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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sweet Home Chicago

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from me, who asked everyone to write about something special or unique about their childhood, good or bad.  Mine was fairly easy:

                  I grew up in Chicago.  In Chicago.  Not in a bordering suburb, not in the “Greater Chicagoland Area.”  I was born and raised with an address in the “606” (the Chicago zip code) and a phone number in the “312” (which is now the “773” but still within city limits).  My Dad was a Chicago Police officer, and Chicago has long clung to its residency requirements for first responders, so my parents did like all cops and firemen and bought a house as close to the edge of the city as possible, but still within legal city limits.  For that reason, I grew up on the Northwest Side, in the “L” streets of a neighborhood known as Jefferson Park, right next to the Lawrence exit of the Kennedy Expressway, just past the Junction.  Jefferson Park has a bus terminal and a stop on both the Metra and the Blue Line.  For many years, Jeff Park was the last Blue Line stop, the end of the line, until the City extended “el” service out to O’Hare Airport.  There’s an actual park called Jefferson Park in my neighborhood, and when I was a kid, it housed the newest public pool – much closer than the one at Portage Park, more than a mile away.  But we tended to spend most of our time at Wilson Park, which didn’t have a pool but which was across from Pete’s candy store (now the fire station) and wasn’t surrounded by busy streets. 

                  Where I grew up might seem unusual to some in that a large number of my neighbors were cop and fireman and city employee families.  (At one point, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police lived on the corner, and half a dozen other police officers’ called our “L” street home.)  But, really, such a makeup was pretty typical for Jeff Park and other Northwest-Side neighborhoods.  No, what made my block – my childhood – special was the people who lived there, the unique mix of personalities that somehow found themselves living side by side in houses built so close together, you could hand a cup of flour through an open window.

                  Our neighborhood teemed with kids, more than a dozen with ages within four years of mine.  But I?  Was the only girl.  Six years separated me from my older sister, and her peers on the block had a more even mix of male and female.  But not mine.  In my age range, it was me and twelve boys.  Me and Jimmy and Michael and John John and Danny and Marty and Myles and Timmy and Andy and Tommy and Johnny and Eric and Todd.  I was the adopted little sister of an entire team of brothers, like it or not.  For the most part, we all liked it.  Once they realized I wouldn’t break, they let me play football; once they realized I could pitch, I was welcome to join any softball game (16-inch, of course).  We spent every summer day riding bikes and playing basketball or Frisbee and every summer evening playing Ghosts in the Graveyard or Catch One, Catch All.  When we wore out, we’d sit on someone’s porch and talk, always careful to choose the house of someone whose dad was not “on midnights” at the police department (and, thus, forced to sleep during the day).

                  During the school year, we attended different schools.  Most of us went to Our Lady of Victory, the closest Catholic school, but Eric and Todd and Andy walked a little further over to St. John’s, the Lutheran school that bordered Portage Park.  I was in the same grade as Michael and Johnny, which means we sometimes shared homerooms, but in school, our relationships shifted.  Michael joined with the cool kids and Johnny moved around from group to group, but back home, we forgot all that.  We just hung out, a dozen kids connected by their addresses.

                  We shared hundreds of good days growing up on our “L” street, many incredible memories that we keep to this day:  our marathon Kick the Can games, the day Jimmy fell out of his tree and broke his arm, the band Eric started in Kemp’s garage, the time Todd forgot his dad had removed the front steps from his porch and he went right down with a little “Oops” and a big oomph.  I can still hear Timmy’s sister calling him in for dinner (“Tim-o-thy MI-chael!”), and I will always remember the sound of Eric and Todd’s dad’s sharp reverse wolf whistle, a sign to drop the bat and ball and run home.  But if we had to pick one thing we all loved, one event we wouldn’t ever give up, I think we’d all choose the annual block party.  It started as a one-off Bicentennial celebration and somehow grew to an annual affair; indeed, in the many decades since its inception, the Block Party skipped only one year, for reasons none of us can recall.  Our “L” street holds the record for the longest-running block party in Chicago, having pulled a permit more times than any other block in the entire city.  We close off the ends of the street with yellow horses and pull patio tables onto our lawns while the little kids ride their bikes up and down the usually forbidden asphalt.  There’s a raffle – and, yes, I voluntarily put on a bright orange Sun-Times smock and sell tickets (fifty cents each, twelve for a dollar), walking up and down the block, saying hello to people I’ve known so long that I don’t remember not knowing them.  We play games usually reserved for small towns:  the egg toss, the water balloon toss, Bingo.  We sit at long tables assembled in the middle of the street, generations of families mixed together, my kids playing alongside the kids of my own childhood friends; the boy I babysat, Shay, calling the numbers and reminding me that the little kid I once watched is now a father of three.

                  Most of us no longer live in Jefferson Park, but some do.  Todd (whose now a police detective) bought a house across the street from his family home, and Andy and Johnny still live in their parents’ houses.  Tommy (who now prefers to be called “Thomas” . . . but I refuse) bought a place across the street from the Jefferson Park pool.  The rest of us live in nearby neighborhoods or in one of the suburbs.  Only Michael and Eric moved out of state, to Missouri and Florida, respectively.  I left briefly for Los Angeles when I was in my early twenties, the first on the block to move across the country (though Eric had already been to England thanks to the Air Force).  On one of my visits home, I went with Todd to meet up with some of the guys at a neighborhood bar.  Jimmy came in and gave me a hug and asked me how I liked California.  I liked it.  He looked at me and said, “You’ve got balls, Dee Dee,” and I took that for the compliment I knew it was meant to be.  I’d grown up with him, one of the guys, and even at 24, I didn’t expect him to change how he treated me.  And I didn’t want him to.

                  We’ve lost some of our neighbors over the years; most have moved but some have died.  Eric and Todd’s family has taken the biggest hit.  They lost their mom when we were still kids, and their dad followed years later.  They also lost a brother, Rick.  Even though he was almost ten years older than us, he was one of us just the same, and his wake looked like a neighborhood reunion.  As he requested, his ashes were scattered across Wilson Park, where they belonged, where he belonged, where he had felt happiest.  New people have moved onto the block, too, and, for the most part, the more recent residents are as friendly and community-minded as those who have left.  My parents still live in the house they bought when I was just a year old, and my Dad has long said that he will remain there until he dies.  I hope he gets that luxury. 

                  The surrounding neighborhood has changed, and not for the better.  Gone are the stores we walked to in our youth:  the department stores, Ann’s and Weiboldt’s; Ideal Bakery (home of the best potato bread ever); Sub Tender; Woolworth’s and Jupiter.  They’re all gone, replaced by rotating storefronts hawking Polish phone cards and cheap electronics.  I wouldn’t walk to Wilson Park alone at night on a bet, no matter how many times I’d done so as a child.  Yet, almost magically, our little “L” street has largely remained unchanged.  Perhaps more impressive, though, is how those of us who grew up there remain connected, how we remain friends.  We of course don’t see each other every day (though what I wouldn’t give for another round of Kick the Can), but we call and text and catch up on Facebook – and there’s always the block party.  So much has changed, but so much has also stayed the same. 

                  When my husband and I were dating, we were at a neighborhood fest in a nearby neighborhood, just walking around.  “Hold on,” I said, and I ran over to a police officer and gave him a big hug.  It was Timmy, who’d followed in his dad’s footsteps to become a CPD officer.  Years later, my husband admitted that it took him some time to get used to seeing me greeted with a hug and kiss by guys he saw as strangers, but who I saw as brothers.  But what won him over was the respect he was shown by the dozen boys-turned-men I’d literally known forever.  They all shook his hand, patted him on the back, welcomed him to the neighborhood, into the family.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

And the Band Played On . . . Or Did It?

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week’s topic comes from Froggie, who said only:  open to interpretation.  I didnt know what she meant (and she didnt feel like explaining), so I opened the subject to my own interpretation and decided it meant I could post whatever I wanted.  I had an article/essay I had already written and wanted to share; funny enough, one of the themes woven into the article is, indeed, open to interpretation.  Here goes:

                  In This is Spinal Tap, it was the drummer.  It was always the drummer. 

                  By the end of the movie, the fictional band had replaced a seemingly endless stream of drummers lost to bizarre gardening accidents and spontaneous combustion.  But the remaining members continued on.  And Spinal Tap remained Spinal Tap.

                  But would Spinal tap have been the same band had Nigel exploded?  Or had Derek choked on an unidentified person’s vomit?

                  When does a band stop being the band its fans know and love and become something else altogether?

                  In April of this year, popular Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora left the band’s Because We Can Tour after performing only a handful of dates.  Sambora is the band’s original guitarist, and he has co-penned almost all of the band’s hit songs.  The show has gone on; Bon Jovi continues to tour without Sambora, session guitarist Phil “X” Xenidis standing in for Sambora.  But press outlets reported that Sambora had been fired from the remainder of the band’s Because We Can tour, which ended this month.  Sambora’s future with Bon Jovi appears unclear, begging the question:  if Sambora leaves the band, is that band still Bon Jovi?

                  Bon Jovi remained Bon Jovi after its one other personnel change, the firing of bassist Alec John Such in 1995.  Of the band’s five-man roster, Such was the oldest member of the band and perhaps the least well known.  He was quietly replaced by Hugh MacDonald, a studio musician who had long worked with Jon Bon Jovi.  There was no fallout from Such’s departure, and the band has continued to thrive for almost two decades without another member change. 

                  But Bon Jovi’s long unshakeable constitution seems the exception to the rule of the rock band; indeed, a departure by Sambora would bring Bon Jovi more closely in line with the majority of other major rock acts.  Musicians leave bands on a disturbingly regular basis, either by death, by choice, or kicking and screaming.  It seems no major rock band has been spared; Journey, Chicago, Motley Crue, and more recently, Stone Temple Pilots have all lost key members.  Considering the egos, the fame, the substances, the money, perhaps it’s no wonder that astoundingly few musical groups begin and end their careers with the same personnel.  Nor is it surprising that, sometimes, the end of a band itself comes as a result of the wrong personnel change.

                  History shows that when the singer leaves, a band never quite rebounds.  Think the Cars.  Think Motley Crue.  It makes sense; the singer stands front and center, providing both the face and the voice of the group.  But it can be done.  Genesis survived and even thrived when Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel as lead singer, and many fans will forever think of Brian Johnson and not Bon Scott when considering AC/DC’s lead vocalist.  Van Halen made a nearly seamless transition when the band dumped singer David Lee Roth and replaced him with Sammy Hagar.  But fans quickly dubbed the new line-up “Van Hagar,” driving home the point that a band that undergoes a huge personnel change isn’t really the same band.  

                  Millions of fans were huge Journey fans back in the day when everyone was a huge Journey fan.  As the world listened to Escape on endless repeat, thousands of fans shared the thought that if Steve Perry ever quit the band, Journey would be no more, because they could never find anyone who sings like him.  And then Perry quit the band and the remaining members surfed the Internet and found a guy who sounds exactly like Steve Perry.  Singer Arnel Pineda joined the band in late 2007 and by most accounts has been well received by at least a portion of Journey’s fans.

                  But is that band still Journey?

                  And who decides? 

                  Much of the power lies with the fans.  When Hagar left Van Halen, the Van Halen brothers brought in former Extreme singer Gary Cherone to fill the gap.  The unpopular arrangement lasted just a few short years – a period followed up with a four-year band hiatus and the (temporary) return of Hagar.  And it seems fans haven’t paid much attention to non-Dennis DeYoung Styx (DeYoung was replaced with current singer Lawrence Gowan in 1999).  Styx continues to tour, but it has never been able to recapture the success it achieved when DeYoung provided the vocals and the sometimes over-the-top front man showmanship.  Genesis suffered a similar fate when Collins walked away from the band in 1996.  Collins was replaced by singer Ray Wilson – who lasted one short year, as fans showed no interest in the Wilson led album, Calling All Stations, or in the supporting tour.  Voting with their pocketbooks, fans decided that Genesis without Phil Collins was not Genesis. 

                  But fans don’t hold all the power, and thanks to complex contracts and corporate structures, and the legal answer of what makes up a band may differ from the aesthetic.  Most fans think about bands as, well, bands.  They ignore the fact that the four or five guys up on the stage making music are actually part of a corporation or some other formal legal arrangement, one governed by complex contractual terms and carefully spelled-out responsibilities.  Sure, everyone has heard about legendary contract riders requiring brown M&Ms to be picked out of candy bowls, but what fan thinks about boards of directors and CEOs and corporate governance when reading an album’s liner notes? 

                  Even though today’s megabands may have begun in someone’s garage, most are run not along the lines of a mom-and-pop shop but instead are set up to more closely resemble a Fortune 500 organization.  In turn, these arrangements often provide fertile ground for litigation once someone leaves the organization.  Recently, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, singer Robin Zander, and bassist Tom Peterson sued founding member and drummer Bun Carlos, asking the court to rule Carlos had been validly removed from the board of directors of Cheap Trick Unlimited, Inc. back in 2010 when Carlos stopped touring with the band (he was replaced by Nielsen’s son, Daxx).  Carlos maintains that he is still “in the band” even though he no longer tours, but his role in the corporate portion of Cheap Trick appears unclear.  Regardless of what fans may want, the decision of who makes up Cheap Trick now lies in the hand of a federal judge. 

                  Stone Temple Pilot is fighting a similarly strange battle as a result of the band’s firing of singer Scott Weiland earlier this year.  Upon hearing of his alleged dismissal in the press, Weiland said he did not understand how he could be terminated from a band that he fronted and founded, and for which he co-wrote numerous hit songs.  Weiland left the dispute for lawyers to figure out and, true to his word, he filed suit against his former band mates after they replaced him with singer Chester Bennington a few months later.  The remaining band members have begun calling themselves Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington in what appears to be a weak attempt to circumvent additional legal headaches.  The remaining members have sued Weiland to prevent him from calling himself a former member of the band, or from performing any of the Pilots’ songs.  

                  A court of law will decide whether Weiland gets to call himself a member of Stone Temple Pilots, but the court of public opinion will determine whether Stone Temple Pilots without Weiland is, actually, Stone Temple Pilots.  A change in a band line-up greatly differs from a corporate shuffle.  Most corporate board members are relatively anonymous entities; Steve Jobs aside, their faces rarely grace fans’ T-shirts and posters.  In the end, no matter how badly a band may want to replace its singer or guitarist or drummer, whether that band survives won’t depend upon the group’s corporate structure or contractual arrangements – or even on whether a band erases the departed band member’s face from tour merchandise, as Bon Jovi has done to Sambora – but instead on whether the band’s fans support the personnel change.  For Bon Jovi, time and album sales will tell whether Bon Jovi without Richie Sambora is Bon Jovi at all.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday Fiction: "Someday"

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week’s topic comes from Merryland Girl, who asked us to write a short piece of fiction.  After torturing myself for a week, heres my take:

                  The hood of the car creaked as Tommy popped the latch and pushed the rusting sheet of metal above his head.  As he snapped the thin prop rod into place, he wryly thought he should just leave the hood up permanently; the car rarely ran anymore, anyway.  He hunched over, ran his hands back and forth over his ripped jeans, and let out a long breath.  His knowledge of the workings of a car engine were limited to what he’d learned in auto shop back in Sayreville High School a handful of years earlier – when he’d bothered to show up.  He moved his head from side to side, wiggled a hose, flicked at the radiator cap.  There had to be some way to get the car to run; he just didn’t know what it might be. 

                  Not like he had anywhere to be, really.  He hadn’t worked in more than six months, not since his union went on strike and his job went along with it.  He pulled a stained rag from his pocket and wiped at some leaking oil and thought about the last time he’d earned a regular paycheck.  To say money was tight was a joke.  It was almost nonexistent, and he had the pile of bills to prove it. 

                  The car might as well stop working, he thought.  I can’t pay to put gas in the tank.

                  Disgusted, he slammed the hood and walked toward the house he shared with his wife, Gina.  Not even a proper house but a trailer, and not even a double wide.  They were lucky to have the trailer, a gift from Gina’s parents when they realized he couldn’t take care of their daughter.  Tommy kicked at a rock, mindlessly wondering how to spend the rest of another long day.  He never thought he’d miss leaving his house to go to work every day, waking early to spend ten hours at the dock alongside guys he’d known forever, guys like him, guys he knew from high school, guys who hadn’t been smart enough to make a plan and join the Army or go to college – to get out, once and for all.

                  He’d had a plan, of course he had.  He was going to be the biggest rock star to come out of New Jersey since Southside Johnny.  Bigger than Bruce; hell, as big as ol’ Blue Eyes himself.  It was all he’d ever wanted since he was twelve years old and his parents bought him his first guitar.  He’d played whenever he had time, and he’d played whenever he didn’t.  He sacrificed school and homework to play that guitar.  He wrote lyrics on his bedroom wallpaper, serenaded his parents with his newest tunes.  His folks believed in him.  They looked the other way when he broke curfew and stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, playing at clubs he wasn’t even old enough to legally enter.  They woke him for school, nudging him awake and whispering good morning as he rolled out of bed and grabbed the dark sunglasses he wore to cover his exhaustion as he went through the motions of another school day. 

                  By Senior year, he went to school for one reason:  Gina LoCarro.  She was the girlfriend of a friend and, thanks to the alphabet, she wound up sitting next to him in sixth period History.  At first, his interest grew out of pure necessity; Gina was a decent student, and he made friends to get his hands on her copious notes.  But later, when he realized that she was not only smart but also beautiful and funny, his goal became something else altogether.  He played it cool, and by the time Senior year wound down, they were dating exclusively.  Tommy loved everything about Gina:  her long, dark hair woven with thin strands of copper; her coffee-colored eyes; her laugh that seemed to come from the very bottom of her soul.  More than that, he loved who she was and how she made him feel.  Gina wasn’t like the other girls at Sayreville High.  She didn’t play games, and she didn’t suffer fools.  She had no interest in pink puffy dresses or wrist corsages, so they skipped prom for a night at the boardwalk.  She was comfortable with herself, and she felt no threat from the other women who tried to catch his eye at the nights he played at the clubs.  She let him know, ever so subtly, that other guys would be happy to have her, and that made him never take her for granted.  They married young – just a year after graduation – in a small ceremony in her parents’ back yard.  Gina wore a short black dress and big silver earrings, and Tommy wore Chuck Taylors and a suit he borrowed from his dad.  He and his band supplied the music for the party, though he made sure to steal a few dances with his new wife.  It was the happiest day of his life, a life he assumed would be full of many, many more happy days, all with Gina.

                  Just as he’d seen in his mind’s eye, their first year as husband and wife was happy.  He worked during the day at his friend’s music shop, fixing guitars and giving lessons to little punks with big dreams.  At night, he played.  He and his band worked all the clubs:  the Stone Pony, the Fast Lane.  They played weddings and bar mitzvahs and high school dances.  They didn’t care; an audience was an audience and cash was cash.  They limited themselves to just a few beers a show and managed to scrape together enough money to make demo tapes, which Tommy dutifully delivered to every record company executive in Manhattan.  No one bit, but Tommy didn’t worry.  It would happen . . . someday.  It would just take time.  And he had plenty of time. 

                  And then Gina got pregnant.  They wanted kids – lots of them – but he didn’t want to be a kid when he had them.  And that’s what he was, a twenty-year-old kid suddenly thrust into the role of father.  When the pregnancy test registered two pink lines, he and Gina didn’t even think twice.  They’d made their bed, they’d lie in it.  They would keep the baby.  Tommy gave up his job at the music store and took a full-time shift working for a shipping company down at the waterfront.  He unloaded boats, mindless, mind-numbing, backbreaking work.  He hated every minute of it.  But it was a union job and it paid the bills.  Or, well, it used to. 

                  The moan of the screen door snapped Tommy back from the docks.  He watched as Gina stepped onto the small wooden porch and gently pulled the door closed behind her.  She was dressed for work, her pink and white polyester diner uniform neatly pressed, her long, dark hair tightly tucked into a tight bun – a look Tommy hated.  He loved when she wore her hair down, just like she used to do when they drove up the coast, windows open, radio blaring.  But she rarely wore it like that these days; the baby liked to tug it, which drove Gina crazy.  So she pulled it back into a neat ponytail or a serious bun.  It doesn’t matter, Tommy thought, kicking the car tire, it’s not like we can take a drive up the coast.

                   Gina walked down the steps and tilted her head back toward the house, her tiny stud earrings glinting in the sun.  Tommy hated those, too.

                  “Baby’s asleep,” she said.  “I’ll be home after the dinner shift.”  She leaned over and kissed Tommy’s cheek.  “I’ll try to get a ride from Renee.”

                  Tommy waved goodbye.  He hated this.  All of it.  He hated living in a trailer.  He hated surviving on Gina’s paycheck and her measly tips.  He hated that he couldn’t even drive her to work, that she had to bum rides from co-workers or else take the bus, which she walked toward now.  He felt like a failure.  He wasn’t playing music and he couldn’t even take care of his family.  Here he was, standing in his tiny gravel yard, while his wife went to work another long shift at a crappy truck stop.  It killed him inside.  Gina never complained, not once.  But, sometimes, at night, she woke up crying.  Tommy knew why.  He’d hold her close and whisper, “It’s okay, Gina, it’s okay.  Things will get better.  We’ll make it.”  Someday, he’d think.  Someday.  The thought of those nights made him want to scream, to punch something, to shake his fists at the sky and curse the Universe and shake out all the rage he felt, all the fear.

                  Instead, he walked toward the trailer and quietly opened the door.  He didn’t want to wake the baby, so he didn’t bother to turn on the old TV set his parents had given them.  There’d be nothing on, anyway.  They couldn’t afford cable, so he’d have a choice between the screaming breeders on Maury or else a roundtable of middle-aged shrews on one of the other channels.  No thanks.  Bored and frustrated, he grabbed a notebook.  He’d write a song, his favorite way to manage his emotions.  His only way, really, now that he’d had to give up his guitar.  The baby had gotten sick a few months earlier, and they didn’t have the money for the doctor’s bills, so he brought his beloved Les Paul to the local pawn shop.  It broke his heart.  He’d lost his means of self-expression.  He used to make that guitar talk, but now it sat silent in the store window.  And he sat silent in his aluminum living room, holding it all in.

                  He found a working pen and flipped to a clean page.  He chewed the cap until inspiration hit.  And then he wrote:

                  Tommy used to work on the docks
                  Union’s been on strike, he’s down on his luck
                  It’s tough.  So tough.

The words started to flow, and he scribbled faster:

                  Gina works the diner all day
                  Working for her man, she brings home her pay for love . . .

                  Tommy could barely keep up with the words as the filled the page.  He scribbled furiously, tapping out a simple beat with his right Chuck Taylor.  He wrote the last word as the baby started to whine and fidget and let him know she was awake.  Tommy stuck the pencil behind his ear, closed the notebook, and slid it under a worn couch cushion.  He headed toward the crib, singing, as he walked, “We gotta hold on to what we got, doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.  We got each other and that’s a lot . . . ”

                  He scooped the baby up from her crib and kissed her forehead.  He felt good after getting his words out on paper.  He couldn’t play them on his guitar, but he could sing them, and he did.  He sang them to his daughter, the one with Gina’s big, dark eyes.  He danced her around the tiny trailer, his cheek pressed to hers.  The baby giggled with glee, and Tommy laughed.  He gave her another kiss and walked toward the bedroom to look for the Snugi they’d gotten from Gina’s sister.  He strapped the baby to his chest and walked toward the door.

                  “C’mon kid,” he said.  “You’re smarter than me.  Maybe you can figure out how to fix the car.”  He let the screen door slam behind them as he stepped down the stairs, walked to the car, and again popped the hood.  He crouched down and whispered into the top of the baby’s head, “So, what do you think?  Is it the carburetor?  Or is it the starter?”  The baby kicked her legs and squealed with delight. 

                  “The alternator, you say?  I hadn’t even thought of that.”  Tommy looked around at his little yard, his boxy trailer, his creaking porch, the rusting car.  He looked down at his little daughter, his healthy, perfect child.  For a fleeting moment, he considered his beloved guitar, standing in a window a few blocks away.  And he thought about the notebook, now tucked into the sagging frame of the hand-me-down couch.  He knew he’d get back to his music, just as soon as he could get the money to get his guitar out of hock, as soon as he caught up on bills and built a little nest egg for him and his little family. 

                  It will happen, he told himself . . . someday.

                  “Alright, kid, let’s go find my toolbox and give this a shot.”


Thursday, December 5, 2013

TGI -- Eh, Forget It

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week’s topic comes from Moma Rock, who asked:   What is your favorite day of the week, and your least favorite day of the week?
Here’s my take:
                  I’ll admit it:  I struggled with this one.

                  Since losing my lawyer job last July, my full-time job has consisted of taking care of my kids and running our household (that sounds so very Downton Abbey but it is so not).  Although each day is a little different, for the most part, my days are remarkably similar (and most, much to my husband’s disappointment, tend not to include cleaning of the actual house).  During the school year, each day dawns with me making breakfast, packing “cold” lunch for the 10 (the 7 likes hot lunch), keeping after the girls to get dressed (read:  “yelling”), and then driving them the handful of blocks to school.  With the exception of Thursdays when the 10 needs to remember to grab her cello (or I need to remember to remind her), the mornings rarely vary.  Afterschool introduces a bit of variety; the girls are both on swim team, which means swim practice on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at differing times (on Wednesday, they swim at the same time – at two different locations).  There’s no swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we instead venture out to another suburb for the 10’s therapy appointments, again at times that vary by day. 

                  If I had to pick one day to dislike, I guess Monday fits the bill because it is the most trying.  The 10 swims early, and both girls have gotten out of the homework routine and need a firm push right back in.  I pick them up from school at 3:35, ply them with a snack, and hound them to stop arguing and do some homework until we leave the house one short hour later to drop the 10 at practice.  By the time she gets home and eats dinner, she’s in no mood to do any more work, which often means a struggle with a tired pre-teen still clinging to the freedom of the just-passed weekend.  It’s not particularly fun for any of us.

                  The easiest days would be homework-free Saturday or Sunday – no therapy and no homework and no arguing about finishing math or vocabulary.  Unless it’s a swim meet weekend, we only take one trip to the Y – and my husband kindly volunteered to take the 10 to her 7 a.m. swim practice on Saturday.  I can’t say the weekend days are my favorites – there’s nothing particularly special about them – but they tend to be the least stressful.

                  Kinda boring, right?

                  Because my answer was so dull, I started thinking about how I would have answered that question a few months ago, before my days were completely ruled by the whims and schedules of little people.  Prior to losing my job, I used to work Tuesdays and Thursdays – roughly 10-11 hours each day – and then as needed from home.  I dreaded Tuesdays, not because I minded work, but because I had to wake up early and dress like a semi-professional and mentally get back into the swing of being in an office.  Thursdays were better because I knew I didn’t have to come back downtown for another five days, but they were still long.  I didn’t have the typical TGIF attitude because my “F” fell on a “Th” – and I still had to take care of the kids and the house on F. 

                  But one of the things I liked about working was that my Tues./Thurs. schedule gave my otherwise amorphous week a bit of structure.  Whenever I needed to schedule anything non-work related, I always blocked off those two days.  If I ran out of time with errands on Monday, I’d think, “Ok, I’ll do that Wednesday or Friday.”  Tuesdays and Thursdays were automatically off limits.  When that went away, I found myself strangely feeling like I had too much time.  If I ran out of time on Monday, I’d think, “I can do that Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Or Friday . . .  .”  It was odd; instead of feeling relief at having so much more time, the added hours overwhelmed me.  I felt like I was taking big gulps – not of water but of time.  And I felt like I was drowning. 

                  I’ve worked in one capacity or another since I was fifteen years old and a candy girl at my neighborhood movie theatre.  Not working feels foreign.  I haven’t yet been able to find a new job, and I can only do so much writing and crafting, so I decided to sign up for some volunteer work.  I chose to do so at a hospice.  As it should, volunteering to work with terminally ill people in their homes requires training and a background check, among other hoops, and I completed the physical and the fingerprinting and the training a few months ago.  I’m scheduled to begin the actual volunteering in the coming weeks.  I’ve committed to a few hours a week, divided however I choose.  I’m thinking I will do all of the hours in one day, and I’m curious as to how this will change the landscape of my week.  Will volunteering day become my favorite day of the week?  I’m certainly hoping so.   

                  But if nothing else, I’m hoping the time commitment will give me back some of the structure I’ve been craving the past few months.  Maybe I’ll do my volunteering on Monday to counterbalance the inevitable after-school storm I’ve come to dread just a bit, or maybe I’ll wait until Wednesday to break up the week.  Maybe it won’t matter what day I do it – maybe I just need to do it.

                  I do wonder whether, a few months down the road, my answer to this week’s question will change, just as it has from a few months past.  My fellow writing women and I may need to revisit this one down the road.  Stay tuned.

 In the meantime, bonus content:  Sir Jon Bon Jovi and Sir Bob Geldof singing about their least favorite day:  "I Don't Like Mondays"