Category Archives: Uncategorized

oh hey, it’s the 90s

My husband and I share a bond around our taste in music.  It amused me to no end that after getting my number at Bar Sinister, he STILL had to check my MySpace profile to be sure that I had what he calls “decent taste” in music before he asked me on a date.  I hear that there are couples out there who do not share the same taste in music, but we are not one of them.  Instead, sharing our love of the genre loosely referred to as “alternative” is a huge part of our relationship.  I copy his playlists, laced as they are with Cut Copy and Grimes.  He listens to the same goth podcasts I do.  My taste goes a little further into synthpop (Depeche Mode), his goes further into indie rock (the Pixies) but it’s a wide range of overlap.

So when I read that the 1992 VMAs were up on YouTube, I wanted to watch them with Paul.  He initially questioned why I would want to spend two hours watching a twenty-four year old award ceremony, until he remembered that was the performance where Kris Novoselic from Nirvana clocked himself on the head with his own bass.  Then he was in.  Not only do Paul and I share a love of Nirvana, but we also share a love of mocking things!

This has kicked off a two night mini-marathon of mocking the 90s by watching the 1992 and 1993 VMAs.  Do not get me wrong: Paul and I love the 90s.  Despite it being a decade that gave us Stone Temple Pilots, it also produced a lot of earnestly emotional artists like Tori Amos.  Paul and I both came of age in the 90s and can happily yap about music from that era for hours.  It’s just so strange watching a pop culture event from that era, a perfect time capsule, a moment captured forever.

Media from the 90s also has a weird quality of being from a parallel dimension.  There was no Internet and no texting.  People still had to dial a 1-900 to vote for a video!  The culture and mores are so close to our own, but the underlying access to instant information and communication is missing.  It’s like an alternate reality with no Internet or cell phones.  It’s so strange to see that and realize that the access to instant written messages would take place so quickly that culture wouldn’t even have a chance to dramatically change before it became ubiquitous.

And somewhat ironically, the Internet’s inexhaustible trove of information is what makes these things fun.  As each celebrity showed up on stage, we immediately started discussing why they were there.  How would we know why Christian Slater was hosting the 1993 VMAs unless we could use IMDB to verify that True Romance had just come out?  (OK, also, he said it about a minute after we looked it up)

PAUL: Why was Lyle Lovett a thing?
ME: Didn’t he marry somebody famous?
PAUL: Cindy Crawford?
ME: No.  Someone else leggy.
PAUL: (wikipedia entry)  Julia Roberts!

Now, we have to Wikipedia everything about the MTV VMAs because we genuinely do not care about any of the music being “honored”.  But 1993 had REM!  We know all the facts we need to know about REM by heart:

PAUL: What REM album came out that year? Monster?
ME: No, Automatic.  Monster was 1994.  It was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school (Ironically, Out of Time is the soundtrack to my college senior year in 2003)

Also, we have both agreed that Soul Asylum, in hindsight, were an OK rock band, but wow, was their big hit whiny:

ME: Look how earnest Dave Pirner is with his white boy dreads!
PAUL: Wow, impressive you still remember the name of the lead singer of Soul Asylum
ME: I also know that the lead singer of Counting Crows is Adam Duritz
PAUL: Nope.  Not as impressive.

Other things we agree on:

  • Vs was Pearl Jam’s best work because they were still angst ridden.  Whereas now they are just a bunch of hippies.
  • Similarly, In Utero is astonishingly better listening to it in our 30s than it was when we were teenagers who didn’t quite fully appreciate it
  • Paul knows more Tori Amos than I gave him credit for, but I still know all the lyrics to Under the Pink  (He listened to more Liz Phair instead)

Things we do not agree on:

  • Sunny Day Real Estate.  I loved their first album.  Paul seems to think they are the source of all things emo and makes a face every time I point out that I had this album cover poster:rs-229558-4.-Sunny-Day-Real-Estate-Diary-1994[1]
  •  I admitted to knowing all the words to Counting Crows’  August & Everything After and got a look of WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY GOTH WIFE
  • Hair rock bands.  I suspect Paul still has a soft spot for the Def Leppards of the world; I literally cannot name one of their songs.

It still makes for an entertaining discussion, being able to converse with my husband about this kind of shared pop culture background.  The last few years before the Internet gave us a less diverse view of the world, one that was clunkier, but less splintered, than the access to popular culture we have now.  In 1992, if you wanted to hear alt-rock, you picked up the college radio ‘zines and SPIN magazine and learned the bands names’ without hearing them.  Post-internet, post-iTunes, everything is singles, everything is one song only, and it’s easy to find single after single in one sub-sub-genre of music.

We will be the last generation to remember a world without the Internet.  We may as well get the chance to mock the culture as it was on the cusp of that change.

Advertisements

NYC is about being Younger

I have always been a fan of Darren Star’s work. I watched 90210 in high school, Melrose Place in what should have been college years, the entire run of Sex and the City. It sometimes surprises people when I can quote entire swaths of the latter, complete with episode numbers and titles (Side note: My favorite season is Season 2, although I appreciated Seasons 5 and 6 more as I grew up. and I am Team Aidan, since he isn’t creepily old like Mr. Big.  I realize that is supposed to be sophistication but yeesh. )

It should therefore come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Younger, the TV Land series produced by Star and costumed by Pat Field, the SatC wardrobe mistress. It is the story of a forty year old divorcee, Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), who, after being a SAHM her whole adult life, finds herself not only on her own, but with no assets due to her husband’s gambling debts. Liza doesn’t even have a roof over her head after losing her New Jersey suburban home. She goes to stay with her dear friend, artist Maggie (Debi Mazar) who owns a loft in Williamsburg she bought in the 90s (SLIGHTLY PLAUSIBLE). Liza attempts to go back into the workforce in her old career as a book editor, but soon learns she is unhireable after being out of the industry for sixteen years. It is only when she starts lying about her age and says she is 26 that she secures employment as an assistant to the marketing lead of the fictional Empirical Books, Diana Trout (Miriam Shor).  (Note that this addresses every mother’s worst fears: that staying home will kill our careers.)

The clever premise of the show is the way that this lie, while created for work, extends to personal. Through the inadvertent friendships and relationships she forges along the way, Liza must keep up the facade of being 26.  The show is therefore ultimately about relationships and trust, and the stress it places on the former when you lack the latter.

Trust – or lack thereof – is not the part I find relatable though. What I do find relatable is the need to be young in New York City. Los Angeles thrived on youthful appearance as a commodity; New York seems to thrive on the cultural aspects of being young, or rather, it is a city that emphasizes the culture that one cares about most while young. Fashion is the most obvious: the street style here is amazing no matter the age of the person wearing it. There’s an expectation though to know the best restaurants, bars, neighborhoods, music, art, plays – all these cultural touchpoints that most people stop paying attention to when they reach a certain age, that in New York are still as relevant to a 26 year old as a 40 year old.

Perhaps I am biased in that regard, since I work in an industry that is extremely heavy in millenials. Still, I feel like there’s more opportunity here to keep the most culturally dialed in parts of one’s 26 year old self. When I was 26, I cared about all of the things 26 year olds care about:seeing indie bands at Spaceland, shopping in Venice Beach boutiques, going to parties at MOCA. In New York, I still care about those sort of things.  I may not actually do those things, but I know they are there in a way that I might not if it wasn’t always a possibility to engage with culture. Perhaps it says something about American culture in that, when one gets older, one is supposed to stop caring about fashion and music and art, but in New York, those things are so perennially important that they can’t be abandoned as one ages.

It’s also the access and option to participate in so much youth culture that conflicts with my responsibilities as an almost 40 year old. There are always going to be club nights I want to go to, new restaurants to try, trendy fitness classes to do – things I might have had time and energy to do at 26 but not at almost 40. More than Los Angeles, I feel younger here myself: having access to this much ageless culture makes me feel like I am caught.  I’m torn between having the same enthusiasm I had for being in the Big City in 2004, and being the responsible adult I am in 2017.

So that’s why I empathize so much with Younger. It isn’t the emotional premise, as it was with SaTC, but rather, the cultural premise. Liza’s character dresses like a millenial for work, a pronounced difference between her image and her boss’. She lives in Brooklyn(!)  Her friends go to House of Yes. She goes out to parties and rooftop bars in Manhattan. She does all these things that are age appropriate for 26 – but are still so available to those of us who are almost 40.

this taylor swift song is terrible

This is the second time in a week I’ve posted about Taylor Swift’s new video.  The first time was when VICE decided to fact-check her goth cred:

Typically, I don’t watch pop music videos (because seriously, why bother, NOTHING WILL EVER BE AS GOOD AS IT WAS IN THE 90s) but due to the “Taylor Swift goes goth” allegation, I felt it was something I needed to sit through:

Typically, I have nothing against Taylor Swift.  In fact, usually I find her songs well-written and catchy.  I certainly have to hear them enough times around the house given that I have a pop-music obsessed nine year old who insists on listening to Sirius Hits 1 in the car (Paul and I listen to FirstWave or Lithium or AltNation or CBC3 when we get to choose, usually when Ben is napping)

This song, however, is just awful.  It manages to repeat key changes while being totally devoid of melody.  It’s speak-sung with repetitive lyrics.  It’s like the video was conceived first and then some background noise was developed for it.  The best description for it is “lemonade Crystal Light”.  Only I think that’s actually an insult to citric acid.

By commenting on any pop culture, I hear the same sarcastic voice & comment that one would expect: well could you do any better?  And the answer to that is probably no, no I could not.  The thing is, it isn’t my job to write pop songs.  I haven’t spent my life training and perfecting the craft of writing pop songs.  Taylor Swift has, and arguably, she is very good at it.  Therefore, I expect her to use that craft to produce a song with a melody, not a novelty piece.

One could also argue that Ms. Swift is trying to do something different, that this is part of a reinvention of herself, “the old Taylor is dead”, etc.  The problem is that it just isn’t a well crafted song.  Taken without the video, it’s slow and repetitive.  Without visuals, it’s downright boring.  It isn’t something that can be danced to easily because the beat is awkward.  It’s different from the past singles that this pop ingenue has released, but lacks the familiarity with non-pop genres of music that could have provided more interest and engagement.

Or, to put it another way, if Taylor is going to go dark, listen to some goddamn Front Line Assembly and sample an industrial beat rather than just pulling together a weak song about revenge with a drum machine backbeat.  Or if she is going to go cinematically dark, I am fairly certain that there are plenty of examples of how to do that

Why am I complaining about this pop music piece in particular?  Partially because I’m up early thanks to some insomnia (it is hard falling asleep and staying asleep these days) but also because this music video just beat out “Gangnam Style” as the most viewed video on YouTube…and we are all going to have to hear it on a multiple times daily basis for the next few months.  It’s all over my RSS reader like it’s a video and re-invention for the ages, like it’s a great, groundbreaking single.  I’m not typically up on this sort of thing, but hasn’t this also been done?  Like by Madonna?  Or Lady Gaga?  Or Beyonce?

I suppose my point is that I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn and rant about how all modern music is terrible.  I just wanted to complain about this video in particular first before I do so.

wellness junkie

I take the title of this entry from “Fitness Junkie“, the latest in the genre of “parody light” fiction that has been cropping up lately.  “Fitness Junkie” itself is an entertaining read, referencing and mocking the “wellness culture” of the major cities.  New York is the seeming epicenter of this right now, cranking out mini-chains and mega-chains of wellness “solutions”: cycling studios, meditation studios, juice bars.  “Fitness Junkie” skewers a lot of these trends with experiential accuracy, from Whole Foods to SoulCycle, even touching on the sober early morning rave trend.

I recognized and identified with far too many of the trends mocked in the book.  Perhaps this is because I have been on what is now termed the “wellness” bandwagon since I was nineteen, back when it was called what it really is: weight loss.  Back then, it was step classes and Fat Flush; twenty years later, it’s high end spin classes and soup diets.  It all adds up to much the same end result of cardio and reduced calories.  The only difference is now the concept of “wellness” is meant to be better for a woman’s health, by adding a layer of so-called self-care into the facade.

It’s a fucking joke.  Call the trend what it is.  This isn’t wellness, it’s just feeding women’s insecurity about their weight while telling us that we are taking care of ourselves doing it.  The wellness trend tells women that they can’t lose weight through cardio and diet alone, but have to invest more money, attention and resources into being “well” to make the cardio and diet work.  As a positive, the concept of “wellness” does include a certain mental and holistic health component, while taking some focus off meaningless scale numbers.  Still, it seems that “wellness” is now capitalizing now not only off women’s desperation to be thin, but now taking advantage of an overall insecurity that something is missing from their lives.

It’s very likely something is missing from an American woman’s life.  We live in completely unnatural environments.  We are not connected to a particular source of spirituality as we become a more secular culture.  We often eat low quality food that is packaged and sold to us.  We buy a lot of quick-fix items – fast fashion, beauty products.  All of this is draining our batteries every single day.  So when the wellness trend comes through offering something that will make us feel better and make us thinner, we’re willing to jump on it and open our wallets.

This is how something like goop gets big..and believable.  This is how Well and Good and Wanderlust and all the other wellness “brands” have become profitable.  This is how Lululemon and yoga have become ubiquitous.  We’ve combined the ongoing obsession with a woman’s weight with a promise of “feeling better” and created an entirely new monster.  An entirely new expensive monster.

I’m not immune to this, obviously.  I spent this morning in Manhattan, first at Flywheel for a spin class, then at MNDFL for a meditation class.  Flywheel is one of the new high end spinning chains that leverages perceived value to charge $30 for a class.  (I had a code for a free class)  Shoes, water and towels and help to set up the bikes are all provided.  The locker rooms have Bliss products in the showers, and a lounge area with post-workout fruit for snacks.   The bikes are all new and shiny and equipped with screens that show the exact torque and speed.  This allows for a gamified, competitive experience, as riders work to have the highest overall energy output for the class.  As a competitive person, the leaderboard aspect drives me to work harder.  It’s the overall high end experience where the perceived value comes in though, a combination of little things like shoes and water, and big things like new high-tech bikes.  It’s that kind of experience that is the hallmark of the new fitness boutiques, no matter what the workout.  It makes the participant feel a little bit like she is being treated well and taken care of, a tiny boost to her day.

 

Image result for flywheel sports bike nyc

 

Image result for mndfl living wall

I went from Flywheel to MNDFL, on the opposite side of the activity spectrum.  Instead of a high intensity, competitive cardio class, MNDFL is meditation that can be signed up for online like a fitness class.  It’s held in a lovely space in the West Village, where everything is thoughtfully, tastefully decorated, from the bamboo bookshelves to the gray couches to the living wall (above)  It’s peaceful and welcoming and serene.  Much like a high-end fitness studio, participants are welcomed, given water and/or tea, and ushered into a room with high quality equipment – in this case, custom meditation mats and hassocks instead of fancy bikes.  The sessions are 30 to 45 minutes long, and loosely focus on a specific aspect of mindfulness: emotions, energy, “lovingkindness”.   It’s a luxe setting, especially for meditation, which isn’t an activity I usually associate with material things, but gives MNDFL that boutique experience feel.  And it’s easily accessible: the teachers take the spiritual or religious specifics out of their teachings and just teach the practical aspects of meditation.

Both Flywheel and MNDFL are excellent representations of the wellness trend: they provide an experience, a functional physical or mental workout, and are priced in such a way that the perceived value is high enough to make them profitable.  At the end of each class, the respective instructors told the room that the class we just did was a form of self care, and emphasized that we should all be proud of ourselves for coming out on a Sunday morning when we could be doing other, less challenging things.  Each class ended in an emphasis that participants should “feel good” about what they did.  That’s what the wellness trend also suggests, that “feeling good” is worth the price tag.  It tries to tell us that losing weight is secondary to that self-care and positivity…and then it has to call wait, no, come back!  You will still lose weight!

But for all this feel-good and positivity, none of the wellness classes really teach a way to connect with the activity so that the participants can develop and build the skill outside of that setting.  Each requires me to come into their studio to “feel good”  In a way,  MNDFL is to religious based meditation what Flywheel is to actual bike riding: it is an easily done practice, but doesn’t create a complete vision or genuine connection to the activity.  MNDFL isn’t actual spirituality, but it works to calm the brain.  Flywheel isn’t actual biking, but it works to burn the calories.  They are what they are.

I’m not immune to the wellness trend, but I am cognizant of it.  I went into Flywheel today because I wanted to physically train to ride faster on a rainy day.  I went into MNDFL because it helps me with my own meditation practice to do it in a guided fashion in class once in a while. And I do look at the calorie count on my bike and think, wow, I burned 800 calories, that’s almost a quarter pound of fat!  Then I remember: I train for strength and ability, not to lose weight.

And that’s what’s wrong with the wellness trend.  The wellness trend doesn’t teach us to train.  It teaches us to go into a class and buy a temporary wellness fix, with a false goal of feeling better and a real goal of being skinnier.   It’s addictive and completely justifiable as “taking care of oneself”.  It doesn’t teach us to care for ourselves as much as it teaches us to rely on instructors to tell us how to perform self-care.  It’s addictive because it makes us feel better on multiple levels, like we’re getting skinnier and we’re being nice to ourselves.  It makes us dependent on these high priced activities to achieve an exercise high or a meditation calm.   The wellness trend makes us junkies.

gender equality, sitcom style

“Funny”, in females, is not portrayed in American media as a desirable trait.  It’s something reserved for the sidekick or the comic relief wing-girl, not something for the romantic lead.  I have often believed that girls are encouraged to keep their hilarity within the confines of what’s still considered cute: witty banter, not full on vulgar humor.  There have been women who have gone outside of this mold as comedians, from Joan Rivers to Sarah Silverman, but they are an exception.  Comedy, whether vulgar or smart, can be constricted to gender roles.

Recently, there has been a sort of paradigm shift in how women are portraying themselves in television.   They didn’t come here to play “cute”  They came here to laugh, and they are all out of f’s to give if people do not like it.  There are sitcoms now with female leads that are far from charming, who are not polished, who are just going to go with their characters and all the vulgarity that comes from it.  Now, we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus making statements like, “I just got Brit-fucked by that balloon animal,” and Ilana on Broad City saying, “I am so hard right now,” Now we are getting somewhere in allowing women to put their energy into being hilarious, and not asking them to make sure it stays “cute”.

Fifteen years ago, the closest thing we had to a show where women just went for that kind of bawdiness was Sex and the City – and that was only because Kim Cattrall is an amazing comic actress.  Still, the show felt it had to represent all the areas of the female psyche, so it gave us the traditional female elements and their shocked reactions along with the less traditional characters and their shocking statements.  When Samantha talked about Richard’s “long, pink, perfect dick”, there was a reaction from half the characters where they were somehow still shocked at her crudeness.  Those reactions are there to provide empathy to the poor shocked audience, to show an acceptable reaction to a woman making a sexually explicit statement.  Now, we have episodes of Broad City where Ilana says, “I think I’m just craving pink dick,” and her friend doesn’t even blink.  And just the way she says it, and the way it’s accepted, makes it NBD.  That is what I’m looking for: a universe where hilarity and comedy can come from anyone, and not be defined by their gender.

I often wonder if this is an actual generational gap. Is it that the generation of fifteen years ago felt constrained to these traditional gender roles?  I think that is what frustrates me the most about that mentality when I re-watch Sex & the City.  It was a groundbreaking show for the time, but it still frustrates me how much it adheres to traditional female archetypes, especially since it is essentially conceived and developed by men.

And now we have sitcoms with flawed female leads!  Look at 30 Rock, a show I’m shocked not only was made, but that ran for as long as it did.  Or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a total phenomenon based on a woman whose behavior is completely out of touch with social expectations.  Or Parks and Rec. It’s not “ladylike” behavior.  It’s just funny behavior.  We have hundreds of shows where brassy, bossy, bawdy behavior is taken for granted when it’s done by guys.  Now we finally have a handful where it’s done by women, and in the universe they live in, it’s totally OK.

I love that we are finally getting to shows that do not feel like they need to map characters to traditional female roles.  It’s no longer required to put a Charlotte in, or to channel Helen Lovejoy in a sort of Greek chorus.  This is where something like Two Broke Girls fails: it has a traditionally female character to be shocked by her smartass friend.  It still has a traditional female gender role to balance out, and tell us that we should be leery of this kind of unladylike behavior.

It’s the shows where a character can behave based on who they are, regardless of their gender role, and have it be accepted in that universe that I’m fascinated by.  Otherwise, having a “cute” girl who’s programmed to react in socially appropriate ways just makes the “funny girl” seem like she’s there for comic relief.  Having a person just be hilarious, without anyone reacting based on gender stereotypes, is what I really love about this next generation of female comedy.  I hope the next seasons of all these sitcoms I’m so into can keep it rolling to remind us that our gender restrictions can no longer keep us from being equally bawdy and hilarious.

 

 

the year of creativity: part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about how I suspect creativity is something missing from my life that will make me more consistently happy

I do not describe myself as a creative person.  I have no aesthetic sense.  I write, but it is mostly in this blog post format.  (I also write essays that I post on Medium)  I took a lot of music classes as a child (piano lessons for years, band nerd) but didn’t keep it up as an adult.  I sing loudly but worry I am off key.  I do not dress in a way that is expressive on a day to day basis.  I do not create.  

There is, however, something unique about the way my brain lights up when I bring something into reality that sounds or feels the same way it does in my head.  I get this professionally sometimes when I talk about marketing plans.  It’s the same light up, synapses firing feeling I get when I hit a piano chord on a difficult key change I’ve been playing.  When I hit the synth line bridge in “Are Friends Electric”? (F7/D7/G7/C7) or the bass line in “Temple of Love”, and I heard the sound under my hands match that in my head, my brain lit up.  When I describe a feeling or explain something in a blog post, the same thing fires.  There is something immensely gratifying in translating my brain into reality.  (Also to singing along to Sisters of Mercy, especially if I can get my husband to play the bass while I play the guitar riff on piano)

Taking that a step further: I love being able read a piece of music and shape it with my own emotions and inflections.  I love writing: I go into a trance writing, seeking the words to express myself.  It’s not extraordinary creativity, it’s not creating something entirely new.  Rather, it is shaping something that was already in existence, but in a way that dovetails with me and my brain.

I may have underestimated creativity or my need for it.  I have been overly pragmatic and tried to focus all my energy into the material things I thought would make me consistently happy, and I don’t think that’s the answer.  I don’t think that’s the best use of my light, so to speak.  I am, after all, made of goddam stardust, and I am almost halfway through my time of having a soul attached to my physical body Earth, and perhaps crashing through on pragmatism and material priorities alone isn’t enough.  Not that I need to disdain the practical world, more that I just don’t need to push the non-practical, the non-productive creative part of my nature, to the back of my brain until I can retire and work with it.

So this year, I am making it a point to be more creative and see what it feels like when I get something out of my brain and into existence. That steampunk novel idea that’s been rattling around in my brain?  Let’s get that onto paper (or rather, Google Drive).  I am pretty sure I am writing a derivative of Perdido Street Station, without as much actual talent or research or skill.  It is still my bad steampunk novel  and my world to build and visualize and live in (and I have realized that I can’t even write a goddamn escapist fantasy novel without a class war in it) and I will get it out of my brain one way or another.  I’ve decided that rather than scooping my brain out is probably not as good an idea as it is to just take a writing class so I’m doing that through my alma mater

Oh, and I got a piano over the holiday so I can resume plunking out Bach preludes as part of the Royal Conservatory series.  I love preludes! And fugues!  I like pieces that work on a theme in classical music and shift slightly each time.  I also really like Baroque music, and I had forgotten exactly how much I liked it until I spent a few days practicing Little Prelude in C Minor.

I am a little worried about trying to fit in Creativity among everything else going on.  After all, I am up late just writing this (I’m telling myself it’s psychologically healthy to do so). The writing class I signed up for calls for 4 – 6 hours a week.  Playing the piano is usually play for 30 – 45 minutes of practice. But that’s the time I was spending watching TV or reading books by other people.  Which was valid,  but I have decided that watching TV and making fun of SNL with Paul is just not as much of a priority right now.

I am slightly anxious how I can fit in dedicated creative time and gym time and cooking/house management, and launch Wallabout Bay (my new Scout troop) and manage 5th Brooklyn and help with Attrition Coalition and do well enough at my job to get access to the kind of growth in it that will make me happy and  be a wife and mother…it’s a lot of and this and this and this, and all of it makes me feel slightly crazy overwhelmed.

I tell myself I’ll know soon enough.  If dedicating time and energy to creativity is actually what is going to make me happy, I’ll prioritize it.  If it doesn’t, I won’t.  At least I won’t be telling myself that it’s not worth the time anymore. At least I won’t be telling myself that I don’t deserve to be creative, or that I can’t justify taking the time for it.  At some point, I have to say, yes, I will do this.  I will practice my crafts.  And I may not be great at creating, but it lights my brain up in a way that makes me happy and may even make me better in other parts of my life.  And that in itself is something.

it’s Remembrance Day

Dear Dad,

It’s been eight years today since you died, today, on Remembrance Day.  My memory of this day and its ceremony belongs to you: it is the minute of silence at the War Memorial in Oak Bay, where you thanked the veterans of the Second World War for fighting for you and your country.  It was not lost on us how much this day meant to you because of how you, your community, and your country were threatened by that war, and how much it meant to you that so many people were brave enough to fight.

Dad, I have thought of you so much this past election season.  You went into the hospital for your last stroke just before Barack Obama took office, before he defeated John McCain.  You called McCain, a “doddering old fool” and cheerfully remarked that Sarah Palin “had nice legs but nothing else going for her” (OK, a tad sexist, but true).  You would have appreciated watching the Obama presidency and the intellectualism he brought back to America.  You would have enjoyed watching FOX News lose their minds over Obama for eight years so you could have called their talking heads “bloody lunatics”, and you would have really loved the eight years of Daily Show and Colbert Report coverage that followed.  (I’m sorry to tell you Stephen Colbert is now David Letterman’s replacement and no longer the genius satirist you appreciated so much.)

I’m not sure if you would still be able to mock and chuckle at what has happened here this week.  It is too frightening and too serious.  I was sad you weren’t here to make fun of Trump throughout this election season, but I think you would stop laughing and be horrified at his legitimate election this week.  I think you would say that all of America had finally proven itself crazy, and that it was time for me to come back home to Canada.  I can almost hear you, telling me not to stay here, not with Paul (who you loved) and Ben (who you were so proud of).  I think you would see parallels to Hitler’s Germany, and be afraid for me.

Dad, it isn’t time for me to come home yet.  You also taught me to stand up for the little guy, even if it meant going to a fight.  You believed in the English colonialism and imperialism, but you also believed in equality and English moral decency for everyone once they were colonized (Again, kind of imperialist, but better than judging on skin color).  I remember how you had an equal rights hiring policy, how you judged people by their work ethic, not their heritage.  I believe you would be shocked and aghast at the hate crimes that are already springing up in America after the election, but you wouldn’t want me to turn my back on people I could help.

When the Germans started their attack on the Jews, no one came to help my people then.  Not the English, not the Canadians.  The Americans turned Jews away.  Dad, you never really accepted what that meant to me or my mother or our family.  You had a lot of respect for those who fought, but you never thought it was a huge deal that no-one from the Anglo Saxon countries came to help the Jews.  I realize that the Battle of Britain was going on for years and England was kind of busy, but even after you defended the homeland, no one tried to bomb or shut down the concentration camps.  Six million Jews died, six million people like me, like my son – well educated, apartment dwelling Western European Jews, many my distant kin in Austria and the Ukraine.

Dad, I realize that the English suffered during the Wars, and that you spent your childhood hiding from German bombings, even in the far North of England. But that is a Boys Own Adventure Story compared to what happened to the Jews.

I am facing an America that has accelerated its usual racism and is now speeding towards something that is more akin to Nazi Germany.  Swastikas are springing up, the Klan is celebrating – and all of this because the country legitimately elected a man who legitimized racism and prejudice.  Dad, it’s frightening, even for me, a half-Jew living in New York City.  Conservative America was disturbing but we could still make fun of it. This is too scary to even mock.  You would have been upset if you were here to see Stephen Colbert breaking down on air, in shock at the election results.  And Trump’s America isn’t coming for the Jews…but they are coming for someone.  And just because it isn’t me or mine doesn’t mean I can hide from it.

You taught me to stand and fight for what was right and that holding on to good old fashioned English morality was important.  Being Jewish teaches me that I have a responsibility to be vigilant against prejudice, and to stand up for those I see being tormented unfairly.  These two things together mean that I can’t leave America yet.

I’m scared though, Dad – scared that New York will suffer an attack, a bombing, a Blitz. I’m scared for my friends – my friends who are visibly not Caucasian, my friends who are LGBTQ.  I’m even more scared that Canada will follow the UK and US down this crazy path, and there will be no safe place anywhere anymore.

As scared as I am, I will have to hold the line and fight.  I will not go quietly into that good night, I will rage at the dying of the light.  A Dylan Thomas poem you loved, which is about death, but could also be about giving in to despair and hopelessness.

Dad,  I wish, more than anything else, that I could still talk to you.  I think you’d still be trying to convince me to come home, but I also think you’d understand why I felt I had to stay and fight – and you’d probably blame my mother’s side of the family (“You must get this from your mother and her Vietnam War protesting” you said, when I went to DC to protest the Iraq War).  But as much as I get my strong conviction for civil liberties from my mother, I also got the need to always do what’s right from you.

You said it was up to us to stand up for the little guy.  I will not only stand up, but I will stand with all who need me to.  And I will teach Ben to stand up with me.

Dad, I remember and honor your memory today.  I will say the yartzheit for you tonight, as I have since you died.  And while I’m in services, I will also pray for the same kind of strength that it took for each and every soldier to fight in each in every war.  We must remember and honor those who fought for our freedom, and fight ourselves to preserve it.  You taught me that too.

-Jillian