Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Gratitude Day

Thanksgiving has become as twisted as Christmas, thanks to so much baggage that comes along with it.
What do I mean? Think about it. Christmas has been buried under the shopping frenzy and marketing so dear to our capitalist hearts. In fact, the union where I work actually negotiated away a holiday to get Black Friday off so they could shop with the other bargain hunters. But they work Christmas Eve. Huh.
Then there's Thanksgiving. It's supposed to memorialize gratitude and cooperation, but too often it's about families medicating themselves by their favorite method to get through a day with folks that drive them nuts. It's an obligation.
The Native American aspect to this? Forget it.
And how about the turkeys? Some day for them, those poor, engineered creatures who cannot even walk properly because they've been bred to have plentiful breast muscle.
So I've had it with Thanksgiving. But I do believe there's a place for Gratitude Day and that's what I am celebrating.
I am grateful that I live in a place where I see sunsets like the one I photographed and shared with you here.
I am immensely grateful for the wonderful, exasperating, brilliant, neurotic, kind and hilarious man I live with.
I am unimaginably grateful for my son and daughter, who have been the greatest joys, the biggest worries, the most fun and the dearest people in my lives since they first decided to visit this planet.
I am grateful for the insane, stupid town where I grew up and now live again; a place where aging artists invite people to come to their home to dance as an aerobic workout, and where every party I've been to has introduced me to someone else I've decided I'm going to like forever.
I am grateful for the pets I've loved, the life I've lived and the experiences I've had - every single one of them.
I am grateful for the jobs I've loved and the jobs I've hated - they all were the right jobs at the right time for the right reason.
There is a lot more, but it's time to go get ready for the family gathering. And I'm grateful for them, too.
Happy Gratitude Day to all of you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sometimes A Storm Is Required

The wind tore through the Catskills last night. Living nestled at the foot of the mountains generally means we don't get extreme weather. Between the mountains and the Hudson River, the screaming storms tend to soften for us. I've lived in a spot just a couple of hours away that seemed to be a weather vortex - the most massive electrical storms, the heaviest snows, the howlingest winds. Last night it felt like that again.

I woke to a constant roar - the wind was screaming while rain pounded down. I'm a heavy sleeper; storms don't usually wake me. My guy was up on an elbow, peering out the window.

"Is it a hurricane?"

"Sounds like it," he said.

And I went back to sleep.

I really like wind, at least when I know I can take shelter from it if I need to. I've stood outside in 60 mph winds just because it was exhilirating. But I've been outside, a long way from home and lone, buffeted by winds and scared, realizing just how powerful that invisible monster can be.

But inside, safe, hearing it tear around the house and scream up the road, it's wonderful. It feels like the world's being cleansed and it will be all fresh and new in the morning. I don't get that impression when it rains - rain gives the world a dusting. But wind blasts off all the old, rotted, dying things, opens up space for the new, growing things.

The sun's coming up now, I suspect it's cold and not nearly so romantic as I imagine. And I'm sad to know that once I'm out in the car, driving up the highway to work, the wind won't be my friend. Maybe I'll just open up the windows.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Metropolis - Too Disturbingly On Target

I had never seen Metropolis - the Fritz Lang original. I knew what it was, sort of. I knew it was considered a classic and it's influenced many films that have come after it. I've seen some of those movies. What I didn't know that in 1927, it predicted much of what we have become.
I stumbled upon the restored version on television the other night midway through the film. I had no idea what it was until they went to a shot in the lab and I saw the "Man-Machine." I was then thoroughly hooked, as I've always been curious.
Do you know the plot?

The world is divided into Thinkers and Workers. Thinkers have ideas but no idea how to make them practical. Workers know how to run everything but have no idea what it's for.

There's a saintly young woman (who puts in hell of a performance in her first film) whose appearance is stolen so an evil machine can use the Workers' trust in the girl to make them destroy themselves.

Then there's the Messianic young man whose job is to "unite head and hands...with heart."

He has to act fast - the good girl's trying to keep the Workers' children safe from drowning but she can't do it alone.

The Matrix owes Metropolis a big fat thank you. So does Blade Runner.
It's a visual stunner, with art shots I haven't seen since Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible. But it's much more than that. It's eerily close to modern reality.

It struck me last night as I made Jello. Seriously.

Jello was such an incredible convenience when I was a kid. A dessert that only required that you mix in water and let it chill. Now it seems like a big deal - we can buy it in little individual containers when we're making a treat for someone who's not feeling well.

Soup, too. It's so simple to make, yet we can get it in a can. Why bother?

Dinner? Order out. Go out. Or buy some pre-made pile of mystery ingredients that only requires heating or the addition of meat.

The final straw? There's a new ad for corn flakes. "Give your kids a warm breakfast!" How do you do that? Microwave some milk and pour it on their cereal.
Good god.

Our lives have become so busy, so mechanized, so exhausting, that the thought of preparing a meal is something just too strenuous for many of us. It's got to be simple and fast. Yes, there are people who love to cook but it's more like a specialized hobby now than something we all do.

I'd love to slow down. I'd like to have the time and energy but when I get home at six and have another job that demands my attention within an hour or so, cooking just doesn't fit in the schedule. I have made a couple of meals in the past few days and it's really pleasant - but it's something that requires a conscious effort or I'll just fall into the "I'll heat up whatever's in the fridge" mode.

We're out of whack. We've lost that balance between work and our own time and even when we've on our few free precious hours, we've got our infernal email and blackberry for work to track us down and demand attention. And right now none of us can afford to demand that our free time be respected- we're lucky to be employed.

It's a puzzle and one I'm trying to untangle. But I refuse to concede that this new society is one I have to fall into step with. I'll march for now, but I'm looking for a path that leads elsewhere. The main road leads to Metropolis.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Backup Vocals, Joyless Meetings and a Kitten on My Shoulder

I started this post before dawn on Friday. I'm supposed to be getting dressed to leave for work. But I've got a kitten on my shoulder and it's just too damned cozy to leave yet.

My morning routine goes this way: Wake up, double check the clock to be sure I really am supposed to be awake before the sun comes up (sadly, I am), go downstairs followed by my much-loved old cat, whose goodness is equalled only by his girth, enter the kitchen to find the other three cats, who do not appreciate his sweetness, clamoring for their breakfast, too.

Everyone eats, (Boris, the kitten and the light of my dark mornings, cannot be predicted - he will either attack his breakfast with gusto or ignore it completely), I make coffee (only a push of a button thanks to the lovely man who loves me), then I go to my computer, sip coffee, check email, Facebook and maybe the day's headlines.
It's a comfortable way to start the day, particularly when Boris finishes his meal and jumps onto my shoulder to knead his paws in my hair. It's a bit awkward, as I need one hand to support him, but it's so cozy that it's well worth a bit of discomfort.

The hard part comes next - walking away from all that, getting dressed and going to work.

I will not gripe about work. I am grateful for the paycheck and I'm incredibly lucky to have gotten a job with a substantial pay raise when many are losing their jobs and their homes.

Here's what I will say - I sat on a meeting on Thursday so horribly dead, so uncomfortable, that it took a real act of will to make preparations to go back to that place again on Friday.

This is what happened: it's a monthly meeting about matters important to my place of work. I attended as an observer for the first time. What I witnessed was a roomful of people not only serious, but sour. I have spoken with many of them individually and they're not that way at all....yet this group had a dynamic so sour that I could imagine their mouths puckering.

They reacted to questions from each other with thinly veiled disdain, they offered information with an "I hope this is okay" plea in their voices; it was a roomful of worried people. Their worry had nothing to do with the content of the meeting; it was their interaction with each other. They targeted one person in particular for a universal sniff of superiority, and that person has been part of these meetings for years. It should have been held in the Google eggs...might have been much better!

I walked out when it was over, nearly ran down the stairs and out the door to breathe some fresh air.

It's not always like that, but some days it is. I don't like it one bit.
But my arrival home was greeted by the news that my composer/musician partner needed me to sing some backup vocals on a track he's working on.

Let the celebration begin!

I love to sing, though I think my voice is of the "that's very nice, dear" variety. It can be strong if required, it's generally on key but I'd love to have a distinctive growl or SOMETHING that sets it apart and makes it memorable. But I have what I have - and fortunately it's good enough for some support work on my guy's records, which is a treat beyond treats for me.

So that horrible, nasty, discouraging meeting was blown out of my head by donning a pair of headphone, cozying up to a microphone and singing along with my guy.
The next day, more Boris-ing in the morning.
I guess the trick is to dwell on the good stuff.