Jasmine tea that warmed my soul. Slow food might be a part of my spiritual and religious identity--we are, truly, what we eat, and when what you eat is so unbelieveably beautiful, it makes you have faith in higher powers. I have come to want to "infect" the public education system with Slow Food. I think if kids sat together and dined, it would forge a community spirit like nothing else. Can growing and eating food be educational? I was reading some student reflections on a local garden and it makes me think that there may be no more authentic lesson plan than to grow and consume your own food. In incorporates literacy, math, science, social studies, and something so lacking in the world of youth today: connectedness.
So today, for me, choose something beautiful and delicious for a meal. Eat it slowly and mindfully. And find pleasure in this most basic act.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


So I crawled out of my winter funk and took the metra down to a dress rehearsal at the Lyric yesterday. Life is ALWAYS better with opera. You know the music will be good. But how could such a big ol institution know that after being up all night with a kid with the stomach flu, exactly what I needed was an overdose of sunny Italy, some tight physical comedy, the golden tones of Nicole Cabell flirting with the boys. And the FABULOUS steampunk vision of Alessandro Corbelli as The Doctor Dulcamara with his big ol horse and wagon out of Dr. Parnassus. They need to sell that hat at the gift shop--everyone would want one. Look out Johnny Depp.

Ok, Ok, going to a movie is cheaper or you could hibernate with something off of Hulu, but crawl out of your frozen lair, throw on some polar fleece and get to the Lyric. I know a bunch of budgetarily challenged opera fans have broken down and given up and are heading out to the cinema to get their opera fix with them new fangled Met things (and it IS a way to see the competing Tosca versions), but I am hoping the lure of live theater brings them in again when they are off unemployment and back on a payroll. And if it warms up its so fun to dress up and just waltz about the golden lobby and feel so fancy.

Elixir made me feel like going home and having a lovely giggly glass of wine and smiling, no matter what life throws at me!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Musings on Shopping

When I was a girl, shopping was an idle pastime. We would go to some suburban downtown and poke around a favorite store. Betty's sticks in my mind. There was no real agenda, and I don't remember having much money (and I saved all that I would earn--all my kids know how I was able to spend a summer backpacking around Europe on babysitting and birthday money)

When there was a big occasion, your mother would take you to try on dresses and then you would have lunch somewhere. As teens in the 70's we discovered malls. Mom was not invited. We scoped for boys, ate fries in the food court, and tried on makeup at the department store counters.

Then I grew up and went away for college. Shopping became an ordeal of necessity--find a kid with a car and trade favors for a ride, or get on a bus for an hour to get to the mall and then trundle it all back. Shopping became a chore, not a way to while away the time I did not have.

Then I went off to New York for grad school and shopping became an adventure. I rediscovered the thrill of the browse: Soho on Saturday, street vendors in Alphabet City late at night on the weekends(before New York got cleaned up), window shopping on Fifth Avenue, Korean deli bar poking around on Broadway, or getting LOST in Strands Bookstore in the Village. I never bought much, but I acually got addicted browsing. Then, I finished school and moved to downtown Chicago, and sometimes I would just wander through stores looking at Stuff to clear my head. I would still travel to ethnic neighborhoods for the adventure, but when I set up a grown up household, somewhere in there, shopping stopped being a form of amusement and once again became a task on a large list of things to be accomplished: find a lamp for the reading area, get a throw rug for the bathroom to replace the one the cat destroyed. I even had a few jobs where shopping, or procurement, was a JOB. I got paid for the ability to source and obtain strange items for a reasonable price. This was a handy skill to have in an artistic career---and to this day I can find artistic inspiration in a hardware store.

Now the internet makes procurement so much easier. The ease has made me forget how much work SHOPPING can be. And the predominance of internet procurement in my life means that I have totally fallen down and forgotten to teach my kids how one shops(except thrift shops, antique stores on vacation and rummage sales--I have taught my kids how to Scavenge, not Shop). My sister in law had picked up the slack with a yearly ritual of an outfit and a lunch, but the demands of her own kids and full time job took that off the table. And so, I found myself last weekend, at an upscale mall with my youngest. I needed a winter coat, and I should have known that if I could not find it online, it probably does not exist(orange down, with inside pocket, under $100) but in the interest of connecting and introducing my child to a tradition, off we went. My daughter LOVED the day of being an only child with mama. She is a clothes horse, fashion maven and wanted EVERYTHING. But she now knows now that I am the pickiest shopper in the known universe, and I am not sure if she will ever shop again with me. We never found the coat I need. But she scored buy one get one free leg warmers, a Snoopy tee shirt on massive sale, and yet another Ugly Doll, on half off. (How man Ugly dolls does a girl need---as many as she can get!) She loved the way Nordstroms wrapped her package, and she compared and contrasted the ambiance and product mixes at the various stores. We liked Lord and Taylor. Kinda hated Macy's, which looked like the store had been raped. And we started late, so lunch turned into French Onion Soup and a pint of Guiness at the pub for dinner. Not a bad day. Not sure I will do it again, but though I bought nothing, I brought home a lot.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year

The day before the old year ended, I finished out a journal. I have been journaling since high school, and it always feels literally like the end of a chapter when I finish out a book--they are filled with poems, sketches, essays, the flotsam and mental jetsam of an overactive mind.
By the time I finish, the book is worn, pages are dog eared and stained, crunchy with use. Some of the ink may have run, the pencil may have smudged. I never plan when they should end. I just run out of pages. And then I must select a new book. It's exciting to crack it open and smooth the pages, all empty and waiting. I always pick a special pen to start a journal.

And so, this new year and a new journal begin. Of late, its not as big a deal, because after misplacing one journal, and leaving another in a different state, I have taken to having overlapping journals, which will drive some doctoral student nuts if I ever become famous, but since that is so entirely unlikely, I don't worry about it.

I do like to read through an old journal as an end of year ritual. I just randomly flip through a book. I try to guess the year. I like touching base with where I have been. Last year, before my daughter went off to Germany by herself (well, without a family member--she was part of a horde of teens) I reread my old travel journal from when I bummed about Europe one summer over two decades ago. Very little of my core has shifted, even as gravity takes its toll on the shell.

My other big ritual for the turn of the year is to pull out a tarot deck. I find them endlessly interesting for the free associations they pull out of cobwebby corners in my head. This year, I kept gettingthe World. Hmmmm.

Oh, and I take a big ol hot bath. Wash away the old, spoil myself for the new.

Here's to rituals. And newness.