29 September, 2013

Darts

     “You are inattentive, boy,” Gershom said one winter morning.

Mikhail had mishandled a ledger and it was not the first time.
He could not help it.

    “Have you another occupation to which you would rather see to?”
     “No, sir,” Mikhail replied.

He day-dreamed constantly. As he grew, he cultivated for himself a world where he thrived. He would think of it while he copied the accounts in to his uncle’s large, imposing black book.

     “What a shame then that your actions do not speak of your consideration. Perhaps you wish I had turned you away from my doorstep all those years ago?”

Mikhail lived in the future—in the world he hoped to find.

     “Forgive me,” Gershom continued, “I had supposed I was doing you a service by saving you from the streets. But perhaps you would rather dwell among unfortunates, than among the accounts?” He said it slowly, then turned the question over; as if it were a coin that had left dirt upon his palm.

Mikhail did not answer.

After he had devoured all the holy books along his uncle’s shelves, he sought out literature, philosophy, history, engineering, mathematics, and poetry—his mind a sponge with limitless thirst fueled by a kind of formless urgency; an undirected aspiration toward his mythical, unnamed terminus. Only there could truly envision himself as free.

Mikhail was constantly scratching at the walls—his life with Gershom was painful and enclosed, and lived at a sonorous, stagnant pulse; like toads in winter. His existence ached, indeed it throbbed for something desired, something lingering beyond the horizon. He smothered these longings with work and more work. He anesthetized, but the ache cried out. Perhaps the cry was the voice of Gershom’s God, come to lift him from this enclosure? He feared he might never know.

     “What is it that you write in those ledgers anyway boy?”

Gershom swooped down over his nephew clasping the ledger that sat upon his desk. The old man twisted his neck and peered again, holding the pages close to his face.

Mikhail noticed a strange expression on his uncle's face as he gazed deeply into his ledger.
He said nothing.
He merely stood above him, gawping.

Mikhail's notes were scattered upon the pages, covered them as if there had been an veritable explosion of thoughts. Little drawings and sketches, flecks of collected musings— he tried his hand at poetry, physics, and mathematics the way children play with toys.

His uncle picked it up, poured over the pages and quietly asked,
     "Mikhail, how many terms of abstract mathematics have you taken?"
     "One term, Sir."
     “In whose hand is this calculation?”
     “My own, Sir.”

Gershom’s eyes flicked wildly across the wrinkled pages. Mikhail did not know that what his uncle stared at was a rough version of a partial differential equation.

     “You copied it from a textbook of course.”
     “No, Sir.”
     “In Heaven’s name—who showed you to do this?"
     "No one, Uncle. That is merely something I was in the middle of figuring out."

Gershom straightened himself upward.

He moved back toward his desk without another word about it.

     “So boy, so. The Kogan account. Recite to me from the second quarter, with the calculations complete; and heed—the income is irregular. I’ll note the sequence here…”


Soon, Mikhail had all the tools and skills necessary for a life in the business—
     a life of accounts
     ranks and files,
Zeros, percentages and endless numbers.
Of stable comfort
     and unwavering security.

But he possessed no knowledge of the wider world.
No knowledge of love.
Except what he could glean from his books.

What he did posses, were darts—
     tiny missiles of instinctive perception
he would be occasionally thrust in Gershom’s direction. 
Toward his heart.
In hopes of achieving a reaction—
     one that might indicate any kind of feeling. 

But to his devastation there was no heart.

No feeling. 

Only numbers.

And ideas you were not allowed to disagree with,
     trickling out…

 

22 September, 2013

"The Land Where the Good Songs Go"

Friday, Oct 11, 2013 8:00 PM
Saturday October 12, 2013, 7:00 PM
, San Francisco, CA


Alexandra Silber, an audience favorite in recent San Francisco Symphony concert performances of West Side Story, returns to make her local cabaret debut.

Reveling in the colors and textures of the old-world Broadway soprano sound of the golden days of the musical theater: standards, favorites, classics, songs familiar and "un"-- all told with her interpretive depth and signature wit.

"The fastest rising soprano in musical theater...Alexandra Silber may be the fire starter for getting the Broadway world re-acquainted with it's "legit sound." The Huffington Post


Get your tickets here!



13 September, 2013

JeremEy Tiger

He pulled up in the driveway.

It was the spring of 2000 and Jeremey was driving across the country— from Oregon back to Northern Michigan in his beat-up, late-80s, light blue Oldsmobile station wagon named Estelle--the engine grotty, the edges rusted.

He brought the car to a halt and jumped out with uncharacteristic elation, practically dancing as he swooped me up in his arms and kissed me, then theatrically kissed my mother’s hands and bear-hugged my father. He set the stage for his excitement, concealed within the back of the Olds.

     “Okay,” he said, “are you ready?

Jeremey lacked practically all sentimentality in his everyday interactions with others. With his characteristicly harsh, judgmental armor, Jeremey prescribed to the life-theory of: It-hurts-too-much-to-laugh-and-I-am-too-old-to-cry-so-I-am-just-going-to-be-a-dick-to-everyone-until-I-feel-better. Today’s enthusiasm could have been the result of either genuine zing, an illegal stimulant trip, or a combination of both.

     “Ta-DA!” he said, opening the back door of the car with a flourish, revealing a giant, full-on child-sized stuffed white tiger…in a seat belt. He laughed out loud. I laughed too, we all did. As much for the brain-crushingly adorkable tiger (wearing, I should mention, a black leather spiked punk-rocker collar) safely secured into the back seat, as the equally gorgeous gesture. It was so out of character, and the moment so genuine. I don’t think I shall ever forget it.

Whenever I think of that memory my face grows a permanent half smile. One identical to the stitches expertly sewn onto the face of what we all came to call, Jeremey Tiger.

*

I never rebelled.
I was the squeaky-cleanest kid you had ever met, terrified that any trespass into the world of adolescence might only add further to the already crushing burdens of my parents. Not that either one of my parents were in any way terrifying, no. I was terrified of my own volition: a perfectionist almost crippled by the terror of error, for to disappoint (or, more crucially), to burden them would have been a weight too great to bear. I felt as though I was the only source of hope and joy and promise. And any mistake--even the tiniest of transgressions--was my contribution to not curing cancer.

I went to school.
I excelled in my extra-curricular activities.
I got straight As.
I over-achieved.
I was the hope, the future, the pleasure, the reason; the source of their focused strength.
And so I took it upon myself to provide my parents with every excessive joy and pride imaginable.
Not because I always wanted to exactly,
     but because I was terrified the entire world would collapse if I did not.

When I did socialize it was one-on-one, or in intensely G-rated settings. Safe. Hermetically sealed. I needed to be in control of everything to avoid making 'mistakes.' My parents wanted me to have as normal a childhood as possible, and so they kept me away from the bulk of the health difficulties.
Who could blame them?
But because of that, I spent a great deal of time alone.
There was no one to share the childhood, or the burdens with.

And so, to the companion of perfection—the only contribution I could truly offer to making Dad well again.

*

I arrived at the (full-time boarding) Interlochen Arts Academy in the fall of 1999, ready to continue on my path, when of a light switch went on.

As previously explained I was a “lifer,” and found myself returning to the Academy with big hopes for the year and big plans for the future.

But this Jeremey person: the strange, pierced, leather-jacket-wearing, punk-music listening, Antonin Artaud spouting, left-handed, red-headed, pseudo-intellectual guy named Jeremey (spelled with three “E’s, much to everyone’s curiosity and oft-time irritation) was rebellious, dangerous, über-damaged, and fiercely arrogant; plus, to a perfectionist ready to bust-the-f***-out: utterly irresistible.

Because in truth, Jeremey was just a sweet, rejected, floundering youth trying to find his way. Trying to find his way like all of us.
And though he was as strange and all-out-there as a Bruegel painting,
though he was ofttimes selfish,
     oh how I loved him as only a sixteen-year-old could!

Sure! He dyed his hair constantly (my favorite being “Number 44B for African American Women”).
Yep! He had a piercing in both ears (and eventually in his nipples)
Absolutely! He was more than a little manorexic, and  
Okay, he waxed on and on (and on) about how everyone on planet earth besides him was a philistine.

But he also held me like a cross between a boy, a man, and a desperate teenager, all of which he was. He wrote love letters, and poetry, and the best book inscriptions you have ever seen, and hell, it all came from a pain (and I mean: what assholish behavior doesn’t)-- a pain I think he probably--at least at the time--had only ever shared with me.

Growing up in Nowehere, Oregon is never easy, but in a Catholic family split apart by unnameable troubles which all led to his emancipation at the age of fourteen, well… no one expected Jeremey to even finish High School. But he found a mentor and an advocate in a local lawyer who made certain he was educated and taken care of at a place like Interlochen.


....I mean, all this said, my parents were still, understandably horrified.

I’m not about to brag about falling for the pseudo-intellectual-without-a-cause routine, but I’m willing to own it. Jeremey was my “motorcycle guy!” He was an assertion of my independence! Now that I was away from home full time,  I was free to explore, discover the boundaries with my own judgments and moral compass.

So after an initial flurry of someone-has-to-do-something-to-end-this-relationship-type phone calls back and forth to Interlochen, I think Mom and Dad resigned themselves to the fact that I would work it out on my own. That the world was not going to come crashing down if I dated a rebellious redhead with one-too-many Es in his name.

And oh how they tried.
I can’t even tell you how many patient, wonderful talks I overheard him having with my mother.
Or the vigorous banter he had with Dad. 
Or, how lovely the meal was that we all shared together after his graduation.
Or how (beyond all social mores and general parental reasoning) they allowed me to visit him over the summer in Oregon for a week. By myself.
Or how, at Thanksgiving, we all decided to have an early Christmas! And Mom remembered a story he had told about loving a 'Transformer' toy he'd lost from his childhood, tracked it down, and gave it to him.
Or, how Dad drove me all the way to Chicago to bring him home for Christmas, (and also where, in the car for the first time he tried to talk to me about sex and I turned into a Church lady while he locked me in the car and nearly crashed as he laughed and laughed at my discomfort. Awesome.)


So what happened?
As is everyone’s want Freshman year of college: Jeremey got out into the big bad world and learned more than he ever had, but still not enough to realize that he actually knew nothing.
It happens to us all.
But when you mix it with a preconceived proclivity to be holier-than-thou, with a dash of I-was-burned-as-a-youth entitlement? Well good ol’ Jeremey—already a little obsessed with himself— became more obsessed with himself, and he had to go.
No hard feelings but, you know, people were, like, dying.
Shame.

Still, though.
When I look back, all I see is what he gave me.
My first true love, a taste of rebellion, a box full of poetry, the best-ever book inscriptions in earnest, left-handed scrawl, and of course, a stuffed tiger I could never let go of as long as I love.

Jeremey gave my family a different kind of conflict to overcome,
     and the opportunity to understand one another even more deeply.
The Silbers believed in Jeremey, gave him a family to be a part of.

In the end, I think we all loved one another.
Very much.

for Prom: his nail polish matched my dress. That's love.

08 September, 2013

A Trip to the Cider Mill

In Metro Detroit, there is an annual autumnal tradition that begins with gusto after Labor Day-- Franklin Village--also known as "The Town That Time Forgot"-- is home to the 19th Century Franklin Cider Mill which opened in 1837 as a gristmill owned by Col. Peter Van Every and historically was the first mill in Oakland County where farmers could sell their wheat for cash.

Today, the Franklin Cider Mill retains its popularity. Along with apple cider and hot donuts, the mill also sells a variety of confections consisting (of course) of apple cider, (preeeeeettty epic) cider donuts, apples (this is the home of the Honey Crisp apple!), gigantic pies, scones, breads, cakes, fudge, Hickory Farms meats and cheeses, jams, spreads, everykindoffruitbutteryoucanconceiveof, local honey, and vintage candies.... (I mean... if you weren't jealous before, aren't you jealous now...?)

A trip home between Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekend always includes a trek down to the Mill.
 It's Michigan Autumnal Tradition.
Ah, the taste of home... 

Music: The Detroit-born genius, Sufjan Stevens. From his 2003 "Greetings from Michigan" album

02 September, 2013

September Soirée

September 1st is a very special day.
Isn't it just a beautiful phrase? "September the First..." --even the ring of it has a kind of musk. It is a beautiful date. And day.

But reader, September the 1st is my Father's birthday. And oh, how it sits there on the calendar, looming over the autumn; a date more laden with disquiet than even the anniversary of his death. Whoever knows why? The human psyche is one complex labyrinth...

On certain milestones I've marked the occasion with very special friends. On others, the day comes and goes with a peaceful acceptance of the unavoidable heavy-heartedness.
It ebbs and flows. Like everything.

But MAN: I hate birthdays.
Well, no. That's not true.
I don't hate birthdays.
I love birthdays.
There is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than reminding people how glad I am that they were born.
     I hate my birthday.
We know this. (Remember the Nietzsche-an spiral of 24? The way I tried to get a grip at 27? The way I kiiiiinda got that grip at 29?
It's a passage-of-time thing. (I think it is also why I don't like New Year's Eve, and cut flowers for opening night...I dunno...)
I'm working on it.


I admit I have a tendency to hermit myself in my utterly cozy "Winter Palace" (aka my apartment). I'm a creature who requires a great deal of time spent alone to process life; to defragment my hard drive, if you will. To sort through my emotional output, thoughts, ideas, imaginative musings, etc. And even beyond that: I actually enjoy my own company. For example: I had a truly invigorating weekend spent entirely alone two weeks ago--I literally cancelled all my plans (of which there can often be too many) and indulged myself in "The Cave."

Interestingly (though perhaps not at all surprisingly), all of my closest friends seem to truly understand this process, and are rarely annoyed with what some might consider being "out of touch..." I suppose that is how you know you've found your true friends. They accept you for who you are.

"The Cave" is a part of my process. As I am growing, I'm learning to accept it as such and not scold myself for being "anti-social." I am social--when I give you party OH: I give you party. Socializing is just something I do on my own terms! This is part of accepting myself as I am.

But it is a delicate balance:
one must be ever-vigilant to monitor where "meeting your needs for solitude" ends,
     and "HIDING" begins.
Again: I'm working on it.

     ...Meanwhile, back on earth...

With the incredible insistence of my mother (as well as an onslaught of friends), to *somehow* celebrate the milestone of my 30th birthday, I contemplated some sort of gathering.
Drinks in Manhattan?
A quiet gathering of special people at a restaurant? (Except the majority of my special people don't live in NYC)
A tiny bash at the Winter Palace? (I can throw a serious dinner party)
Again: it's complicated.
So what is one to do?
Well, there is the option of 'Ignoring It' (I usually adore that option) — But no.
Not this time.
Recently I have made a series of incredibly exciting "outside-the-box" choices.
I've been reaching out when I feel vulnerable (and not, as I have been known to do: after I have felt vulnerable with a full, enlightened and palatable book report on "How I handled my vulnerability all on my own Volume 3,937")
I've been trying new things.
I've been taking myself out on dates.
I've been spontaneously getting together with my friends regardless of my mood.
I've been taking calculated risks.
Calling people out of the blue.
Making honest bids for connection.

It has been extraordinarily exhilarating.


...So... wanna know what I decided to do?

I decided to throw a spontaneous gathering at my house over Labor Day weekend (because not all of us were going to be busy up at the Lake House). Spontaneous cocktails at The Winter Palace! A bazillion people came. From every corner of my life. It was the largest soirée I have ever thrown.

The emphasis was on opening my home, and subsequently, my heart, to friends.
To gathering together with interesting people over the Holiday Weekend.
To allowing a personal milestone to be marked on my own terms.
All on my Dad's birthday—this glorious September The First.
What better way to spend the day?
By opening up, and raising a glass with friends old and new.

I think Dad would have more than approved.

Cheers. To all.


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