Sad news today. John Prine, one of America’s best songwriters died from complications related to coronavirus.
I was introduced to the music of John Prine many moons ago when I was just a young girl. My Uncle Paul, one of my father’s younger brothers had come for a visit. He and my father would get out their guitars and sit around playing while us gaggle of kids watched and listened in awe. It was at one of these musical interludes that Uncle Paul played a song called “Dear Abby”. The song was funny, and that’s what caught my attention, but it was more than that. It was smart and it was making a social comment, something that at that early stage in my development I was just learning to tune in to. I’m not sure who asked who the artist was, but I’ve never forgotten the name: John Prine.
Over the passing of years I’ve listened sporadically to Mr. Prine’s music. I think that somewhere, hidden away with all my other albums is a copy of Souvenirs, an amazing little album of stories and songs. One of my favourites is “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”. It’s just the perfect example of his amazing ability to put life into words, to translate the emotions and feelings of everyday, ordinary existence into something we can all relate to and understand.
Someone posted that little fact on FB this morning. The man is 87 today. Happy birthday Mr. Shatner!
Thinking of him brings back some great memories. It’s not just about Star Trek – it’s about a time and the places I was in, and how those times shaped me.
There was always a certain sense of innocence, hope and belief in the inherent goodness of people/life that the Star Trek movies featuring Captain Kirk embodied. I loved that he was so much bigger than life, that his character was so incredibly over-the-top, it was like watching a manic boy scout save the world. You knew that it was all going to work out, the good guys would survive – the only casualty would be the hapless, nameless ensign in the red suit who got chosen for the away team at the last moment.
Entertainment is so different these days. Our heroes are always flawed (realistic), characters we love are constantly being killed (viewer investment) and the outcome is never guaranteed (spinoffs).
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy movies and television as they are now. I’m just saying it’s different.
And when I think of those lost times I feel my whole being smile. It was an event to go stand in line for a movie with your friends and family. Entertaining each other, talking, laughing and joking. Begging the staff to let you in so you could go to the bathroom. Rushing to get the best seats. Hurrying to get popcorn so that you didn’t miss any of the trailers or the short before the actual movie. When the movie finally started you were READY. You were invested.
That doesn’t happen anymore. We pre-purchase tickets for all the big releases. Sometimes our seats are already pre-chosen. We meet moments before the movie theatre doors open, get our popcorn, file into an already dark theatre, sit in our seats and barely say a word to one another. We check our phones to avoid watching commercials and barely pay attention to the trailers because we’ve already seen them on television. There is no such thing as a short anymore, which puzzles me because they are always a category at the Oscars. Who gets to see them?
Going to the movies is just business now. I find myself leaving the theatre feeling empty no matter how good the film was. It’s just something to do. You can say you saw it. But there’s no connection. So sad.
I’m sitting here this morning, writing this while I listen to a Bruce Springsteen music station. It’s my way-back machine. I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic and a little bit yearny today. Wishing for simpler times, simpler pleasures, and, as Bruce sings – a little of that HumanTouch.
Somewhere, in a box, tucked away out of sight, is a medal with the likeness of Elvis Presley on it. Every so often in a fit of de-cluttering or a demented desire to relive the past I’ll stumble across it, and when I do the same thing always happens.
I think back to the night we went to the theatre and wound up winning a dance competition.
We were so young then! Still in our twenties. A young child at home with a babysitter while we went out on the town. With some friends we’d decided to indulge in a little culture. I laugh now at how absolutely foolish we must have seemed.
But, we sure looked good. All of us thin and in our primes. New shoes, new outfits — all on credit of course, because we could only pretend to afford the lifestyle we were stepping out in to.
I don’t recall much about the play, it had something to do with a black, female blues singer, and was fairly light-hearted and full of toe-tapping tunes. Afterwards, there was a dance being held in the theatre with members of the cast. Maybe this was the final night of the play’s run, I don’t remember.
Well, we got into the drinks pretty quickly and soon all of our nerves and inhibitions were out the window. When the organizers announced that they were going to have a dance contest I grabbed my red-haired darling’s hand and pulled him out onto the dance floor. He resisted at first, but I wouldn’t be denied.
We jived, we gyrated, we twisted, we did the hop. We kicked, twirled, dipped and walked like Egyptians. And in the end, we won. I can remember laughing and gasping for breath as we were handed our medal. My husband and I were clinging tightly to one another, partly to keep ourselves from falling over, but more out of a sudden and compulsive need to keep touching.
At some point during the contest I remember a feeling of total abandonment coming over me. Our friends did not exist, our child at home was forgotten. The debts, the worries, and the squabbles that had come to define our relationship and our daily life seemed to be being ground into the floor beneath our feet as we danced. When I looked into his face I saw the love he had for me, the desire, the need, the want, and it was all I wanted.
We’ve never danced that way since, and this past Christmas when we attempted the Twist, we both just laughed, shook our heads and agreed not to try. Hand in hand we made our way back to our table, where we told our son and his wife the story of how once we won a medal for dancing.
(Just a disclaimer — this is not one of my photos — the artist is unknown — it was forwarded to me through email.)
Okay, so I’m going to give this a try.
I feel strange. It seems so long since I sat down to WRITE. Not just blither, but write. Can’t believe how self-conscious I’m feeling.
Okay, well, what do I want to say?
That I think we’re nearing the ‘end of days’? I don’t even really know what that is — just watched a terrible movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it a few years ago and though it was mostly forgettable I remember it having something to do with the apocalypse and end of the world.
Lately, with all the horrible tragedies — weather related and the uprisings in the Middle East — it is making me think back to all those specials about Nostradamus and his prophecies that I used to watch.
Never believed any of it, but thought it was fascinating. Now. . .
. . . well, I just don’t want to think about it, but it’s all I can think of. What if the world is ending just like it did in 2012?
My husband and I were talking about this on our way home from Lloydminster yesterday, and he, in true male fashion, full of understanding and compassion said: “See, it’s what I’ve been saying all along. We should have bought a piece of property up in the mountains. And we shoulda been stocking it up with canned goods and survival gear — blankets, guns, stuff to make fire, water purifying equipment — we should have made a plan.” I just looked at him and turned the volume up on the radio.
Isn’t that what we do, though? We put the blinders on because it’s just too awful to consider that everything you believe about your life could be swept away in a moment.
The people of Japan prepared as best they could and still it happened.
Watching and listening to what is going on in the world right now is a terrifying experience. As an adult, it has me paralyzed. What is it doing to children?
Today, I didn’t notice any discernible differences in the kids I work with and who populate the school I work in. It seemed business as usual. We had outside recess for the first time in a month. The sun was shining, the snow was melting and the air smelled fresh and clean. The kids were laughing, pushing each other into the snow, the boys were flirting with the girls and the girls with flirting back. I started to be annoyed by the noise and the silliness, but then I stopped. They are so young. They deserve to flirt and be silly.
Is it wrong that they weren’t planning some kind of aid or relief effort to help out in a one of the many embattled parts of the world instead of goofing off on their iPhones? Watching them I was reminded of how I once was just like them — my most pressing concern whether the boy I liked liked me back and whether or not my Mom had washed my good jeans so I could wear them out to walk down town later with my friends. It was all pure selfishness. And it was OK. Just like it’s OK for the kids today to be laughing and chasing one another around, not another care in the world. I hope they continue to have that small privilege.
I’m going to go on to something else: Bruce Springsteen.
I love B.S. Am I his biggest fan? Doubtful. There’s probably somebody out there who can recite every album he’s ever made and who played what on what track, and all that boring kind of minutae, but that’s not me. I just love his music. Loved it the first time I heard it and ran out to buy Darkness on the Edge of Town.
He is an American poet, a balladeer, a chronicler of the human condition as it exists in North America. I think he is a genius. I think he has magic.
His music is often profound, nearly always fearless and never apologetic. Even the fluffier pop stuff is deep — he’s telling it like it was — a period of time caught in a raspy melody, the emotions of time and place strung on the chords of his guitar like kite tails fluttering in a darkening, cloud-studded sky.
I have plenty of his albums, also cd’s. I listen to him not constantly, but often. I’ve got Sirius satellite radio in my car and I have the E Street station as a pre-set. Last week, as I drove to work one morning when it was -35 with the windchill, I hit the button for the Bruce station. The sound of his voice, the joy, the utter happiness emanating from the dashboard speakers pierced through the dull, aching misery I’d been feeling and a big smile spread across my face. I can’t remember the songs I was listening to; it’s not important, but when I got to work whatever I was listening to hadn’t finished and I was enjoying the moment so much that I stayed sitting in the car with the stereo blasting. I was dancin’ in my seat and feelin’ the happiest I had in a long time.
A co-worker spotted me and when I got inside she said: “You’re a lunatic, Larson.” Smiling, I asked why. “I saw you in your car, head bopping and jiggling all over the place.” I just gave her a great big grin and said, “I feel good today. I was listening to Bruce and he made my day.” She just shook her head. That feeling of pure, unadulterated joy stayed with me the whole day.
That’s the power of Bruce.
Finally, I have much to be grateful for in my life — despite the tragedies plaguing the world at the moment, I won’t lose sight of that.