Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Grandma Berkshire

My grandma is one tough cookie. She grew up during The Great Depression, sent a husband off to World War II, raised 4 kids and beat lung cancer. When I was little she was always a bit more frightening to me than my grandpa and I still don’t know exactly why, she was only ever really mad at me once, when I carelessly tore a chunk out of a tree while mowing her yard.

I’d often be over at my grandparent’s house during the summer, especially once I was old enough to be allowed to ride my bike the two miles to their place. Lunch was always around 11:15 and dinner around 4 or so. Grandma wasn’t too big on baking or cooking like Donna Reed, but the food was always good and there was always enough to fill up on. I used to put Bugles on each finger and eat them off one by one, or snack on Tater Skins. Sometimes when my cousins were visiting we’d be able to convince her to get a box of pizza rolls for us to share.

After grandpa died and my parents divorced I found myself stuck with the job of being the man of two houses. I would walk through the cemetary past my grandfather’s grave to get to her house. I resented this at first, I was in middle school, starting high school and there were plenty of other things I would have rather done than clean gutters and mow the yard and trim trees at two different houses. I got over this as my grandma got older and I grew older and into the realization at just how much I was needed. Relatively, I wasn’t needed very much, but it was enough to speak to me. When I went off to college the little chores would pile up until I came home on a break and I’d hear from my grandma how my mom was too busy to bother often and from my mom how my grandma needed help so often. [And I’ll get in trouble from both of them if they read this].

Grandma is nearly impossible to beat at scrabble and euchre [although she makes an excellent partner at the latter]. She also kicked crossword ass when she still did them. A couple of years ago she moved out from the house in Connersville and moved to Noblesville in a sort of retirement community/assisted living sort of place, her emphysema and poor eyesight make it hard for her to do much. I don’t see her as often as I used to, and I don’t even call as often as I used to. I sometimes wonder if she still gets joy from her life and family or if she is just waiting.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Refection Reflection

Since my library books and Amazon order haven’t arrived yet I started rereading David Cooper’s Existentialism last night. I picked this up at a table in the faculty building at Notre Dame many years ago. This was a very cool table. Profs would drop whatever books they no longer had a use for there for other profs [and piratical students like myself] to snatch. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about this table until my junior year, thereby missing two years of potentially awesome library building.

In any case, apart from a few copies of The New Yorker whose covers I coveted until I threw them out, this volume is the only one I can actually be certain came from the holy table. Coming as it did, post- my existentialist philosophy course, this book has served as a refresher since that day. Last night, the same section that always catches my eye caught my eye last night in the same section. If you use Amazon’s Search Inside This Book feature and go to page three you can read it for yourself and a bit more. I’ll still excerpt the critical point.

…to quote Kierkegaard again, ‘an existing individual is always in the process of becoming.’ …no complete account can be given of a human being without reference to what he is in the process of becoming. … “As Heidegger puts it, the human being is always ‘ahead of himself’, always unterwegs (“on the way”). …Unlike the stone, whose essence or nature is ‘given’, a person’s existence, writes Ortega y Gasset ‘consists not in what it is already, but what it is not yet…Existence…is the process of realizing…the aspiration we are.’

This is always a good reminder for me when I get frustrated about the difficulty in realizing my aspirations. As long as I exist, I’ll be in the process of becoming something new. Satisfaction and must arise from the journey while motivation must arise from the destination, even if never reached. That’s almost exactly the point of Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus.

My application and understanding of this idea doesn’t bind fully to a pure existentialism [which probably doesn’t exist], but it works well enough for me.

Monday, 28 August 2006

Yes, But What Goes Unsaid

I had a full and excellent weekend, full of superlatives. I had sushi at Pacific East because Kimo’s was closed for the Indian’s game, watched A Murder of Crows by Mac Wellman at The Liminis and had a Pisco Sour and Bourbon Daisy at the VTR. A Murder of Crows [I’m probably going to go see it again to make sure] may very well be my new favorite play. I didn’t really have an old favorite play, but this one fit right up my alley. I got a sweet ‘biner clip with built-in flashlight at the VTR too.

On Saturday I grilled some kebabs from the WSM and made the most delicious pork chop I’ve ever had. Yes, a few weeks ago I said the same thing, but this chop was better. Heirloom tomatoes and roasted corn on the cob completed the meal. I also puttered around Market Square and the City Xpressionz [God I hate typing like I’m l33t] spray-paintathon.

Sunday I did my laundry and went to see Thee Silver Mt. Zion and BLKTYGR at the Grog Shop. Rafeeq & Co. put on the best show I’d seen from them and Thee Silver Mt. Zion made me think about the melding of politics and art. How all too often art is used in the service of politics instead of the other way ’round. Thee Silver does it the other way ’round and the music definitely benefits from it.

I should also mention that I made my first [and hopefully last] visit to Crocker Park over the weekend. That place is the flagship of American decadence and moral bankruptcy. An enclosed suburban “lifestyle center” [“mall” is too prole, apparently] designed to look urban, complete with residential lofts above the big boxes, speakers vomiting top-40 muzak from the ’80s hidden behind the careful landscaping and the whole place made my skin crawl. Seriously. Suburban faux-urban loft apartments above a rich-person-only mall where you can buy a parking space so you don’t have to walk as far to the stores. I didn’t see one non-white person the entire time I was there. WASP city. The place made my skin fucking crawl. More on Little Citadels.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Passport and Tickets

I got my passport and my Notre Dame football tickets in the mail yesterday. I’ll be going to the Penn State game with my uncle, the same one who took me to my first ND game [and Lou Holtz’s last] as my 16th birthday present. Tickets for Michigan, Purdue and UCLA also go to him, but I’ve got tickets for the Monogram game against Army to mark the tenth anniversary of my first ND game.

The passport turnaround was much faster than I thought. Something like a month instead of 3 like I’d heard. Good thing too, because Americans won’t be able to get back into the US from Canada without a passport starting January 1, 2007.

Also received in the mail yesterday: Finder.

Monday, 21 August 2006

I Keep Forgetting These Goddamn Titles

My high school buddy Phil came in this weekend for a visit. We did a tiny music odyssey, went to a show at The Church, the Rock Hall, and the Happy Dog. Even though this wasn’t the best weekend to see a band [nobody particularly big was playing] we still rocked out to noise on Friday and bluegrass on Saturday. Proving once again that no matter what your musical taste, there you’ll be able to find a place in Cleveland playing it.

Friday, 18 August 2006

Labels Redux

I’ve written about my resistance to labels several times. Yet after The Shondes show the other night I found myself thinking in other paths. I was wearing my Don Hertzfeldt “Rejected” shirt, perhaps as a mostly unconscious association with the meaning of The Shondes and the fact that I was going to a show full of performers who are marginalized. Yet in retrospect I feel that in my disdain of labels I might have appropriated one that I have no right to.

I’m a Catholic white middle-class straight male. I’m anything but a shonde, anything but rejected [except when it comes to getting a new job]. In my label-disdain I think I neglected to recognize that when people willingly label themselves [in contrast to accepting a label] a subtle exchange of power takes place. This is probably right in there with the reclamation of “nigger” and “queer” which I’ve understood in theory but never internalized.

By embracing the label of a marginal group a person gains grist for the grinding away of the millstone status quo. Because the acceptance of the label is willed instead of enforced, my old saw about how labels limit more than they specify changes. The limitation now becomes focused [like a laser beam, Andy] and strong enough to balance the exchange of power to those who don’t recognize this next bit. It is almost like “Tom Hanks as Tom Hanks in Tom Hanks from Space”. By that I mean the label-chooser retains all the power of labelless humanity in addition to the focus provided by their chosen label; to those who understand the reasoning behind their choice. So, for example, The Shondes are even more powerful than the people who have cast them out realize. By going on making rock as “just folks” who happen to use shonde-itude as a slap-back to society, they’re operating on a different level.

For me, my disdain of labels is probably caused by the fact that I am so mainstream/majority. I have no need to adopt a label because, at a fundamental, selfish level, the world has already set my plate the way I like it.