27 February, 2008

Detroit, lift up your weary head

Ever heard of Sufjan Stevens? He wrote an incredible album about Michigan; the expansive and sometimes epic "Greetings from Michigan the Great Lake State", and it includes odes to cities including Detroit and Flint, the Upper Peninsula, and vacation areas such as Tahquamenon Falls and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. It's a collection of eloquent "folky" songs and instrumentals inspired by his home state. But, lying below the surface of his melodies, are scenic descriptions and characters, as well as his own declarations of faith in God, of sorrow, love and his passion for the regeneration of Michigan. If Philip Glass wrote pop songs, they might sound something like these. And I love them. They describe and evoke the feelings I experience for this tragic and beautiful place. As Brandon Stosuy said: "The record is stacked with impressive space for Stevens' shimmering geography, and it manages a melancholy beauty; Michigan is a frost-bound tone poem in which average people live out their victories and defeats with a shadowy, dignified grace."

Melancholy beauty. Yeeeees Brandon Stosuy, well put. It is an excellent description for this desolate place. It walks with sorrow. But it carries that sorrow with dignity and pride... perhaps that is why it feels familiar. I know what it is to walk with sorrow; and I attempt, though I do not always succeed, in carrying it with dignity. (No. Let's face it. Sometimes my sorrow is lugged around awkwardly like something out of Weekend at Bernie's Just with more snot. And less extraneous physical comedy). But what is it that draws us to ruination? What is the exact affinity? Why do we find it so compelling?

I admit I am always struck by the sadness Detroit evokes in people. Yes, there are abandoned buildings, yes there is extreme poverty; and OH yes, it is very, very cold. But the "ruins" of Detroit are as real as the ruins of Rome or Troy, and yet those are celebrated as the remains of pinnacles of civilization.

Perhaps Detroit's ruins are the symbols of what might have been, and that is why it strikes a chord with those of us who fear the presence of own own missed grasps at actualization? Our unfulfilled dreams? Our unrealized potential? Or worse, (and perhaps more accurate), we do not only experience the doubts. No. We feel and see our shortcomings as fully as anything. And Detroit embodies this fear. It forces us to confront the reality of disappointment. The snowblinding vision of what could have been. If only things had been different.

And yet, despite it all, out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, Detroit has nuzzled it's dreary way into my reluctant heart. It says to the broken travelers of this world, Come, add your sorrow to my heavy load. I will carry it for you. I will lighten your burden. I will give it shape so you won't have to. Come. Lighten. Accept. Live. Ah Detroit. How I love you. And how I never thought I would yet here we are. Your voiceless character. Your will. Your tenacity. You have allowed yourself to be destroyed by lost, desperate, and clutching men and women. And this historic education is fixed in your throat like a snake, and spoken through a voiceless windpipe.

Detroit, lift up your weary head. There are those of us that will always love you.

"Ever will we conquer grief
and find it faster to resolve
the dead, to be absolved
and fed, to restore.
If the advantageous
reprimand misgivings,
We wont grow.
We will not ever know.
We will not!
(Lift my life in healthy places!)"

- Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

25 February, 2008

Michigan seems like a dream to me now...

Winter. Tthese images are proof that here, in the middle of a literal and metaphoric frozen winter, while the earth and all living things wait and germinate, that beauty is possible, nee, Present. Out of desolation, fruit. Out of stillness, splendor.

New York, New York

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel."

And so. Enter the American cast of characters in my life. Ohhhh the larks! (and professional things of course... exciting and burdensome both). This was my first visit to La Grande Pomme, if you will, where I did not feel swallowed by the height of the city; the vertical pressure of the buildings, the frantic desire to escape the all-consuming insignificance the pace and landscape generated within me. No. This time it was a different place indeed.

Visits. With real people. Real friends who have known you since childhood, who know your insides, your workings, your heart. Dinner at a festive Mexican restaurant with 8 people laughing and sharing, confirmed my belief in a possible life in this strange and sometimes overwhelming city. People. Real friends to share one's life with. I sometimes marvel at the incredible bond of a place like Interlochen, of a group of people so gifted and focused and unique; and of friendships formed in the midst of adolescent turmoil from the mild to the exceptional. People struggling with the burdens of "success," whatever it means, and those struggling with the perceived absence of it. And still in together regardless. Every one of them could be their own poem. 

23 February, 2008

Portrait of a Friend: Frances

I love my friend (and former older sister) Frances Thorburn. She is not only an accomplished actress, but a gifted and unique musician and performance artist. And people, the lady knows how to live.

As you will see, she is playful, creative, intensely focused about her art, and she can effortlessly shift from childlike exuberance to the darkest depths of the human spirit in the blink of an eye. She's had some difficult times: a few things that could have devastated even the most ferociously stoic among us. But her incredibly strong and tenacious soul chose instead to see those circumstances as a gift, a chance to re-start, to live bigger and fuller and brighter, the way she does today: in good health, in love, relishing in gorgeous food!

Franny is passionate about her art, but she’s even more passionate about the dirty business we call life. I always thought I was pretty good at appreciating things, at scraping every drop of sauce, so to speak, from my plate. But this lady, I swear! If I’m scraping the plate, she’s licking the thing. She’s going after life with both hands. She lights up the room.

Here are some totally delightful pictures we took together for her music publicity. 

Check. Her. Oot.
I adore her in every way. 

21 February, 2008

Upper Class (and Laughing Last)

There is nothing like indulging in, and embracing the time one must spend at the airport. A good book. Browsing the inane little shops. Reading your chosen book, your travel companion (Atlas Shrugged today, a large but delicious book, and pertinent as Rand loved New York so).

However, today I find I take issue with the notion of Transatlantic travel. I find it insidious that a person shows up early for a flight they books six weeks ago, and gets kicked off their flight because the airline cancelled the previous flight, and has thus put all of the displaced passengers in the seats of those who could not check in online. I could not check in online because my internet was scuppered, and thus, even though I arrived two and a half hours early for my flight, I lost my seat. Madness!

It was at this point, in a relatively calm and collected mood myself, that Neil shows up. Neil is a defenseless, quintessentially English functionary. An anemic-looking, sloped-shouldered, jut-toothed, slightly balding boy shoved into a suit by the oppressive and irrational Airline he 'works like a lackey from rise to set' for. He creeps over to the crowd of angry travelers and squeaks out the unpleasant news to us all surrounded by a bevy of siren-y "beauties" in heavy make-up and domineering red coats to protect his mousey self from the wrath of the crowd. He tells us to wait. He tells us we'll have to move to the side with all our bags. He tells us to wait another hour until boarding closes. He runs away each time to the protection of the red ladies.

It was at this point that a thought arises within me. Slowly, calmly, and much less offensively than the angry mob behind me. I approach the desk and say so quietly and calmly the Sirens themselves are seduced,

"Excuse me. I don't mean to be any more of a bother than that angry mob already has, but I'm just sitting here, on the cold hard ground and thinking to myself that the reason all of us aren't on the flight we booked is because you have overbooked your flight, as well as filled our seats with people from a flight you cancelled. And yet, if we had checking in online, we'd be fine. What has really occurred here is a preference towards those with a dependable, working, internet connection. that is a Socioeconomic issue. It's actually soooooort of a form of prejudice."

And no sooner had the words exited my lips than a flurry of Airline sirens and functionaries alike were hustling like headless chickens, getting all of the angry mob on to Upper Class....

... starting with me.

The End.
(...Moral of the story pending...)

PS) FYI: you're involuntarily bumped off your flight and the airline can't get you to your destination within an hour of the original arrival time, federal law requires that you be paid the equivalent of your one-way fare up to $200 or $400, depending on the length of the delay. This compensation is woefully inadequate and hasn't been adjusted for inflation since first introduced into law. (And no, you won't be compensated for the mega business deal you weren't able to close because you weren't there.) Passengers should insist on cold hard cash instead of a travel voucher since they come with restrictions and can be difficult to redeem. Also, here's a helpful website about being "bumped."

17 February, 2008

I hate to say it...

... but I had an awfully hard time getting here the last few days. Not only have I been a tad overwhelmed with birthdays and Valentine's and The Closing, but also packing, and last minute "thingys" one must get done when one goes away for six weeks. And it’s not that I didn’t want to stop by and say hello! It’s just... despite everything one has come to expect from dear ol' London's weather, it has been excruciatingly beautiful of late, in fact, far too pretty to be sitting inside at the computer. Apologies.

As I type this, the windows are open wide and an enormous, and a gauzy swatch of sunlight has stretched itself along the wall. Yesterday afternoon, when the light was glowy and gold, D's flight to Kenya (??!! I know, how timely...?!!) was mercifully cancelled, and we experienced a blissful stolen day together basking in the glows of sunlight and Fiddler freedom (yes, a euphemism for unemployment). That’s all I ever want to do, really. Just sit in the glow of sunlight all day, maybe with a blanket for extra warmth, and a large thermos of hot chocolate. I’m not sure where Rainy Old February has gone, but I hope it stays there for a little while longer.

Until tomorrow, at least.

The Last One

For the record... it was perfect... 

14 February, 2008

Coming to the end...

"...Soon I'll be a stranger in a strange new place
searching for an old familliar face
from Anatevka..."

So much to feel. Saturday is the final performance of Fiddler on the Roof, and the little village that has been my home since October 2006 will disappear in to the ether, to exist only in memory. Ah, the ephemeral nature of the theatre is naturally what makes it so beautiful, and makes the days like these so bittersweet and reflective.

The real loss of course, is the people one has grown to love and hate and understand, as if they really were part of a community. My wonderful sisters Frances and Natasha have, completely unexpectedly, grown to become some of the most beautiful friendships in my life. We have laughed and laughed, been through both the dark days and the triumphant. I have spent every day, sharing a room with them, and I will miss it profoundly.

And Hodel of course...
Oh Hodel, how I love you. How much you have given, rewarded and fulfilled me. Thank you. I will keep you always right by my heart as I have never kept another character. Your strength and sense of purpose, your complex feminine spirit, your wit and determination, your devotion and loving heart. You have given me a chance to find all of these things within myself, and to grow with them. I will miss you most of all...

"God alone knows when we shall see each other again..."
"Then we will leave it in his hands..."


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