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:

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?

-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?


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.


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?