Friday, August 31, 2007

To The Dogs

I find it interesting that within the same week we have news that Michael Vick is being suspended from football for staging dog fights, Leona Helmsley leaves $12 million dollars to her dog "Trouble". Are we all over the spectrum on this or what. On one side, a football hero is convicted of a federal felony whereas on the other hand a woman worth billions of dollars, known for her nasty temper and abrasive nature, leaves a fortune to her dog. Quite honestly, I'm not sure which is a bigger crime or who is the bigger idiot. Admittedly, I'm not a dog lover. I'm not a dog hater either. After spending the last 21 years worrying about children and how to take care of them, the last thing I would consider is entering into a responsible relationship with a dog. I do have a cat and have for many years. They are self-sufficient and I like that about them. My first cat was JB. I found him at a vegetable market on Ninth Avenue in NY. I stopped in to buy produce and this little kitten was being kicked around by the shop owner. The poor kitten was holding its paw up as if it was injured. I went home and thought about the kitten all night. The next day, I went back to save the cat from a life of rotten fruit. We took him to the vet and after a few weeks with his paw in a cast, he was as good as new. JB turned out to be a great cat. He would go out and when he wanted to come home, would stand on the mailbox and ring the doorbell. He was very protective of me too. When a stranger would come to the house, he would plant himself at the door and hiss as if he was a mean furious tiger. When he came home hurt from a cat fight, I would heal his wounds. When he died, I cried. Putting all these events in perspective, I wonder if the Vick's case was over publicized. He did a hateful thing to a living being. I wonder if Leona's grandchildren who she excluded from her will felt the same way about her.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Football and the Summer of Content

Every year I dreaded summer. While most are planning vacations, lazy days at the pool or beach, I was struggling trying to find a full time babysitter and activities that would entertain my kids and keep them out of trouble. My budget would be in the red paying for day camps, summer clinics, trips to the movies, or whatever. It seemed to be forever that this would be going on until the two older kids were in high school which led to a worse set of issues about who was coming in and out of the house with who and doing what! I hated summer - until this year. This year, with the two older kids having full time jobs, there was only my youngest, Thomas to deal with. He is 16. Up until the age of 10, Thomas was the type of kid that would come down stairs sliding on the banister, yell out "boring" at a display at the Smithsonian and wind up in the principal's office in grammar school for hitting the girl who hit his friend (who got even the next week by pushed him into a pile of mulch). I loved Thomas but was convinced I had a lunatic on my hands. Somewhere along the line, though he settled down. He always made good choices of friends which led to my having close relationships with their parents. In spite of his antics, teachers and parents liked him. And then he chose to play football. In 8th grade, the high school coaches come to the middle school to talk to the boys about football. He was interested and signed up for freshman football. Little by little, it became an obsession. Instead of that 70s Show, he is watching ESPN - constantly. Star Wars posters are replaced by Tiki Barber and whoever else in a football uniform. I find him bidding on Ebay for football jerseys that he must have. But here's where the contentment lies. Training starts before the school year ends in May and continues all through the summer. Every day he is at the school with team and coaches and safe (exclusive of the tackling part). When he's not practicing, he's too tired to do much else except play Madden (like I said, obsession). We never went to the beach this year except for some time in Newport where he came for only a few days and hurried back to practice. It's what he wants and what makes him happy. He made his summer and made mine too. Ah contentment.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Peak

Almost everyone I knew that grew up in the 60s and 70s listening religiously to radio station WNEW-FM, 102.7. The station born in the era of Vietnam and antiestablishment sentiment, the station delivered progressive rock that was under the radar of the mainstream AM stations delivered by disc jockeys free to offer their individual preferences without restrictions. Among the first of the DJs were Rosko whose husky but smooth deep voice recited antiwar poems against hypnotic music that made you feel - well never mind. His show started with a “mind excursion” and ended with “I sure love you” – hmm. Then there was Jonathan Schwartz who had more affection for playing Sinatra than he did for playing Layla. Sunday morning, he played nothing but Sinatra but I remember one show where he admitted that Sinatra's version of “Downtown” (originally by Petula Clark), was just awful. Mr. Cup-of-Coffee, Dave Herman woke me up in the morning with his “Bruce Juice” set. I remember the day Dave Herman discovered Springstein. He discuss with his listeners how he went to the Springstein concert with an "okay, show me what you got" attitude that quickly changed to wow. To end the day, I would go to sleep to Alison Steele the Nightbird. She opened her set with her standard soliloquy “The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Night bird spreads her wings and soars, above the earth, into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel…” before playing something like the, Moody Blues or if it was a stormy night, Riders on the Storm by The Doors. It has been close to 20 years since I listened to radio that way. Every DJ today is a woose. Those early voices played music that embodied the feeling of the time. Their playlists related to news events, their personal feelings or the world as it was that day. I felt connected to the music world. I knew the members of the band without having to look them up. And I don't get this satellite radio thing. It requires me to stick to a genre and search within it's choices like I am googling - while I am driving. I just want to turn on the radio to a DJ that plays good music from many genres, talks about music and tells me what they just played.
Recently, I found a station that is as close as I can get to the old WNEW. It’s called The Peak and is out of Peekskill, NY. Not accessible everywhere but I can get it from the car and on one radio at home. An example of a playlist has Suzanne Vega, Dire Straits, Church (?), and Bonnie Raitt. A disc jockey from a competitive NY station 95.5 WPLJ, Jimmy Fink is the afternoon jock who I listen to on the way home from work. He’s pretty good and offers playlists with old but obscure music from the 60s and 70s such as Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” together with the latest release from artists such as Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits). He's got some interesting dialogue too that doesn't center around a commercial.
At 10 AM and again at 10 PM they do something called 10 @ 10. For that hour, they pick a year and play the music and news clippings from the then. Today’s year was 1968. The set started with the Foundations singing “Build Me Up Buttercup”, continuing with Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” and somewhere in the middle, I am listening to “Combination Of The Two” by Big Brother and the Holding Co.
Now that’s music!

Recommended reading: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio by Richard Neer

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Woodstock 1969

In 1969, I was 17 years old. I graduated high school and that summer, went to the Woodstock festival. Going to the concert seemed to be a cool thing to do (or as I would say at the time, it was “far out”). A few weeks before, my friends and I went to a Greenwich Village record store and purchased our tickets. We drove to the site with a guy who owned a VW van and the four of us, with him at the wheel, took off that August 15th weekend to Woodstock. To this day, it is a mystery to me as to why my mother and father let me go. I am from a very strict, Armenian family. My mother was a hard working dressmaker and my father, retired, had very little to do but to tell me what I couldn’t do. He was the stricter of my parents and the only reason I think he let me go was that he must have thought I was going to an Armenian event – or he was drunk. Since, he never drank, I can only guess, he was very misinformed. Being it was August, I assumed that it would be very warm in upstate NY. My mother kept telling me to take a sweater. I refused. She insisted. I still refused. My friends picked me up and we arrived somewhere near the concert on Friday, parked the van and walked to the site. We heard a few acts and then went back to the van. That first night, traffic wasn’t going anywhere and we realized we weren’t going to sleep in that comfortable hotel room we booked. All of us slept in the van. The temperature in upstate NY really plunges at night and I was freezing and uncomfortable. I hated being cold and regretting coming. I wanted my mother or someone to save me. Before completely breaking down, I went through my suitcase to see if there was anything else I could put on. And there it was – my mother got her way. The sweater we argued about was stuck into my bag. I was saved. It was cold but I had my sweater - my wonderful sweater. As everyone knows, it poured 75% of the time that weekend but it didn't matter; I had my sweater. I didn't know it then but I was one of thousands that were part of an inspirational, monumental experience. Thirty-eight years later, I still have the sweater. It is safe, in my daughter’s closet. In her room, is the Woodstock poster framed with my tickets. It is what makes me "cool" to my kids and their friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Midsummer's Night Dream

You must have felt like this. Something you see in a store attracts you, you ponder it, walk out of the store without it and spend the next week or more obsessed with wishing you had it. I’ve done this a lot but this summer I became obsessed with getting the free tickets for the Shakespeare in the Park play in Central Park. Every year, the Public Theatre in NYC puts on 2 of Shakespeare’s plays in the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The only way to get tickets is to stand on line until the tickets are distributed at 1 PM. There are 2 tickets per person and only for the performance that same night. I had to go and devised a plan to get my tickets. Last Saturday morning, I woke up, at 5:30 AM, packed a blanket, a book and some food and left for Central Park. I found a great on-the-street parking spot, near the 77th Street entrance of the park and got on line at 6:30 AM. Am I any crazier than those who stood on a line at midnight for the latest Harry Potter book, the latest Madden video game or an IPhone. No, I didn’t think so. There I was in Central Park at 6:30 on a beautiful Saturday morning looking, like everone else, like a homeless person. There was a women sitting in one of those folding green chairs with a blanket wrapped around her, with a hooded sweatshirt that said "Harvard" on the front and big Jackie O sunglasses. Others were asleep in their aero beds. Many past the time with cards, scrabble or some other game. One group, obviously experienced in line sitting, played games and ate on their portable table with a slatted top where the legs screwed off and the top rolled up into a bag. It’s one of those things you buy at Crate and Barrel and then find a use for it. After getting tickets, all would go home and dress for the performance. Although they still didn’t look like they were going to gala night at the opera, we all looked much cleaner. At 1 PM, I got my tickets. I didn’t savor the moment too long as my next challenge was to get my husband to go to the play – without a puss on his face. The play was A Midsummer's Night Dream - a little daunting to follow for your first exposure to Shakespeare, but I assured him he would have a good time and it would cost him virtually nothing. He agreed. I packed a picnic to eat in the park and we drove in. AGAIN we found street parking within one block from 77th Street. Truly, this was my lucky day. The play was good and, as promised, we did have fun afterwards at a bar on Columbus Ave. The night ended without getting stuck in traffic, paying a fortune for parking, or eating at some mediocre restaurant. For me, it’s not about the play; it’s about NYC. You’ve got to know me to understand.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Anthony's Birthday

I knew when I was a teenage that I wanted to have a family first and a career of some kind after that. As fate is, I started a career in Facilities Management at The New Yorker magazine and met my husband through work. We married when I was 30 and had my first child at 32. Tuesday, August 14th, is my first-born child, Anthony's birthday. He is 22 years old. If you have more than one, the oldest child is who you make your mistakes on. By the time I had the third, I felt I finally got this baby-sleeping thing under control but I never understood what they meant when they said a mother could recognize what’s wrong with a baby by its cry. I am freely admitting those deafening cries all sounded the same to me. But even with my inexperience, if you look at Anthony, he doesn’t look wrong.
This semester, Anthony is starting his final year at Fordham. He will be the first in my family to graduate college. He works as a waiter and bartender on Friday and Saturdays. He goes out with friends that he has had since middle school and one since he was 1 year old. I think he does too much but I wasn’t any better. I’m very proud of him. Many of my friends have kids that are much younger than mine. They sometimes wish they had the freedom I have. I’ve waited 20 years to be able to take off on a Saturday morning to NYC without having a soccer practice or something I signed up for get in the way. Now when I go to the city, I’m usually back home before any of the kids actually wake up. It’s great having some freedom again, but I would kill to have all of the kids over for Sunday dinner each week This year, my husband, Tony and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. To commemorate the event, we booked a weekend alone where we vacationed in our earlier years with and without kids, Cape May. It was just great, just great. Then the following weekend, we headed to Newport, RI where a year ago, I booked a one week vacation expecting some of the family would join us if not all. Anthony and Thomas, my youngest, came for the first few days. Christine had to work. The days the boys were up were great fun for them and us. Then they left to go home to their own responsibilities. My husband and I were alone together again – uh oh. Now I’m thinking “can we actually find more things to talk about for another week?” We did and even went to a blues club where I didn’t feel like the oldest hippie there. We started to find the things we left behind when we had Anthony. So today, I celebrate Anthony – who started the best part of my life.