Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy solstice!

The light returns by a sliver a day. I'm reminded of our trip to newgrange two years ago:

http://sueandstevelindsay.blogspot.com/2009/12/100-days-of-practice-round-2-day-69.html

Happy holidays to you!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Music for its own merit.

It's been a long time since I last had that conniption fit over the Sweetheart Whistle (which, by the way, I am not playing... I defaulted back to my Michael Burke), but I'm back. It's not that I've been gone, really, it's just that I've been writing somewhere else. Someone convinced me to start blogging about motherhood from Casa del Soul's wackadoo perspective, and that lasted a while, but... my dear friends, though I love Soul Fry I'm back here because I'm conflicted about making private life public. Clearly I have little in common with Ozzy Osbourne. Except that perhaps we're both passionate about music, and that's what I want to tell you about today:

“Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning…except its own.” - Leonard Bernstein

I spent last Wednesday afternoon "visioning" the future of music education with the board of the Massachusetts Music Education Association, an organization of more than 1700 school music educators, just in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

We broke into small groups and responded to a list of soul-searching questions about the future for music educators in Massachusetts schools. What should the organization be doing to support its teachers? What issues are music teachers facing that must be dealt with immediately? How can the organization help music teachers become better at what they do? When we reconvened as a large group, every group came back with similar answers, and if it may all be boiled down to a single answer it's this:

ADVOCACY

Today's landscape has made advocacy into the hot-button issue. The value of music education is in question, and music teachers feel rightly threatened. Many of them feel that their administrators and bosses just don't get it, and they feel that the community at large doesn't get it. Via advocacy, they want to find ways to communicate with those who would put them first at the budgetary chopping block, and somehow prove to them that music is central—that it is critical to a child's development, and that without music, we are lost.

It is very hard to dispute that reading and writing are absolutely at the core of public education. But for more than 150 years, thanks to pioneering work by Massachusetts' own Lowell Mason, the father of public school music education, American public schools have included music as one of their core subjects. We learn the arts in school because, as Lowell Mason ably advocated, music and the arts help us to learn to become more human. And if you don't trust Lowell Mason, just ask Socrates. He'll tell you.

For thousands of years, our most revered philosophers have expounded on the importance of arts to education. All for naught, apparently. Because today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to a test-obsessed and budget-strapped educational culture that being human matters just as much. There is much research that indicates the value of music to language acquisition, the similarity of the musical mind to the mathematical mind, and that music students tend to do much better in all subjects in school. Musicians know all that by instinct, but music educators rightfully feel resistant to justifying the value of music education as a helper to other subjects. They want to uphold the value of music education for its own merit, in and of itself.

The National Association for Music Education (formerly MENC), lists as one of its core values "Students must have an opportunity to learn and participate in the joy and power that music education brings in uplifting the human spirit and fostering the well-being of society." How proud I feel to be an active part of an organization that includes fostering the human spirit in its mission!

Human spirit. Bah! Why should schools care about that? Perhaps because the human spirit is what guides us to use our math and our language responsibly and for the greater good. Maybe music is what can help us use our math skills for airplanes to bring people together, not bombers to tear us apart. Maybe music can help remind us to use chemistry to find cures, not create chemicals of mass destruction. Maybe music can remind us to use language to inspire, to motivate, and to connect with each other deeply.

And this, I might argue, is why music really is central.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Get Your Arse Out to NEFFA and Get a G* D* WD Sweet PennyWhistle


Ellen Lubin-Sherman, author of The Essentials of Fabulous, writes about coup de foudres, those thunderbolt, love-at-first sight moments that make you reach instantly for the credit card.

Well, I had one tonight, and I'm proud to say that it had nothing to do with shoes, bags, or Audrey Hepburn trenchcoats.

I had a coup de foudre over a God damned whistle. Allow me a moment to tell you how many whistles I have already:

-The Burke D

-The Carey Park

-The four Susatos: Bb, two in C, one in D, and oh! a low D

-The two, no, four Chieftains (Or are they Overtons? I don't freaking know. But they're in Bb, C, and two low D)

-Miscellaneous (8): Generation, Feadog, etc in Bb, C, and D

Counting? That's 18. This doesn't count the ten or so flutes that are hanging on the wall in our living room.

Now, add one, please.

As of 11:00 pm this evening I am the proud owner of a Black Pearl D pennywhistle, head joint made of (oh God, I swore I'd remember this) and body made of acetyl. Translation: Fancy black plastic.

I SWEAR it was NOT my intention. I was at the New England Folk Festival, performing with Einstein's Little Homunculus. We did our show, and I was just planning to browse through the crafter's booths on my way out the door to buy Soul Papa a Celtic tie-dye tee shirt, when I saw the whistles set up at the Sweetheart Flute booth ... I tried to resist, Lord I did. To no avail. I became hypnotized by their siren song.

Carole Sweet, who happens to be wife of the maker, helped me immediately as I stopped to look at the whistles on display. I picked one up and played a few bars of a tune. Then I picked up the other. Then I went back to the first. Then I played the second. Then the first. Then the second. First. Second. My old one. First. Second. My old one. First. First. First. First.

That's when the maker Walt Sweet put down the fife he had been playing with a visiting concertina player, and started taking notice. First. First. First. Second. First. My whistle. First. He reached down below the table and put out four more whistles. First. Third. First. Fourth. First, Fifth... oh, now we're talking. Fifth. Sixth. Fifth. First. Seventh. Fifth. Eighth. You get the point. I settled on #5, which as it turns out, sounded markedly similar to my Michael Burke, only warmer and sweeter. Rounder.

Exhale. I need a cigarette.

The WD Sweet whistle? It is a sweetheart. Whistling friends, check it out. Walt Sweet, son of Sweetheart founder Ralph Sweet, designed and made these by hand. They have a conical bore, which tend to make for an instrument that requires just a little less pushing on the high end. I tried ten because they're handmade, and as a result, would differ slightly. They all sounded great, but I was dialing in. Overall they had a consistently rich sound, but I went with the one with the warmest, roundest tone.

My evaluation: Lovely and rich. Speaks evenly over the whole instrument, top to bottom. High notes not too shrill. Excellent intonation, top to bottom. Not too loud, but not too soft, either. It would be audible in a session, without blasting out anyone's ear drums. Mary Bergin won't kick you out of her class like she would if you had a Susato.

The credit card came out for this one, and you know what? I have no regrets.

It's been a tough few months, people, and music has slipped for perhaps one of the very few times in my life. But there's something about NEFFA to bring out the music in you. And the WD Sweet whistle? That'll bring out the music in ANYONE.

Get your arse out to NEFFA tomorrow and say hi to Walt Sweet for me. If you have a coup de foudre, don't tell your spouse. Tell me. I'll understand.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Unexpected Conclusion

Long time no writey. The writing bug has been buzzing in my ear for the last week of so, but I'm grappling with the plight of those I had so self-righteously advised a year ago: "Just make time," I said, and sniffed at the air. Hm. Now I understand: Sometimes we're too damn busy to do anything but work and family.

Oh, but I have done things. For example, last month: fifty million gigs in honor of St. Patrick, who I honor not for his Catholicism (I'm Protestant) nor his Irishness (I'm an Eastern European mutt) but because I like beer and my husband.

Now. Just to prove the challenge: As I wrote that last sentence, I heard the telltale sounds of Soul Fry waking up. Thus ends today's essay, which was to be about immaculate conception, caffeine, and beer.

Stay tuned. I'll be back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Always the Bridesmaid, and Loving It

Yesterday, I had the great fortune to participate in two events that reminded me, yet again, of the gift that music can bring to one's life. In the afternoon, I performed in a children's concert with Debbie and Friends at the Lutz Children's Museum in Connecticut, and in the evening, I emcee'd the world premier of the Irish dance and music ensemble, the Sole Mates, directed and produced by my great friend Kieran Jordan and performed at the Dance Complex in Central Square, Cambridge. A thirteen-hour day, and yet this morning, I am revived, refreshed, invigorated, and happy to be alive, home here with my loving family sleeping peacefully upstairs. Life is good. Let me tell you about these performers:

Debbie and Friends

Debbie and Friends is headed up by Debbie Cavalier, Dean of Continuing Education for Berklee College of Music, the world's premier institute for contemporary music. I've worked with Debbie on Berklee projects for nearly ten years now.

Around the same time Soul Fry was dividing from two cells into ten trillion in my belly, Debbie was busy creating, too. She was working on Story Songs and Sing Alongs, her first children's CD. The CD quickly took off, and she began performing at venues in New England and beyond. Soul Fry was an early adoptee, and as she learned to speak, Debbie was her soundtrack—as in: every single time we got in the car, a little voice would chime from the backseat, "Mama, Debbie!" I've always obliged.

In addition to its instant appeal to any child I have ever shared the CD with, that CD won nine national awards, which you can find out more about here. She followed that CD with More Story Songs and Sing Alongs, which continued the trend with more awards. Somewhere along the way, Debbie brought me aboard, first to help with PR, and then to play along on sax and Irish whistle, and to pitch in with backup vocals. Every performance is a trip--there is nothing more rewarding than performing to a room full of singing and dancing children.

Such was the joy I experienced in Connecticut yesterday. I packed my car smiling and hit the road for Cambridge, to support the Sole Mates. I was to be the emcee, and I was nervous.

The Sole Mates

Photo from The Sole Mates, www.solematesirishdance.com
The Sole Mates are creative inspiration of the Boston-based Irish dancer and choreographer Kieran Jordan. Kieran performs extensively all over the United States, and is best known in Boston for her work with Brian O'Donovan and WGBH's the Celtic Sojourn concerts. For seven years, she's been the dance director, choreographer, and performer in those sell-out performances. Kieran trained in competitive Irish step dancing, but also had studied tap and modern dance, and today is one of a handful of dancers who are helping to fuel the revival of sean ós, or "old style" Irish dancing in the United States.

To me, she's been a wonderful friend. We first met at a wedding about ten years ago, where we were both hired to perform. We had a chance to chat and the rapport was instant. We've kept in touch ever since, getting together every now and then to kvetch and kvell about music, writing, and teaching, and to help each other through the challenges and joys of our careers.

A year ago, Kieran toured in Germany with the husband-and-wife traditional duo Matt and Shannon Heaton. The tour director, Magnetik Music, invited her to put together an ensemble of her own and come back to Germany. She came back to the US and began assembling a cast of five musicians and dancers with whom she has a particular chemistry. These are the Baltimore accordionist Sean McComiskey, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Josh Dukes from Washington DC (you can see a video of them here performing the musical piece that was the basis of Kieran Jordan's solo piece last night), dancer and fiddler Danielle Enblom from Minneapolis, and dancer Nicholas Yenson from New York.

Together, they share a vitality and a spirit of spontaneity and playfulness that is characteristic of Irish music and dance at their best. All are rooted firmly in tradition, but also allow their other influences to permeate into their music and dance, with a result that feels traditional yet also clearly reflects each of their artistic personalities.

Next month, they'll be bringing this performance to Germany and Switzerland. Last night was a chance for them to perform the piece for local audiences before they hit the road. The one-hour performance consisted of group pieces and solo pieces that featured each of the dance styles that make up Irish music: jigs, slip jig, reels, and hornpipes, but the show also included steps from Cape Breton and Quebecois step styles, as well as expressive, full-body movements from modern dance. Both performances were standing-room only, and a particularly exuberant audience in the second show egged the dancers on, resulting in a joy-filled show, a standing ovation, and an unexpected encore, in which the dancers created a piece on the spot that was just as coordinated and exciting as the "prepared" pieces.

While many pieces, particularly in ensemble, reflected the more familiar competitive Irish dance style and the unison dance that has come to be associated with Riverdance, what sets these dancers apart is their explorations of sean ós style, a more relaxed, improvised style that is less formal, and in a broad sense allows the dancer to express their personality more fully. Like the competitive style, the emphasis is on the feet: Low to the ground with battering, stepping, and tapping, punctuated by occasional high kicks, while the back remains more or less straight--though with sean ós, the back is not so rigid feeling as the more familiar competitive style, and both the hip and ankle movements are more fluid and less vertical. Arms often dangle loosely, or are lifted up and even over the head at times.

The overall performance consisted of both group and solo pieces, interspersed with musical interludes by the Sole Mates' world class players McComiskey and Dukes. All of it was so terrific that I hesitate to highlight any particular individual, but it's hard to deny that a shining center of last night's performance was a particularly musical and energetic solo hard-shoe piece by Yenson. He first established the pulse through a series of quarter-note steps with a short rhythmic flourish that set the swing of the underlying groove. He incrementally increased the rhythmic complexity until his feet were blurs, then gradually brought the piece back down to a mirror of its intro in perfect narrative form. Hard shoe is of course the most glamorous and exciting anyway, but what marked the brilliance of Yenson's choreography was the piece's very clear structure... a strong beginning, an exciting climax, and a gradual but crystal clear denouement—a perfect fusion of music and dance, all delivered by two feet.

Best of luck to the Sole Mates on their German tour, and thank you to Debbie for kicking off a busy day with nothing but smiles, both on the inside and out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Relying on the Kindness of Farmers

Photo borrowed from the Plymouth Farmer's Market.
A few times a year, the Lindsays play at the Plymouth Farmer’s Market. Trust me: We don’t do it for the money.

We play at the Plymouth Farmer’s Market to support local foods and local people making local things, including a living. We are always happy when we get there, but it’s a long gig—four hours—fraught with so much hassle in the lead-up that we frequently wonder if it’s worth it. Playing the farmer’s market can mean lots of fuss: finding babysitting (which sometimes costs more than we actually make), loading the PA into the Jeep, then unloading it and setting it up, and then playing for four hours solid. Then, breaking it all down, dragging it back to the Jeep, and getting it all back into the house.  The four-hour gig becomes a seven-hour gig, working out to approximately $3/hr each.  

That’s very short bread. But man cannot live on bread alone.

Pay is more than supplemented by gracious donations: each farmer or vendor fills our basket with one or more items from their table, and market founders Barbara and Dean send us home with a giant sack of booty. Typically, we leave the farmer’s market with home-baked breads and confections, freshly picked organic greens, homemade jellies, meats, Italian olive oil (formidabile!), alpaca socks (be still my bleating heart!), and at this time of year, cellar roots: potatoes, beets, and turnip. And let’s not forget, Walter’s (OH MY GOD!) Caribbean hot sauce. They also send us home with warm hearts, because we’ve just spent four hours playing music for great friends, the farmers we’ve met through the market.

I’d venture to guess that the hassle may be quite similar for the vendors. The farmers are like us: exchanging the chance to have fewer “things” in life in order to live a life rich with meaning. They work extremely hard, often seven days a week, in order to pursue something they are passionate about. They have chosen paths that are specifically intended to make a difference in this world and/or that satisfy their irrepressible creative urges.

Sometimes they sell a lot of goods, and sometimes they consider giving it all up to work at Raytheon. But the thing is, they don’t. They keep putting up with the hassle of making their own way in this world, not because it’s a laugh a minute (it’s not) and not because they’re getting rich from it (they’re not), but because they are deeply emotionally committed to doing something that matters.

Pursuing their passion is hard work punctuated by occasional moments of immense joy that outweigh the sweat and toil. They hurt their backs…but they also laugh, they revel, and they dance inside. Every day, they prove that old adage: nothing that matters in this world comes easy.

The Lindsays thank yesterday’s farmer’s market vendors for sending us home with a beautiful handmade market basket full to overflowing with fresh foods and handmade treasures. That basket left us with full hearts—and that will continue to feed us until long after the last lost beet is found shriveled up in the bottom bin of our fridge.

They’ve given us lettuce and love. And we are immensely appreciative.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Daily Stone Soup

One can learn much from one's avatar. In my case, Lisa Simpson. In last night's episode, Lisa discovered the 19th-century diary of her ancestor Eliza Simpson. That diary was Eliza's vehicle: In it she wrote all the things that she could not say aloud in a day when "women should be seen and not heard." In Eliza's case, that meant she was writing about the runaway slave, Virgil, who Eliza and her mother Mabel helped to escape to Canada... Mabel eventually married him, of course, making Lisa 1/64th black. She was proud.

Eliza's diary provided critical historic information in a turbulent time in American history. That's one reason to write.

Last week, I read an article by Mark Edmundson, titled "Narcissus Reads a Book" in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article bemoaned the loss of the reader who reads for entertainment, rather than edification and edu-ma-cation. Blasphemy! Edmundson wrote, "Common readers—which is to say the great majority of people who continue to read—read for one purpose and one purpose only. They read for pleasure. They read to be entertained. They read to be diverted, assuaged, comforted, and tickled." Oh, you naughty readers, you.



Entertainment! That's another reason to write.
 
By inference, this means that most writers today are writing to entertain, not to edify. Commoners! The special ones (like me) who write the academic books... well, we reap our own reward. Our benefits come in the form of annual checks from University Press, totaling appx. $28.42 a year. So smug. So poor.


Which brings me back to Fox. Let's talk about Seinfeld, the long-running television show whose tag line read, "The Show About Nothing." What's it about? Nothing. And I love it.


And that's another reason to write. It's fun.

Sitting down before a blank screen can be daunting. Some mornings, you have wonderful ideas. Big thoughts. Poignant experiences to share. Other mornings, you don't feel like you have anything to say, and the blank page becomes a Rubix Cube, a New York Times crossword, an episode of Iron Chef. "Here, you have one sea urchin, a little saffron, three spears of asparagus, a small turnip, and a garlic scape. Now go make a feast.  In front of a live studio audience."

The Stone Soup is what makes writing so fun. Something out of nothing, and a great way to crank up the brain's engine and get it puttering off to its first quotidian destination.

Good morning, brain!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Marvin Gaye Correction

It never pays to do things too quickly. I found a number of items in need of correction in the piece about Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On."  Corrections have been posted to: http://sueandstevelindsay.blogspot.com/2011/01/whats-goin-on.html

Coat, check. Ego, check.

Just a few feet from where the sea strokes the sand, the fire's crackling and the tunes are fabulous. What could make this better? No egos. You heard me right. It is indeed possible in America to have eight Irish musicians, most of whom do it for a living, in a single room, in front of an audience, and still not have a pesky ego in sight to cause problems. We experienced it last night and I tell you, this could be downright addictive.


I apologize to those who idealize Irish sessions in America as rare occurrences of communal music making, where each part is revered not for its own voice, but rather for its contribution to the whole. It's not. Well, not always.

Why? Because human beings play Irish music. And human beings, at least in America, have a mild-to-acute tendency to equate what we do outside with who we are inside. In a session, this can play out at showboating... something we Americans are wont to do most egregiously. Last night, no showboaters. Respect for each other, with everyone listening to what's being played, sung, recited. It was awfully nice.

That's the unattainable perfection that we continually reach for. It's never perfect, but we are thankful to leave with hands full, even if a few grains did slip through our fingers.

It's awfully nice, friends. Thanks for coming, K and D.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happiness Comes from Pawtucket, Rhode Island

It's too early.

An appointment an hour away at 7 am on Sunday, to be told something I already know.

This is what life REALLY is about.

It's also about the pride you feel when your kid remembers to say "Excuse me" and "Thank you," and remembers to sneeze into her elbow, just like Elmo said. ('Course, "Elmo's for babies.")

Life's also about having friends you haven't seen in a long time over for dinner. Great meal, then two rounds of Zingo, two rounds of "Monkeys on the Bed," and one round of "Don't Wake Daddy."

All those years we spent playing Quarters were wasted. If we'd known that instant happiness lies in a Hasbro box, we'd have saved ourselves so many brain cells.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's Goin' On?

I got chills. Check it out.






Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” is the title track of soul’s very first “concept” album, What’s Going On. Released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary Tamla, it is widely recognized as one of the most important songs in the history of American popular music.

When the song was written, many other genres were tackling social issues—think Dylan, Baez, or just about any other Woodstock artist—but to date soul and especially Motown had, with only a few exceptions, shied away from politically conscious and potentially contentious material. Motown was about hits, after all. It built its reputation on lighthearted love songs, bubbly dance grooves, and impeccably turned-out artists playing music that was less message-laden and far more commercially viable.

Marvin Gaye was one of Motown’s stars. He began his career with the doowop group the Moonglows, but then was signed as a solo artist to Motown, releasing a string of hits in the 1960s—“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine”— that earned him the title “the prince of soul.” At age 31, however, he lost his friend and fellow Motown artist Tammi Terrell to a brain tumor. Distraught, Gaye stopped recording and explored a new direction. He trained and unsuccessfully tried out for the NFL team the Detriot Lions.

Around the same time, he met up with the Four Tops’ Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland, who had begun early work on the song that was to become “What’s Goin’ On.” They had been inspired to write the song after seeing police brutally attack anti-war protestors in San Francisco. Gaye helped Benson and Cleveland complete the lyrics, then wrote an arrangement for the song. Gaye wanted the Motown group the Originals to record it, but Benson and Cleveland convinced Gaye to do it himself.

It wasn’t so easy for Gaye to convince Motown’s president, his brother-in-law Berry Gordy, to let him record the song. Gordy felt it was not commercially viable and too different from other pop songs at the time. However, Gaye continued to lobby for the song with Gordy and other Motown execs, and finally Gordy relented.

“What’s Goin’ On” was released in January 1971, and much to Gordy’s surprise, it climbed the charts more quickly than any Motown song had before it, soon topping both the pop and R&B charts, where it stayed at no. 1 for five weeks.

Musically, the song had much more to offer than many of the prevalent pop songs of the time. Its extended format allowed space for Gaye to scat, jazz style, over a groove laid down by Motown’s Funk Brothers. Though the original release came in at just under four minutes, the song could and did easily expand to twice that length in live performance.

Buoyed by the song’s commercial success, Gaye used “What’s Goin’ On” as the centerpiece for an entire concept album of the same name. The album, What’s Goin’ On, is really a suite of connected songs that tackle war, poverty, environmental destruction, and a variety of social injustices. Gordy, who had been deeply moved by letters his brother sent home from the war in Vietnam, wrote the album from the perspective of a returned Veteran—someone who has fought abroad for his country and returns home only to find more suffering and hatred.


~~~~~~


Someone once told me that you'll know when you're doing the right thing in life when you someday say, "They PAY me for this?"

Check out What's Goin' On, my friends. Buy it on Amazon here.

Old and Proud, In Briefs

In December, Dr. No gave me bad news that roughly translated to: You’re dying. Not today or tomorrow, or in fact any time earlier than can be expected for an entirely healthy 41-year-old woman like me… but… well… eventually. In other words, "You're getting old, kid." It depressed me for the better part of a month, until recently. Good spirits returned. I thought I was over it. But then I went to Lord and Taylor, and I committed a crime of grave anti-levity. I bought briefs.

Clearly, I had had an “Oh, whatever!” moment. I had told myself, “You’re old now; get over it.” May as well just buy the briefs, right? I mean, even Stieg Larrsen called his 42-year-old protagonist middle aged.

I see the road ahead now. First stop: Briefs. Next stop: Anchorwoman haircut. (FOX newscasters don’t count.) What next? L. L. Bean denims? A Subaru Outback? Merrell walking/hiking shoes? Stop! I want to get off the bus!

For you neophytes, let me explain: Briefs. Are. For. Old. Ladies.

For you young ladies who wear briefs and think it’s ok: It’s. Not. You’re. An. Old. Fart. Before. Your. Time.

For you men who want to know what wearing briefs is like, I suggest you consult with an old boyfriend of mine. What can I say? It was a rebound.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kids Are Fun, Part 234865

Barbie and Ken appeared at Chez Soul last night, in their brand new, matching Shoe de Villes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Watch Your Step Around the Prince of Peace

Aaaah... the relief. You are still here, and we can continue our conversations--which, I might add, are FAR more interesting when they're two-sided. Thank you, my great friends, for writing back, either in comments or directly in email.

Several folks wrote, and said that they would have done more or less the same thing I did with the poor woman. They might have given her a few bob, but probably wouldn't give her a ride. Still, I can't help but admit that I've been thinking about it for two days, and I still feel uneasy with the limits of my compassion. That poor woman is mentally unstable (not her fault) and unable to live a "normal" life. Probably has experienced unspeakable abuse or other horror. And it was about to be the coldest day since 2005. I dropped her off at MacDonalds.

I had $12 in my wallet. Why did I only give her $5? Why didn't I push the issue about the shelter? (I assumed that she probably knew about it, though, because she changed the subject immediately both times I mentioned it.) And... I know someone extremely well who happens to be living in a van this winter. Why did I not call that person and invite them to sleep on the couch on that cold night?

Reasons:
-They could be dangerous.
-They might have germs.
-They might steal stuff.
-They might never leave.
-They might pee on the couch.

Laugh. It's a terrific coping mechanism.

To be truly compassionate, we know it's right to offer a helping hand, and we do so, ideally when that helping hand is at the end of a very long arm. For this brief second, you may take my hand. But don't touch my stuff.

I venture to guess that we all agree on this.

So why have we (okay, they) built a massive religion around an Ancient Hippie in Sandals who would actually shake hands with a leper? Most people, even in his time, wouldn't shake hands, either. But make one false move in Jesus's presence, and you'd get a metaphor-filled lecture that would eventually get written up by one of his disciples/journalism buddies in chapter and verse. People would study your story in temples, tents, and cathedrals for eons, then 2,000 years later, your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids will use crayons to color your picture in Sunday School. Underneath, in Comic Sans, is written the phrase, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Talk about being made an example of. Don't screw up around the Prince of Peace, man. He'll never let you forget it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Unhospitable Christian to Burn in Hell

Good Lord, I'm back. And I've missed you terribly. As you may realize, I went underground for a few months, after being warned by the elected arbiter of discretion herself not to use the "f" word so freely, lest I lose all chance at future clients. (I refer to the "f" word that ends with "t." Much more taboo, as it turns out, than the one that ends with "k.")

Then I stopped writing.

I tried, Lord I tried, to figure out whether I could continue to send you a password-protected blog by email, but finally after much research, discovered that one cannot do that.

Fine. Public it is.

I'm here to tell you today about hospitality. I attended church yesterday. The guest minister spoke about the nature of Christian hospitality. She listed a hundred things that define hospitality.

Hospitality is inviting the hungry to your dinner table.
Hospitality is not getting mad at your kids when they interrupt your reading.
Hospitality is not getting annoyed with your spouse when you're really mad about something else.
Hospitality is inviting friends over for dinner. (Thanks, I get that.)
Hospitality is not giving someone the finger when they cut you off. (Well, she didn't literally say that.)

After ten minutes in which she used the word hospitality so many times that I thought maybe it's not a real word after all, I was torn. Option 1: Schedule a post-sermon editorial meeting with her to explain the limits of repetition and parallel structure. Option 2. Run out of sanctuary screaming.

I should have done the latter, because I sat through that sermon and dropped into the coffee hour to be immediately confronted by a homeless woman I once knew when she rented a room next door. She said hello and asked for a ride to exit 5.  I cursed my attentive ears. Hospitality. Okay. I'll take you and your heavy black trash bag to exit 5, you complete nut job alcoholic.  How uncompassionate.

She immediately launched into a diatribe of non sequitirs about all the people who were in conspiracy against her, who'd stolen her million dollar inheritance, her Cumberland Farms, her million -- no half million -- dollar laundromat business, and to top it all off, her Sprint phone. Then she asked if she could sleep on our couch.

It was to be the coldest night of the year. Minus-5, they said in the papers. I had just listened to a sermon on how Jesus took in the cold, the hungry, the dispossessed. I looked at her. And guess what I said?

No.

I suggested that she consider the town shelter. She continued the story about the man who beat her on Court Street and her lost cell phone and the evil of people who turn their back on those in need.

I dropped her off at Micky D's, near the bus stop, and gave her $5.

Good, she said. That'll get me to Boston.


No it won't, I thought. It won't even get you on the bus.

I ask you now the same question I would liked to have asked the minister: Would YOU have given her a ride? Would you have upped the $5 to instead give Crazy Lady the entire contents of your wallet? Would you have felt comfortable with her in the car talking about how they abuse children in South America, while your four year old sits in the back seat?

Would Ms. Minister have let her sleep on her couch? And how about the OTHER 99 people in the congregation that day? Hmmmmm? And do you agree that I'm lucky she didn't have a knife? Just checking.

There are limits to this Christian hospitality thing. Do you agree? Good. I'll see you in hell.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

All is well and did you get this feed?

Well, there's been silence from the Lindsay but only because I couldn't figure out how to get the old "feed" to email to your box, once I made the blog private. Don't worry. You only missed a rare month of depression, but it's over now so hopefully now we're back to sarcastic. Phew.

Let me know if you get this. I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Love,
Sue

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Strange New Year Venture

Something very odd is happening in America's Hometown.

I'm ironing.

No strange enough for you? Well, let me explain:  I'm ironing tee shirts.

Why this new change? Because I got a full time job. Oh yes, I am one of the legion now, the ones who bundle up against Boston's frigid wind tunnels and wander around the concrete and stone of Boylston Street at 8:45 am with their hats, scarves, and lunch bags, amid flying cars and steaming manholes.  That's me. I'm in an office again.

Now, it's not all that bad. In fact, it's an improvement. It's hard to be a freelance writer and a musician, and also get by. There are folks who make their livings as freelance writers. Some of them are wildly successful, writing articles in all sorts of interesting publications, newspapers, and websites. Some of them are only mildly successful, but living passion. And both of them are destitute, unless they aer writing about crime or sex, in which case they are mildly destitute. And both of them are working like one-armed paper hangers to get the job done. It's fun for a while. Then it gets old.

The best solution for many writers is to get a job. A J. O. B., where you write stuff for someone else. Lucky me, I found a J. O. B. writing about my passion, music, and am fortunate that this job is at the coolest place in the world to do it, Berklee.

Ah, Berklee, where everyone wears tee shirts and jeans, except the HR people, who dress like grownups. I've decided to take this J. O. B. thing seriously, so if I'm going to wear a tee shirt, I'll at least iron it. Mommy, am I a grown-up yet?