After a long time and much curiosity, I've finally delved into the Twilight series. All I can say is this: I get it.
After all of these years and all of the excitement, I can see why so many people became obsessed with these treasures. Bella is someone guys want to be with and girls want to be. She is confident and funny. On the flip side, Edward is the most relatable vampire I've ever read. He is as powerful as Dracula and as charming as Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. It makes sense why Bella would fall in love with him.
However, consider me "Team Jacob." Resourceful and kind, I have developed a man-crush on the attractive Native American, who I imagine has pecs like Khan from Star Trek. I mean that in a completely heterosexual way. Spring Break has allowed me to rifle through the first two books, but all I can say is I hope to see Bella and Jacob making babies in the end.
Twilight has its share of critics. I was one of them. But it's getting kids to read, it's presenting a vivid world of exciting images, and perhaps most importantly, it's showing a healthy view of what true love should look like. True love shouldn't have limits such as requiring similar hobbies or similar species. As long as no one falls in love with underage kids or babies by the end of this series, I'm confident it will go down in history with other great literature.
There are many theories about the benefits of starting your day early. From Benjamin Franklin's "early to bed, early to rise" to Forbes claiming there's a direct correlation between early rising and success, it seems most people find value in waking up early.
However, in line with my worldview of finding grey along every black-white continuum, I believe waking up early in the morning may not be for everyone. Each person is built differently, and there simply has to be advantages for night owls who sleep in. That's what I found throughout much of my twenties, at least.
Now that I'm in my thirties, working at several colleges around San Diego and trying to complete writing projects, I have found that my habit of staying up late is simply not feasible. My old habit of going to sleep after 2 am and functioning the following day is a failed proposition. By 9 or 10 pm every night, my mind gives out on me and I can no longer get meaningful creative work done.
So I've decided to wake up early.
Now, since I do not wake up in the morning with great ease, I need a catalyst. Often this comes in the form of music -- songs that get me feeling like it would be better to be up and about than to lie in bed. So what songs are they? Too many to name. But if you're looking for a good start to the day, here's a few to start with:
1) "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Daryl Hall & John Oates
You would think that their success would have given them a larger music video budget than just jumping around in place like idiots (also, knowing that music videos are pantomimed, it's fun to put this one on mute and watch what the directors were seeing). However, it's hard to deny the lift this song can give you first thing in the morning. The opening keyboard riff brings a smile to the corner of your mouth, the bass drum lead-in gets your head moving, and before you know it, your whole body seems to respond with energy. This is a morning winner.
2) "Jump" by Van Halen
It's blindly optimistic, filled with 80s synthesizers, and the title is a simple action verb that literally tells you to move up. A bit more redundant than the first entry, but it provides the energy and positivity that can get anyone out of bed and ready to get their day started.
3) "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
This one offers multiple sources of joy. First, it's impossible to deny the sheer energy that accompanies the rhythm and lyrics of this song. It talks about waking up, going-going, and the band name even has an exclamation point. Then there's the video. Quoting a spattering of Youtube comments (never a safe thing to do): "I hope this is the first thing aliens see when they study Earth," "Even gay porn stars feel this is too much," and the obligatory "Orange Mocha Frappuccinos!" A fun one to start the day.
4) "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & the News
You can't listen to this song without feeling like you are on a skateboard rolling through the set of Back to the Future. Again, the song is upbeat and positive, making you feel like the day is not something to dread but instead something to embrace. If it's good enough for Marty McFly, it's good enough for me.
5) "A Beautiful Morning" by The Rascals
The first lyric bluntly tells you what you want to hear when you wake up: "It's a beautiful morning!" Unlike the spattering of 80s songs above, this one is more mellow; however, that doesn't take away from the mood it sets. What it lacks in energy, it makes up for in serenity. You hear the steady rhythm, the alto voice, and the calming lyrics -- what could go wrong today?
6) "What's Up?" by Four Non Blondes
What a stupid song, right? Who wakes in the morning, steps outside, takes a deep breath, gets real high, and screams from the top of his/her lungs, "What's going on?!" I'll tell you who: insane people. Those who are batshit crazy. However, it's another song that gets you up out of bed and puts a smile on your face, so why over think it?
7) "In the Mood" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
Perhaps the best of them all. It's fast, it's swingin', it's got a cymbal line that makes you want to be a drummer, and it doesn't have any pesky words to make you think. I dated a girl in college who called this "pancake music," because it's perfect to wake up to on a Sunday and make pancakes. No matter how you stack it, this is a track that will get you ready to go for the day!
There are tons of other songs, but these were the first that came to my mind. Feel free to add to the list!
About three years ago, I applied to teach English at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, an all girls Catholic high school in San Diego, California. I had taught middle school for the six years that preceded my effort, and I decided that teaching high school suited me better. I knew that I ultimately wanted to teach at a college level, but I did not have a qualifying degree completed yet, and I thought this would be a good compromise in the meantime.
My CV was as strong as it needed to be, and during the interview I connected with every member of the panel. Apart from saying all the "right" things, I said a few things that came out of left field and excited the English department. I told them that I wanted to coach sports. I told them that I lived close by and was excited to be able to take part in so many extracurriculars. I even said I wanted to start a Creative Writing program, something they didn't have.
"You finish your MFA in another year, so you would be more than qualified to teach Creative Writing in high school," said one teacher. "That would be a huge hit here, wouldn't it?"
Her colleagues nodded excitedly. The interview went so well that we even exchanged a few hypotheticals about collaboration in the department. In short, I had this job locked up. I was excited for the new chapter in my career.
About a week later, I got an e-mail from the Department Chair thanking me for my interest. She said they had decided to hire someone else. I felt a sense of defeat.
As I always do, I sent a "thank you anyway" response, letting her know that I was disappointed but that I thoroughly appreciated the consideration and the opportunity to interact with the small department during my interview. Something compelled me, however, to be candid.
"I have to admit, this comes as a surprise," I wrote. "After the interview, I felt as though I had great chemistry with the other members of the department. Is there any reason in particular that I was not hired, or was it simply a better fit elsewhere?" I expected the canned, diplomatic, "We decided to go in another direction," but I got something else.
"The Principal did not want to hire a young man at an all girls school."
Why even interview me then? Why build up the hope of a young, aspiring educator? And while there have certainly been instances of inappropriate teacher-student relationships, wasn't that a bit presumptuous to assume that all qualified male instructors of a certain age group would be more likely to engage in such shenanigans?
Notice how each of the above concerns is founded in ego. Thankfully, I have a wise father who reminded me that something else would come up. "Maybe it's for the best."
Three years later, I am not merely teaching -- I am in love with my job. Moving to the college level was the best decision I have ever made -- professionally and even socially. I now have peers who share my passions and I have energy to spend outside of my workplace. In many ways, that rejection saved me, because I was overstressed teaching at the middle school level and who is to say that high school would have been any break for my mind?
I still remember the feeling I had when I was told, "Sorry, but no." I felt disrespected and deceived. I felt that creeping, "What now?" dread we all have when considering our life direction. But just like any other situation, the days passed, the sun kept going up and down, and enough doors and windows opened for me to find other opportunities.
The Dalai Lama once said, "Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." What luck I had in failing to get that high school job!
Most people hate themselves.
Do you know how I know this? Because so often I hear people profess, "I hate traffic." If they don't "hate" it, they bemoan how "bad" it is. At the very least, they say, "I was late because of traffic."
The thing is: you are traffic. Everyone is.
Even if you're not on the road, you're probably foot traffic in a line or on a sidewalk. Your mass takes up space that can, at times, delay those around you -- the same way they delay you. When it comes down to it, we're all "in the way" people.
Traffic is not some foreign entity that congeals before you to create inconvenience. Rather, it is a massive congregation of individuals, many of whom have the same purpose -- to get somewhere. At the risk of sounding obvious, if you decided to stay home one day and leave the car in the garage, that would be one less car in the traffic jam. If everyone else made the same decision, there would be no traffic.
Thus, if you hate traffic, you hate what you create. You hate what you are a part of. You hate yourself.
As is often the case in life, there is an exception. However, it's not exactly favorable. If you claim you hate traffic, but are unwilling to extend it to a secret hatred of yourself, it may signify sociopathic egomaniacal tendencies. Rage, anger, or even frustration over an abundance of cars sharing the road with you is one of the ultimate signs of inflated ego. And often that is how people react: those cars are in MY way. They are delaying ME. I don't like it!
Not only does the irrational ego reaction to traffic make you angry and uncomfortable, it makes you drive like an asshole. And despite what you might think, driving like an asshole does not help anyone -- not even yourself. Zigging and zagging through idling vehicles often fails to make you move any faster (in fact, I often pass those ziggers a half mile later, mid-zag), but worse yet, it harms the functionality of the organism that you are a part of. The reason fish can swim so efficiently in schools is because everyone works together as a unit. They don't "step" out of line. Doing so would create chaos. It's the same with birds flying in formation. Creating uncertainty in other drivers urges them to react by applying their brakes. This ends up making traffic worse, of course. And if you happen to get into a fender bender? You just added 20 minutes to everyone's commute -- even your own.
Instead, viewing traffic from a new perspective may be the way to better tolerate our slow moving journeys. As my cousin Brian often states, it's a matter of bandwidth. The road can only hold so much "data" without "overloading." Therefore, consider a more logical approach. Before you think, "How can I help ME?," think "How can I make this entire system function more efficiently?" Sometimes that entails "late merging" rather than cutting people off to get to your favorite lane. At other times, and more often than you would think, it entails LETTING SOMEONE IN. It's comical how often people speed up to fill a gap in traffic that literally saves one second of their time. Allowing someone with a signal into your lane is such a minor inconvenience -- and if everyone did it, the gesture would work in your favor just as often.
What if I'm late? I hear you ask. Listen, I'm the king of being late. I'm late everywhere. Often I don't leave one place until a minute before I need to be at the next because I watch so much Star Trek that I forget transporting doesn't exist. But when I need to be on time, I find a way. If you need to be somewhere early, leave early. If there is nothing you can do to be on time because of traffic, realize that it's likely not the end of the world either way. Even if you lose your job, your girlfriend, or whatever else is at stake, the sun will still set in the evening, rise in the morning, and your happiness will still be attainable. In short, try to embrace the stillness in traffic that we so often allow to escape us.
I used to "hate traffic" before I had this realization; I no longer do. In fact, when I am leaving work around 4:30 pm and heading straight into the belly of the beast, instead of telling people of my dread, I now say something far more accurate:
"I'm off to be traffic."
Because really, in one way or another, traffic is what we all are.
There are days when inspiration feels nearly impossible to find. Today seemed primed to be one of those.
I had just finished my morning shift at Starbucks. Only one customer had given me any attitude, but it happened precisely as my boss was moseying by. The fact that this customer was having a bad day ended up frustrating several of us behind the counter. Naturally, my boss knew that my co-workers and I hadn't done anything wrong, but it created a bit of unnecessary hullabaloo. Somewhat stressed, I sat down to twiddle my thumbs across my phone and discovered that the tragic plane crash two days ago in Europe was quite possibly intentional. Great, I thought. What is the matter with humans?
At the exact moment I had that thought, my cell phone rang in my hands. "Mom Cell." She never calls this early, I thought. What could it be now?
I'll tell you what it was: news that made the rest of my morning disappear immediately.
My uncle, who has been renting out space to some unfriendly cancer in his lymph nodes for quite a while now, had found a perfect match for a marrow transplant. The odds of this are so slim it is difficult to describe. Not only must someone match all of the criteria -- they must be willing to undergo the process with a complete stranger. Over the past month, two matches had opted out. However, a kind soul in Germany (five words that rarely go together in that order)*, had not only matched, but had said YES.
This might save my uncle's life.
It got me thinking. If this happened today, things of this sort must be happening all the time. How many people have their lives saved on a daily basis? We never hear about the bone marrow matches, or the kidney transplants, or anything in that realm. We always hear about the mass murders, the plane crashes.
Part of that is because plane crashes have an element of gore that attracts the dark side of us humans. They are so rare and tragic, it is difficult for us to look away. Also, many people find a sick sort of pleasure in the macabre. It's almost as if they like the emotional jolt of pain.
But how beautiful is it to know that flanking these tragedies are innumerable acts of selflessness, courage, and compassion? We don't always realize it because they don't necessarily happen to us -- and they certainly do not make the news. But if you are in need of inspiration today, just think about my uncle and that generous soul in Germany.
So next time you turn on the TV to watch a show about death, sadness, and loss… or the next time you find yourself glued to news stories about terror…
Remember that a lot of good is happening -- whether you like it or not.
*This is what we call a joke. Take it. Laugh.
In honor of Spring Break 2015, I am switching today's blog from "What I'm Reading" to "What I'm Watching." This is my way of celebrating the fact that I don't have to read anything for the next 10 days.* In that spirit, below are the TV shows and movies I'm looking forward to in the next week:
1) 30 Rock -- I am currently in the beginning of Season 2, watching it for the first time. For those who have watched it, don't spoil anything for me. For those who have yet to watch it, I highly recommend adding this to your queue! Tina Fey is charming, Alec Baldwin is at his best, and the side characters are compelling without being annoying or trite. The plot lines can be a bit off the wall, but this is a show of subtlety -- its best moments come when you least expect it.
2) Star Trek: The Next Generation -- This is always in my queue for a few reasons. Most importantly at this moment is that I'm trying to get Millie into it (and it seems to be working -- she calls Worf her "boyfriend"). Secondly, this show is fantastic for getting your own mind thinking in more literary ways. The episodes often deal with ethical dilemmas and the "human condition," so I'm often left with good ideas to write about.
3) Furious 7 -- I will be at the midnight showing on April 3 whether I have a friend with me or not. While my interest in this series is from a relatively campy standpoint (I'm aware that these films are not what you might call "cinema"… or even "films"), I do thoroughly enjoy a mindless rush of adrenaline from time to time. For those of you who mock the first six installments to the series, I urge you to give numbers 4, 5, and 6 a chance. They realized after Tokyo Drift that fans wanted less car racing and more of a "heist" atmosphere. The three movies that precede the upcoming 7th installment are all in the same vein as Ocean's 11, if you liked that series. Also, Paul Walker. Come on.
4) Opening Day for Major League Baseball -- It's been a few years since I've been this excited for baseball to return. Part of that is because football has felt rather contrived the past few seasons, almost as though someone from the WWE was hired to write back stories and scripts; basketball truly does not matter until the playoffs because the team with the best individual player will almost always advance to the Conference Finals, at worst; and nobody will watch hockey with me.
Let's go Cubbies!
What else is worth watching this time of year? I'm in particular need of movies, because my TV queue is already loaded.
What do you notice in the picture above?
Casual fans might say, "That's the Rat Pack." True connaisseurs could name off Lawford, Sinatra, Martin, Davis, and Bishop. But apart from the men in the image -- what else stands out?
I saw a hip-hop artist named 2 Chains on a TV show last night and, while actually wildly entertaining, I could not believe the depths in taste our society had sunk to when looking at his wardrobe. Apart from wearing oversized designer sunglasses (indoors), he also wore two extremely ornate gold chains around his neck, an inordinately large black and grey fur boa, a flat-billed baseball cap, and God only knows what else on the lower half (he was seated at a table). A supposedly grown man, by the way.
Suffice it to say, what I wanted to point out in the above picture is the fact that each man is dressed smartly -- the epitome of class. However, I guess the old-fashioned look isn't so "hip" anymore.
Amazingly, though, if you ask most people in entertainment who was more "cool" between Sinatra and Dino or 2 Chains, nearly everyone would go with the Rat Pack duo. Why?
This is an issue for a much longer blog, but my belief is that we are living in a society so intrinsically connected to conspicuous consumption and image consciousness that stars truly feel like they are displaying their personality through their outfits. In fact, I distinctly remember fellow students telling me they hated our high school uniforms because they couldn't "show their personality." Even then, I thought the entire concept was outrageous.
How do items worn on the exterior of a human body have anything to do with PERSONality? It blows my mind the way this concept has become almost universally accepted.
In the old days, these men got on stage and distinguished themselves with their attitudes, their talents, their humor, and their interactions. Could you tell who you were looking at based solely on outfit? Absolutely not. However, the moment you heard Joey Bishop busting Sammy Davis, you knew who you were listening to. You also knew that each of these guys was full of life, full of laughs, and full of substance.
On the other hand, I saw 2 Chains wearing his outfit and it reminded me of a Li'l Wayne concert I went to, when another supposed "grown man" came onstage wearing red sweat pants and a tank top. For his job. Placed next to one another, I couldn't distinguish them. Personality-wise, each seemed apathetic and aloof. Style-wise, each seemed blind.
Our society is trying to get louder and louder with the wrong parts of ourselves. We are adding accessories, but losing depth. This may be a futile call to action, but I urge each of you to -- whether it be in yourself or in another -- help instill the REAL personality distinctions. Show your passion, show your humor, and show your love for one another.
And if you are really good at doing that, you can wear the most ordinary outfit possible -- and people will know exactly what you stand for.
Due to a road trip, I was unable to post my Philosophy Friday before today. Here, then, is this week's edition.
Anger is something that feels out of our control; however, this is not entirely true. Sure, as humans, we have emotional reactions to events that are what we would call “knee-jerk.” Many schools of thought preach how dangerous it is to “suppress” anger, so how else are we supposed to respond when we get mad other than unleashing our rage on the world?
There is another option: allowing the anger to simmer until it cools off – then acting accordingly. Here’s an example of what I mean:
My parents decided to switch over to DirecTV last weekend because it offered them a better option for the upcoming baseball season. They could buy the “Sports Package,” which included Comcast Chicago. This, the official network of the Chicago Cubs, would broadcast some 85 games for only $7.99 a month! Or so they thought.
When ordering his new package, the salesman told my father he would indeed get CSN Chicago, which “carries most Cubs games,” but he failed to note in the fine print that live broadcasts would only be available to viewers in the local market.
Flash-forward to four days later, when I tried to turn on a Blackhawks game and find out it is blacked out. Only then did my dad realize that he was not going to see a Cubs regular season game on this network. Talk shows, highlight shows, specials – those were part of the package. Once a game started – BLACKOUT.
I could see my dad’s jaw tighten as he tried to keep the smoke from coming out of his ears.
He called DirecTV to vent. And boy did he let them have it.
Now, was his anger justified? Sure. He had been told one thing, signed a contract, and received something else. That would make anyone mad. But did he have to allow the anger to dictate his response? You tell me.
First, it was Charles, who sat on the other end of the phone while my dad explained to him that Daniel (the original salesman – a man who, I’m sure, has never heard of Charles) was a bald-faced liar.
“He told me I’m getting all of the Cubs games – it seems like he lied to me.”
Of course, Daniel and Charles work for DirecTV – not Major League Baseball – so neither had any idea how the contracts between major sports organizations and satellite companies functioned.
“Shouldn’t they know that?!” my dad said to me.
“I don’t know. Maybe you’re right.”
After Charles tried apologizing to no avail, he admitted he couldn’t help my dad and passed him off to Agent #3: Gracie.
My dad decided it would be fun to give Gracie the old switcheroo. He pretended that he had never actually ordered DirecTV in the first place. A poor-man’s sting operation was in full effect. He started from the beginning, trying to trap Gracie into re-telling the original “lie.”
“So I’ll get Comcast Chicago?”
“So I’ll get all the Cubs games they broadcast?”
“Now YOU’RE lying to me just like Daniel.”
Gracie, confused and defensive, passed my dad off to Adam. The pattern continued, with no productive result.
As I sat watching this fruitless game of “pass-the-buck” continue, I finally asked my dad: “What’s your goal?” He wasn’t going to get the Cubs games on CSN. DirecTV couldn’t do anything about MLB policy. He also wasn’t going to get Daniel or Gracie fired – which seemed to have replaced the Cubs games as his prime directive.
While on hold, phone pressed to his ear, he considered my question but had trouble coming up with an answer.
Obviously, he felt taken advantage of and wanted reparations. To a large extent, he had been taken advantage of. He would not have ordered DirecTV to begin with had he known about the contractual obligations of MLB. Yet, he also didn’t consider that this could have been an honest misunderstanding for all parties involved.
To those of you who know my father, you know he’s an intelligent, patient man. But anger has a way of overpowering admirable qualities and blinding a person to empathy. For the near-hour that my dad ranted and raved to anyone with working ears at DirecTV, he failed to consider that his problem may have been out of the purview of even his initial salesman. Rather than working productively to solve the issue, it kept spiraling into a futile jousting match of “lies, lies, lies” from one representative to the next. I don’t want this. I want something else. I don’t like this. It was – like most anger – an exhibition in ego.
However, once he became so flustered that his only option was to hand the phone to me, he saw a different approach. Now, I’m not saying that I am – in any way – better than my dad or anyone else at handling anger. It was not my cable bill – nor was I the one who had been swindled – so it was far easier for me to detach and handle the conversation with mild amusement. I explained to Stephanie (Agent #5 at this point) that I believed the problem was a mix-up, and all my father wanted was to cancel the service. As I expected, she, too, was unaware of contractual overlaps. When she finally understood the issue rather than the anger, she apologized and vowed to rectify the situation the best she could. This is when my dad said, “I can take it from here.”
Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go again.
But my dad had calmed down. He finally was allowing logic and reason (two of his strengths, usually) to dictate his conversation with the agent instead of emotion. He was focused on proactive solutions rather than reactive outbursts. No longer were his words provoking or eliciting defensive remarks. Instead, the two discussed what could be done to address the actual problem.
And that’s when something beautiful happened. I was sitting across the room and saw my dad’s eyebrows jump up in surprise.
“Wow,” he said. “That is more than I ever could have expected. Thank you.”
Stephanie, now speaking to a man whose voice was patient and understanding, had extended an olive branch: since nothing could be done to fix the CSN problem, what if they offered him MLB Extra Innings (i.e., every single MLB game in 2015) for free as compensation?
To recap, my dad thought he was going to get 85 Cubs games with Daniel’s “lie.” Now he’s getting 162.
How many problems could be solved if we switched our knee-jerk reactions of frustration and anger to thoughtful responses of compassion, empathy, and the awareness of the true nature of our circumstances?
In the end, as my dad sat back and praised the kindness of DirecTV representatives, I reminded him of the initial error. What he had viewed as “bad” and as worthy of his anger had ended up resulting in a much better situation than his original expectation. Had the mistake never occurred, he would have found only half the treasure that he ended up getting.
Buddha once said, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
My dad dropped the coal. Things worked out.
Keep that in mind the next time you get mad – even if its justified. Let the anger burn until it cools off. Move on with a smile.
Sometimes inspiration can come through commiseration.
A few years ago I found myself in the unique situation of sitting next to a man I found so similar to myself that it was frightening. There were obvious differences. The first – and perhaps most noticeable – was the fact that he was 82 years old. But what is age?
His name was Joe Tramontana. He was a former singer and writer. He was American-Italian. He had a crass sense of humor. Me, me, and me, I thought. But underneath his gregarious sense of humor and charismatic stage presence, I saw a quiet vulnerability that I related to. I suspected there had been a lot of angst in his life. I felt some pain.
And then after a couple of drinks, I found my suspicions to be true.
We talked for hours that first night about work, family, and women. Boy, did he have a lot to say about women.
“Oh, the girls that you can find if you sing the right songs!” he laughed. “Let me tell you…”
But soon, the topic of love dominated our discourse. At intervals between sharing our exploits of loves won and loves lost, we would get called onto stage to sing a few tunes. Somewhat expectedly, the night went from swing tunes (“Ain’t that a kick in the head!”) and Italian standards (“La lariula, pesce fritte baccala!”) to ballads. The tone of the songs matched the tone of our tales.
He asked me if I had ever been in love. I answered truthfully. One time, for real. Then maybe a time or two after, but I wasn’t sure.
“Love after the first one can be wonderful,” he said. “But it’ll never be the first one again.” Another round of drinks – Crown Royal for me, club soda for Joe T.
I told him the ways in which I had lost my first love – the immaturity, the impulsiveness, the petty jealousies. His story wasn’t all that different. We laughed at how similarly we had chased away people that still meant so much to us, though each had been absent from our lives for many, many years.
Then he got up and said, “I got a song you’ll like.”
He sang “Dio, Come Ti Amo” by Jack Jones.
“Dio, come ti amo,”
I still can hear her say.
“Oh, God, how much I love you…”
Yet I walked away.
He had command of everyone’s attention at the Red Fox. I sipped my Crown and tried not to cry in public.
When he finished, he told me that this song always reminded him of his first love. I found it both tragic and beautiful to hear such an admission from someone who had experienced so much life, had such perspective.
“You can’t regret it, but you can admit when you did something stupid.”
A year or two passed and I would see Joe from time to time at the Red Fox. His health was worsening (cancer), but his presence never faded. The Tuesday nights when he came to sing were always treasures.
One night, to show my appreciation for Joe and all he had shared with me, I took the stage and said, “This one’s for you, Joe.” Everyone at the bar knew him, of course. I sang the Italian version of “Dio, Come Ti Amo.” It had taken me a few weeks to perfect, but I was so proud of the fact that I had memorized the original, powerful dirge. I sang it with passion, with lost love on my brain, and when I finished I looked to him. I wanted so badly for him to know how much he had meant to me as a role model, for him to be moved by my song. Others turned to see his reaction, as well.
He nodded slowly before speaking.
“What in the hell are you singing it in Italian for? Nobody can understand a goddamn word you sang!”
Everyone around the bar, including me, broke into laughter. I threw my hands up in mock defeat. Only Joe would be able to take a moment where I bared my soul, trivialize it in front of an entire room of listeners, and somehow make me feel even closer to him. He told me he wanted to “show me how it was done,” so he sang the English version. I’d be lying if I said he didn’t blow me away.
About a year ago, I got an e-mail from my good friend Paul that Joe T. had passed away. The last time I saw him, we had traded jabs about who sang “Return to Me” better. He told me to keep on singing those songs so they didn’t go away.
That night, I went to the Red Fox and sang “Dio, Come Ti Amo” in his honor. The first verse, I sang in English. Wherever he was, I wanted him to understand “all the goddamn words.” Then, because I knew Joe well enough to know he’d want a laugh, I switched to the mother tongue. Paul, playing the piano, knew exactly why. It was hard to hold back the tears, but I knew Joe was smiling somewhere.
He still inspires me when I sing, when I write, and when I love. You never know when you’re going to be sitting next to an 82 year-old mirror. I’m glad that I had the good sense to open the door to my mind that night.
(As a bonus, here's a video of me singing the Italian version at Bistro 60. Joe, I hope this pisses you off just a little!)
Today will be another day filled with student papers, but in addition to the many analyses of texts from Classical India, I will also indulge myself in the following:
- Don't Worry, Be Grumpy by Ajahn Brahm (sort of my devotional at this point)
- For the Benefit of All Beings: A Commentary on The Way of the Bodhisattva by the Dalai Lama
I will also be listening, of course, to the music I promised from last week. Here's what me and :) came up with. Enjoy...
"Autumn in New York" by Billie Holliday
"Dream a Little Dream of Me" by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
"Feelin' Good" by Nina Simone
"So in Love" by Cole Porter
"Summertime" by Ella Fitzgerald
"It's Impossible" by Perry Como
"Georgia On My Mind" by Ray Charles
"Stardust" by Nat King Cole
"Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
"I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" by Tommy Dorsey
"Everybody Loves Somebody" by Dean Martin
"Standing on the Corner" by Dean Martin
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" by Dean Martin (feat. Chris Botti)
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