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.